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New Head Coaches’ Impact on Fantasy Football

Written by Cody Manning

There are some parts of the NFL that will never change, and one of them is the turnover of head coaches that we see every offseason. In 2018, we will see seven coaches take over organizations and try to turn things around for the fans. Steve Wilks, Matt Nagy, Matt Patricia, Frank Reich, and Mike Vrabel will be head coaches for the first time, while Pat Shurmur and Jon Gruden will be taking another swing at the job. Over time we will see which teams made the correct hire, but for now, I will look at how these coaches could affect player’s fantasy season for the upcoming season.

Arizona Cardinals — Steve Wilks

Quarterback- At this point of the season, Sam Bradford is the assumed starter for Week 1. Steve Wilks is a former defensive coordinator, so I expect his offensive coordinator Mike McCoy to have more control over the offense. McCoy has worked with Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, so he knows how to build his offense around a talented quarterback. He will also utilize their talented back in David Johnson out of the backfield, so whoever is the starter should see plenty of opportunities to put up some numbers this season. This position will be questionable to draft for fantasy purposes because of Bradford’s health and the potential of Josh Rosen winning the starting job.

Running Backs- David Johnson is the guy not only in the backfield but is the focal point of their entire offense. I expect Wilks to feature his stud back and keep his defense off the field. Barring an injury, we should see Johnson return to the form he showed during his rookie year that placed him as the number one pick in most of fantasy football drafts last year. He should be on the field at all times unless Chase Edmonds is on to help Johnson stay fresh. Edmonds will be a stash player for deeper leagues this season.

Wide Receivers- For fantasy purposes, there is still the same question that remains for their receiving core: who can you count on outside Larry Fitzgerald? I have no doubts that McCoy will give Fitzgerald a big role in this offense. He has experience utilizing talented receivers in the same offense like in Denver with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. But, like I mentioned, we don’t know who is going to be next guy behind Larry. Brice Butler and Christian Kirk will be the guys to pay attention to during the preseason to see who McCoy wants to also feature in his offense.

Tight Ends- McCoy has shown that if he has a tight end like Julius Thomas, then he will create a role for him in his passing offense. Ricky Seal-Jonesshowed flashes of potential to help create yards through the air late last season. There isn’t much depth behind him so perhaps he could make an impact on this offense. If Seal-Jones proves his worth, then he could be a potential late-round steal for some. One thing to keep in mind is if Josh Rosen takes over at any point, rookie quarterbacks tend to rely on their tight ends so that could potentially help inflate his numbers.

Chicago Bears — Matt Nagy

Quarterback- Matt Nagy spent the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was able to help contribute to a team that made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. During this past season, he helped Alex Smith have an MVP-caliber season and he should be able to help enhance the play of Mitch Trubisky. While showing flashes of potential during his rookie season, Trubisky will return in his sophomore season with a plethora of weapons for Nagy to utilize in his offense. If Nagy can build everything around Trubisky correctly while developing him as a player, then we could be talking about the Bears quarterback being a viable option for a quarterback in fantasy.

Running Backs- Nagy does like to utilize his running back in his offense, as we saw last season with Kareem Hunt, who as a rookie, led the NFL in rushing. Jordan Howard should be the assumed leader in the backfield at this point, so I expect that he will see a lot of touches throughout the season. If he can seize the role that will be presented to him then he does have the potential to lead the NFL in rushing. Tarik Cohen will be a player to keep an eye on during preseason as Nagy was already quoted as being “giddy” about Cohen’s talent. Nagy showed he can place a talent like Tyreek Hill all over his offense and if he sees a similar role for Cohen then he could be a late-round steal for someone.

Wide Receivers- As we saw last season, if Nagy has a weapon he can use to help stretch the field he isn’t afraid to throw the ball. Allen Robinson is their big free agent prize and if he can return to his old self, then I believe he will have a big role in the offense and Trubisky will be looking to feed him. We saw Albert Wilson flourish in Nagy’s offense as a backup fantasy option, so I would keep an eye on players like Taylor Gabriel or Anthony Miller to take over that spot. I could see Nagy wanting to use Miller’s versatility to his advantage by using him in the slot and on the outside. Robinson is the pick here, and I would wait to see how preseason turns out to see who the second option in the passing game will be.

Tight Ends- Travis Kelce put up career numbers under Nagy, and the Bears brought in Trey Burton to help fill that role in his offense. I am not comparing Burton to Kelce as far as talent, but if he can take advantage of this opportunity then he could put up similar fantasy numbers to Kelce. Burton could be the second option behind Robinson if he finds chemistry with Trubisky and as a young quarterback, he may tend to look his way more. Burton has the potential to be a Top-5 tight end in 2018.

Detroit Lions — Matt Patricia

Quarterback- Matt Patricia is a former defensive coordinator, and while I expect he will have some say on what goes on into the offense, he did choose to retain Jim Bob Cooter as his offensive coordinator, so I do expect things to remain the same with Matt Stafford. Stafford should be able to put up the same fantasy numbers as he always has, but I do expect Patricia to want to fix their running game. If they can do that, then that will help Stafford out and enhance his stats.

Running Backs- As far as fantasy purposes, if there is anything that can relate between the Lions and Patricia’s former team, the New England Patriots, it’s the question of who you can trust week in and out as a viable option for your lineup? Patricia may prefer that Cooter utilizes all his running backs like they did in New England. Either way, the team needs to find who is going to be their long-term answer at the position. LeGarrette Blount could be a reliable option early in the season for fantasy, but I would stash their 2nd-round pick, Kerryon Johnson, who could take over as the lead back at some point this season.

Wide Receivers- Golden Tate and Marvin Jones should have their same roles as they did last season. I would expect both to put up the same numbers, but Jones did show last season he could take over as the lead guy in that group. Cooter also has the young and talented receiver in Kenny Golladay. After spending a season under Cooter’s mentoring, Golladay could be poised to have a bigger role in his offense this season. While Tate and Jones are the ones to own here, Golladay could be the stash for deeper leagues for later in the season.

Tight Ends- The Lions let go of Eric Ebron this offseason, and are turning to Luke Wilson and Levine Toilolo as an option to replace him. Cooter showed with Ebron that he would like to use a tight end in his offense, but until we see the product on the field then we don’t know who to trust out of the two. I expect that Cooter will use the three previous mentioned wide receivers heavily in his offense and have a small role for the tight end. I would avoid this situation in fantasy because this just seems like both players end up splitting reps throughout the season.

Indianapolis Colts — Frank Reich

Quarterback- Frank Reich is coming off a Super Bowl win as the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was a big part of the development of Carson Wentz and helped build a championship-caliber offense. While Andrew Luck still needs to see the field, it’s hard to deny the potential Luck has to put up huge numbers under Reich’s leadership. If we see Luck on the field throwing during the preseason, then there shouldn’t be any hesitation to take him in the 2nd wave of quarterbacks in fantasy drafts. Jacoby Brissett did show he can help fill in as a backup and Reich won a Super Bowl with one, so he could be a handcuff if someone wanted to select Luck as their quarterback.

Running Backs- We saw last year in Philadelphia, Reich isn’t afraid to use a full stable of running backs to his advantage. The Colts will enter training camp with Marlon Mack, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson, Nyheim Hines, and Jordan Wilkins. Mack seems to be the favorite at this point to have most of the touches out of this backfield group. Reich could use each of their talents to his favor, but until we see who wins most of the touches, I would only take a chance on Mack in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.

Wide Receivers- Reich showed that he knew how to use each of his receiver’s talents in his offense while featuring his lead receiver like he did with Alshon Jeffery. If Luck remains healthy, I would expect T.Y. Hilton to return to the numbers he was putting up with his quarterback. I think Reich will line him up all over and try to take advantage of defenses. Hilton should be drafted as a WR2 based on inconsistent production last season but could be a WR1 by the end of the season in Reich’s offense. We will see if players like Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant, Daurice Fountain or Deon Cain can seize the second role behind Hilton and be a viable backup option for fantasy.

Tight Ends- Zach Ertz carved out a big role under Reich where he found himself among the top fantasy tight ends last season. And when Ertz was out with an injury, backup Trey Burton became an option for fantasy as well. With Luck returning, I would expect Jack Doyle to be one of the better tight ends to own this season. But the signing of Eric Ebron throws a big twist into how they both will be used in Reich’s offense. This situation needs to be paid attention to during the preseason because I believe one of these players could be a reliable starter for someone’s lineup.

New York Giants — Pat Shurmur

Quarterback- Pat Shurmur showed that his offense can remain consistent no matter who is at the quarterback position, and Case Keenum had a career year under his leadership. The Giants showed they are committed to Eli Manning as they didn’t use their 2nd overall pick on a quarterback for the future. Shurmur can help use what Manning has left and the talent around him to put up numbers during 2018. Until we see what happens on the field, Manning should be viewed as a backup for fantasy.

Running Back- Shurmur showed at the beginning of last season that he will lean on a young stud running back like he did with Dalvin Cook prior to his injury. Even after Cook went down, he adjusted while still putting up numbers in the running game with Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. The Giants used their 2nd overall to draft the consensus best player of the draft in Saquon Barkley. This is Barkley’s backfield and he has the potential to be a top-10 fantasy player by the end of the season. Jonathan Stewart is there to spell Barkley, but he shouldn’t be viewed anything more than a handcuff at this point.

Wide Receivers- Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen had career seasons under Shurmur, which is a great thing to keep in mind as he takes over the Giants. Odell Beckham Jr. should return to be a top-10 fantasy player, and if he can remain healthy, he should be able to put up big numbers in Shurmur’s offense. Especially with Barkley opening lanes for their passing game. Sterling Shepard should be a viable option as someone’s WR3 on their roster and should find a nice role in this offense.

Tight Ends- If Shurmur has a talent at the tight end position then that player will have a role. He showed this particularly with Kyle Rudolph last season. Evan Engram was one of the few bright spots on the Giants offense in 2017. I do expect that Shurmur will find a place in his offense but with players like Beckham Jr. and Barkley, the targets may be limited during periods of the season. Unless he shows consistency, I would look at him in a backup role that I could spot-start at times.

Oakland Raiders — Jon Gruden

Quarterback- Jon Gruden has spent nine years away from coaching but remained closed to the game in his Monday Night Football role, while continuing to study film for his potential return. It will be interesting to see if he has made any tweaks to his West Coast offense to adjust to some of the changes that have gone on since he was a head coach. Derek Carr should see improvement in his numbers because he will be healthier, and Gruden should help elevate his play. We will have to see how Gruden uses the passing game in his return but Carr could return to be a reliable starter for someone in fantasy.

Running Backs- Gruden loves to rely on the running game and he would love if Marshawn Lynch can be as close to being as great as he was a few years ago. Lynch should expect to get the majority of the carriers and could see a bounce-back season after the letdown in 2017. I wouldn’t draft him too high, but he could be worth a swing as an RB2 or a quality backup option. We will see in preseason if Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, or DeAndre Washingtonare worth a stash for deeper leagues.

Wide Receivers- Gruden has already said that Amari Cooper will be the focal point of their offense and I agree with that statement. While Cooper did have a down season, he is the most talented skill player on their offense and he needs the ball in his hands as much as possible. I believe Cooper will have a bounce-back season and could be a steal as he may fall because of his play last year. We will have to see what Gruden has in mind for Jordy Nelson, but after using a third-round pick to trade for Martavis Bryant, he should have a role and could turn into a late-round sleeper for someone in fantasy drafts this season.

Tight Ends- In Gruden’s West Coast offense, the tight end will play a part and could see plenty of opportunities throughout games. We did see at times the chemistry between Carr and Jared Cook last year. That relationship could develop even further in Gruden’s offense. While Cook might not be a top option for the tight end position in fantasy, with the potential targets he could see he should be a top-15 tight end throughout the season.

Tennessee Titans — Mike Vrabel

Quarterback- Mike Vrabel has spent his career as a defensive coordinator, so it will be on his new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to build an offense around their talented quarterback in Marcus Mariota. This will be LaFleur’s first time calling plays, but he spent the past two seasons under Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, who are some of the most-highly respected offensive minds in the league. Mariota is coming off an up and down season, so he will be leaning on LaFleur to develop as a quarterback. Mariota should be viewed as a backup option with the potential to be a starting quarterback for fantasy if the offense comes together under LaFleur.

Running Backs- It will be interesting to see how LaFleur divides up the touches between Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. Most would assume that Henry should be the lead back, but the Titans did pay Lewis to come to Nashville, so he will have an impact on Henry’s touches. LaFleur saw in Atlanta how Shanahan used Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, so I would expect him to find similar roles in his offense for Henry and Lewis. Behind Tennessee’s line, they both could be fantasy players to hold onto in 2018.

Wide Receivers- The Titans’ receiving core underperformed last season and LaFleur will be looking to enhance the play of this unit. He was part of offensive units that put up huge numbers through the air in Atlanta and Los Angeles, so I believe he wants it to be a big part of his offense in Tennessee. Corey Davis will be looking to show off his talents as he should enter the season healthy and he could find his way into starting lineups as the season develops. Rishard Matthews has proven to be a reliable spot starter for fantasy and he should also find a role in this offense.

Tight Ends- Delanie Walker has proven himself to the organization and has shown his chemistry with their franchise quarterback. Walker should continue to be a week in and out starter for fantasy in 2018. LaFleur will develop a role in his offense for him and Mariota will continue to look his way. He should be a top-10 tight end throughout the season since he the team’s most reliable pass catcher at this point.



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