While the NFL Draft and free agency play an important role in determining how player values will be affected in fantasy football, coaching changes are also a vital part of the process.
It’s obviously beneficial to know the tendencies of the people who are calling the plays. Since scheme fit is such an important component of player success in the NFL, it’s paramount to know what players have a chance to shine in a coach’s system.
This off-season, five new head coaches and 11 new offensive coordinators were appointed in the NFL. Below is how each team will change with their new head coach hire.
Matt Rhule – Carolina Panthers
Previous position: Head coach at Baylor University
At Baylor, Rhule ran a very balanced offensive attack. The Bears averaged 35.9 run plays per game (51.26% of all offensive plays) and 31.3 pass attempts per game (48.74%). With quarterback Charlie Brewer at the helm, the Bears stretched the field with their passing attack. Baylor tied for 24th in yards-per-attempt with an average of 8.2.
Trailing more often than it was leading, Carolina’s offense hardly relied on the run for that reason. Having to claw their way back into football games, the Panthers passed on 64.16% of their plays while running on just 35.84%. Despite throwing so frequently, the Panthers averaged 5.8 yards-per-attempt, the NFL’s second-lowest mark in 2019.
Under Rhule, it should be expected that Carolina goes downfield more often in the passing game. Although quarterback Teddy Bridgewater isn’t known for his deep ball, the team added field-stretcher Robbie Anderson to its receiver room. Curtis Samuel is capable of burning cornerbacks, as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the 2017 NFL Combine. It’s likely Carolina features three wide receivers, with D.J. Moore playing in a similar role to Denzel Mims, who was Baylor’s No. 1 WR in 2019. Mims caught 23.8% of the Bears’ total completions in 2019, while compiling 28.6% of the team’s total receiving yards. Baylor had three wide receivers exceed 40 receptions last season.
Rhule ran a running back by committee in 2019, as both John Lovett and JaMycal Hasty split carries while Trestan Ebner mixed in on passing downs. In Carolina, Rhule won’t be afforded the same luxury. The Panthers don’t have the same depth at the position, and Christian McCaffrey will handle the majority of work once again.
Also worth noting is the hiring of new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. Brady was the passing game coordinator with the Louisiana State University Tigers in 2019, playing a major role in one of the most historic seasons in college football. His hire is a sign the Panthers will still be looking to throw the ball often in 2020.
Kevin Stefanski – Cleveland Browns
Previous position: Offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings
As the OC for the Vikings, Stefanski ran one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL. 48.30% of all offensive plays by Minnesota in 2019 were rushing attempts, which ranked fourth-highest in the league. 51.70% of the Vikings’ plays in 2019 were passing attempts, marking the league’s fourth-lowest mark.
Last year, Cleveland ran the ball on 40.39% of its plays (15th in the NFL), while passing on 59.61% of its plays (18th in the NFL) under head coach Freddie Kitchens.
The biggest expected change in this offense is more frequent usage of 21 and 22 personnel. Despite having two talented running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns had two RBs on the field for just 13% of their plays last season. With Stefanski, the Vikings operated in 21 personnel 26% of the time, the second-highest total in the NFL, and in 22 personnel 12% of the time, tied for the third-most frequent in the NFL. This should help increase Hunt’s snap count and boost his fantasy value.
The addition of tight end Austin Hooper was a schematic fit for Stefanski’s offense. Stefanski deployed two tight ends or more on 57% of the Vikings’ plays in 2019. Last season, Cleveland utilized two or more tight end sets on just 31% of its plays. The expectation is Hooper will assume the Kyle Rudolph role (802 snaps in 2019) while David Njoku assumes the Irv Smith Jr. role (620 snaps in 2019).
As a result of more two TE and two RB formations, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry will likely be the only two wide receivers seeing sufficient volume in this offense. The Vikings had two WRs or less on the field for 83% of their plays in 2019.
Mike McCarthy – Dallas Cowboys
Previous position: Head coach of the Green Bay Packers (2018)
After a year off from coaching, McCarthy takes the helm of a Cowboys team which features one of the game’s most loaded offenses. In his most recent season of coaching, McCarthy was fired 12 games into the 2018 season. The Packers that year passed the football (67.54% of all offensive plays) more often than any other team in the league while the opposite was true when running the football. Green Bay lined up in 11 personnel on 72% of its plays in 2018, the second-highest total of any team.
The selection of CeeDee Lamb at the 2020 NFL Draft indicates the Cowboys will take a similar approach. Grouping Lamb with Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper, Dallas the best trio in the NFL at WR. The Cowboys utilized 11 personnel on 61% of its plays in 2019, so its not a massive change in formation usage. In eight of his 13 seasons as Packers head coach, at least three players received 80 or more targets.
Where the real adjustment in the offense will be is a likely decrease in rushing. Dallas was top-12 in rushing-play percentage in 2019 and bottom-12 in passing play percentage. Additionally, in just five of McCarthy’s seasons as head coach did a Packers running back exceed 200 carries and 1,000 yards. That being said, McCarthy has never had a running back as talented as Ezekiel Elliott, who has toppled each threshold in all four of his NFL seasons.
Joe Judge – New York Giants
Previous position: Special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach of the New England Patriots
Judge has never been in charge of an offense at any professional level of football, so it’s likely Jason Garrett, the former head coach of the Cowboys, will have a large amount of control with this unit. I’ll write more about the Giants’ philosophical outlook on offense in my offensive coordinator changes blog which will be released later in May.
Ron Rivera – Washington Redskins
Previous position: Head coach of the Carolina Panthers
Rivera has always been a defense-first coach, serving as a defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers prior to being named head coach of the Panthers. Joining Rivera in Washington is former quarterback coach and interim offensive coordinator of the Panthes, Scott Turner. Scott Turner is the son of NFL coaching great Norv, and I will cover his impact on Washington’s offense in the new coordinators preview which will be released later in May.
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