AFC offensive coordinator schemes & fantasy football impact
With 14 of the 16 AFC offensive coordinators hired within the last two seasons, fantasy football owners should probably know how their schemes work.
Dolphins' offensive coordinator Bill Lazor could help Ryan Tannehill's fantasy value this season.
Howard Smith / USA TODAY Sports
By Ryan Fowler
Whether we are cognizant of the habit or not, fantasy football owners are guilty of statistical and skill position assumptions as they prepare for their annual drafts. For instance, Player-X was a top tier fantasy freak in 2013, he will remain a top-tier fantasy freak in 2014. We assume consistency and similar return on investment YOY.
So, when I learned 14 of the 16 AFC offensive coordinators had been hired or promoted by their current teams within the last two years, I knew we needed to update those assumption-filled fantasy owners. It was critical for them to be aware that new offenses may have been implemented or overhauled between January 1 and this summer’s fantasy draft season.
After all, the offensive schemes and plays these OC’s draw up lead to 95 percent of all fantasy points scored, if not more, right? It’s probably wise to review the list below as you prepare for the 2014 fantasy football draft.
Year Hired: 2014 Thoughts: This could be the most fascinating year-over-year offensive evolution in the league this season. Lazor comes to Miami a season after working with Chip Kelly and Nick Foles as the Eagles quarterbacks coach. The Eagles ranked ninth in passing yards per game and fourth in QB rating.
For that reason some local beat reporters stress fans and, in this case, fantasy owners may not want to undervalue Ryan Tannehill’s development. He finished 16th in fantasy points scored among fellow quarterbacks in 2013.
During OTA’s, Mike Wallace has been lining up all over the place and once Knowshon Moreno drops some el-bees, there has been discussion of lining up Moreno and Lamar Miller in the same backfield this season. As a disciple of Kelly, expect the Dolphins’ offensive tempo to receive a boost.
Miami ranked 25th in offensive plays per game in 2013.
Year Hired: 2013 Thoughts: Let’s start with the fact that despite an “open competition” between second-year slinger Geno Smith and Michael Vick, the latter does have a history with Mornhinweg. From 2009-2012, Marty tutored Vick on his west-coast offense in Philadelphia.
A couple factors led to Mornhinweg’s offense stumbling out of the gate in his first season as the Jets’ OC in 2013. For starters, Smith was thrown into the fire with a less-than-average receiving corps (at what point did Santonio Holmes stop caring?), which is kind of important in the west-coast scheme. Turnovers, namely interceptions, also forced Mornhinweg to reel back Smith’s pass attempts per game.
With Eric Decker and Chris Johnson highlighting an overhauled depth chart, this version of the west-coast offense should see an uptick in balance – ranked 3rd in rush offense vs. 31st in pass offense - and efficiency – 29 turnovers (4th-most in AFC). It wouldn’t shock me if Michael Vick led this charge, but as is always the case, can the versatile, now 33-year-old, remain healthy?
Year Hired: 2013 Thoughts: Hackett’s 2013 offensive plans were stunted due to the fact EJ Manuel couldn’t stay healthy and C.J. Spiller played at 75 percent for most of the season.
The goal for 2014 is up-tempo, no huddle with attention on improving Manuel’s accuracy in hopes their investment in a trio of young receivers, Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and speedster Marquise Goodwin, along with veteran Mike Williams, pays off sooner rather than later.
Year Hired: 2014 Thoughts: Familiarizing oneself with the Texans’ offensive production the last eight seasons should provide fantasy owners with an idea of what’s to come with the Ravens.
The fantasy roster options read like a television cast:
If he’s not suspended, Ray Rice will play the role of Arian Foster, Torrey Smith as Andre Johnson, Steve Smith as an uber-upgraded version of Kevin Walter (remember him?!), and Owen Daniels as Owen Daniels. Dennis Pitta’s role is TBD because of Daniels’ presence, but two-tight end sets are common in Kubiak’s west-coast offense he’s been tweaking since the mid-90s.
Joe Flacco’s arm is stronger than Matt Schaub’s and by signing Smith this offseason, the move fills the possession receiver hole left by Anquan Boldin. Flacco ranked 19th in fantasy points scored among quarterbacks in 2013 and while I believe he’ll improve with Kubiak, it won’t be enough to warrant top 12 / fantasy starter status.
Up-tempo seems to be the theme of June OTA’s and there have some instances where Giovani Bernard and rookie Jeremy Hill have been on the field at the same time. Bernard will fall off draft boards in the second, while I expect Hill to be drafted before the start of the sixth round come August fantasy drafts.
Although the running game is Jackson’s wheelhouse, A.J. Green is bound to thrive once again. It’s Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu I find difficult to buy into and waste a post-12th round flier on within Jackson’s scheme.
Year Hired: 2014 Thoughts: Aside from implementing a zone-blocking scheme, Shanahan’s offense requires a mobile quarterback to be effective. Coming off knee surgery and even prior to, I just don’t envision Brian Hoyer being THAT guy. I know, it’s profound.
With the assumption Johnny Manziel starts from the jump with no Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron becomes all-the-more valuable than he was a season ago. In addition to a healthy rushing attack led by Ben Tate and Terrance West, watch for Manziel to build a rapport with his reliable tight end with the great hands. Without Gordon, underneath routes to build confidence will more than likely limit shots downfield in 2014. Miles Austin could surprise us as that homerun threat, but Shanahan must build up Manziel’s on-the-field mojo or the media will tear him to shreds.
Year Hired: 2014 Thoughts: Well, despite Arian Foster requiring back surgery and the rehab that followed, he did get eight games off to rest his legs following 351 carries in 2012.
While we wait on who the Texans tap as its starting quarterback, O’Brien has waxed poetic about Foster’s role this season. The phrase “three-down back” has been muttered often and a heavy workload – on ground and through air - is to be expected.
Additionally, O’Brien’s system is a fan of lining up two tight ends, which is good news for Garrett Graham and Ryan Griffin, but bad news for fantasy owners in search of a fantasy flier at tight end.
The wave of tight ends by committee is placing pressure on running backs by committee for world dominance.
Year Hired: 2013 Thoughts: A quick Google search of the keyword string “Pep Hamilton offensive scheme” return a series of 2014 results that all include the same word: predictable.
Ouch. Of all the choice words NFL coaches hear from the stands, predictable may cut the deepest.
On top of that slam, head coach Chuck Pagano hired offensive minded Rob Chudzinski as a “special assistant” to help in a few different areas. I read that hire as “Hamilton better get his $*&^ together in 2014 because he’s replaceable.”
However, let’s be fair to the offensive coordinator. Why was his offense predictable in 2013? Let’s go over the list:
3) Following the trade with the Browns, Trent Richardson struggled to pick up Hamilton’s offense on the fly.
4) When your remaining options are T.Y. Hilton, a splash of Donald Brown and a fraternity of practice squad players shoehorned into the offense, yeah I could see how the offense became predictable the second-half of the season.
5) Despite all of this predictability, Andrew Luck ranked seventh in fantasy points scored among quarterbacks last season.
The good news is Wayne should be and Allen will be back by Week 1, Trent Richardson has had time to learn the offense and addition of Hakeem Nicks should improve the passing game around Wayne and Hilton.
Year Hired: 2013 Thoughts: How many 2014 carries are projected for Toby Gerhart today? 300? 350? 400?! The words up-tempo are often directly linked to Fisch’s offensive philosophy. So, Gehart’s heavy workload projections aren’t out of the question.
Maurice Jones-Drew carried the ball 234 and was targeted 59 times last season. MJD carried the ball 14 or more times in 10 out of his 15 games played. In the game he missed, Jordan Todman carried the ball 25 times.
So, from a fantasy perspective I understand why so much adoration wafts Gerhart’s direction. As the Jaguars allow rookie quarterback Blake Bortles to marinate for one season behind Chad Henne, most of the fantasy spotlight is on the 27-year-old back with the “fresh” legs (276 carries in four seasons).
Year Hired: 2013 Thoughts: Nothing to really note as it pertains to the passing game as Peyton Manning will do his thing.
However, Gase has been vocal the last month, stressing Montee Ball is going to eat often out of the backfield. It’s just a matter of fantasy owners creating a contingency plan if Ball struggles hanging onto the, err, ball and/or struggles in pass protection and loses reps. As of right now – mid-June – Gase’s offensive scheme reeks of uber-passing numbers with Ball earning RB2/3 value based on Moreno’s production a season ago.
Year Hired: 2013 Thoughts: Reid’s approach to the west coast offense – originally learned under Mike Holmgren - comes with a learning curve – a curve the Chiefs offense struggled to pick up last season according to 2014 OTA reports.
We know Jamaal Charles is in a position to thrive as a fantasy football asset - led all fantasy RBs with 308 fantasy points last season (20.5 FPPG), but along with the assurance of touches comes concern of the next injury bug to bite.
Alex Smith’s receiving corps is so unreliable from a fantasy perspective, Charles led the team in receptions and receiving yards, while WR1 Dwayne Bowe failed to record 800 receiving yards in a season for only the second time in his career. Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins along with an injury plagued tight end crew, leave this system to be a smorgasbord of touches and targets for Charles, while owners ignore the remaining options.
Year Hired: 2013 Thoughts: After replacing a zone-blocking scheme that didn’t seem to jive with Darren McFadden’s talents in 2012 (rush-O ranked 28th), Olson’s power run focus, led by Rashad Jennings (4.5 YPR), definitely proved to be more effective in what was an ineffective offense. The Raiders rush offense finished 12th in the league although their second leading rusher, Terrelle Pryor, was often seen picking up yards after a busted play.
What’s in store for 2014? Well, all-acronym first-team members Run DMC and MJD lead the charge behind Matt Schaub. However, MJD must be looked at as the favorite to finish with more fantasy points by season’s end because McFadden has yet to play all 16 games in one season. He’s missed 29 games in six seasons.
Year Promoted: 2014 Thoughts: The former Bills’ quarterback was promoted from Chargers’ quarterback coach to offensive coordinator after Whisenhunt departed for the Titans head gig. He’s said the offensive scheme won’t change much year-to-year. The one area the Chargers’ thrived in last season was milking the crap out of the clock. Philip Rivers and company ranked second in average time of possession (minus OT), fifth in total offense, but 15th in average offensive plays per game.
Although not much will change within the scheme, Antonio Gates isn’t getting any younger. A diminished role for AG wouldn’t shock me as we embrace 6-foot-6, 240-pound Ladarius Green this season.