Impact of Offensive Coordinator Changes (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Eric Moody | @EricNMoody | Featured Writer
Feb 15, 2019

Kerryon Johnson could emerge as a workhorse back under new Lions offensive coordinator Darren Bevell.

For those with dynasty teams, NFL offensive coordinator changes are about as comfortable as walking off a cliff blindfolded. A coaching change leaves you with more questions than answers. How will certain players be used in the scheme? How many opportunities per game will certain positions receive? Will the players on my dynasty roster maintain the value they had in previous seasons? This article will break down six offensive coordinator hirings you should know about.

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Arizona Cardinals: Tom Clements
Cardinals Team President Michael Bidwill and General Manager Steve Keim picked former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury as their new head coach back in January. He will immediately inject creativity into an offense that ranked last in nearly every offensive category in 2018. Tom Clements is the new offensive coordinator, but Kingsbury–who coached Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield in college–will call plays. Texas Tech ranked 12th in the nation in total offense last season, averaging 485.2 yards and 37.3 points per game.

Josh Rosen has nowhere to go but up after a disastrous rookie season in which he averaged 163 passing yards per game. Is he the right fit for Kingsbury’s Air Raid? Could the Cardinals trade Rosen and draft Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray at No. 1 overall? I wouldn’t write him off after one season. The Cardinals’ offensive line struggled with injuries last season, which negatively impacted their play. Rosen also played without wide receiver Christian Kirk for a portion of the season. Kingsbury’s offense will emphasize his strengths in this variation of the Air Raid.

Kingsbury has been vocal about making running back David Johnson the focal point of the offense. He plans on using him as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. A high percentage of Johnson’s fantasy points, especially in 2016, have come from receptions and receiving yards. He set career lows in yards per carry (3.6) and yards per catch (8.9) last season. This will change in 2019, as Kingsbury will call plays to place the 27-year old in the best possible situation to succeed. The addition of offensive line coach Sean Kugler is also good for the running game’s outlook. Johnson is one of my favorite bounce-back candidates heading into the 2019 NFL season.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald signed a one-year contract after briefly mulling retirement. He should continue to see a high number of targets per game next season. Fitzgerald’s numbers were down last season in the NFL’s worst offense, but things are trending up as the team implements Kingsbury’s offense.

Kirk will also return from a broken foot that ended his rookie season. He accumulated the team’s second-most air yards despite missing the final four games of the season. Kirk has the athletic ability to attack defenses vertically, and the Air Raid will provide him with opportunities to do so.

Chad Williams and J.J. Nelson will compete for the Cardinals’ No. 3 receiver spot in what could be a fantasy relevant role in the new offense. They should be on your radar in deeper formats, but the front office could bring in another high-profile receiver in free agency or the NFL Draft.

Atlanta Falcons: Dirk Koetter
Dirk Koetter returns to Atlanta as the new offensive coordinator, replacing Steve Sarkisian, who spent the last two seasons in the role. When Koetter served as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014, Matt Ryan threw for 13,928 yards with 86 touchdowns and 45 interceptions. The NFL’s MVP in 2016 has since grown as a quarterback.

All of the news flow suggests the Falcons will maintain their offensive terminology and style as opposed to a complete overhaul. The expectation is that Koetter will adjust, and this continuity will be important for the Falcons heading into 2019. This team, only a few seasons removed from fielding one of the highest-scoring offenses in NFL history, boasts one of the league’s most elite groups of skill-position players.

Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu will all benefit from Koetter’s return. There is a good chance Tevin Coleman signs with another team in order to land a career-defining payday and a featured role. Under Koetter’s guidance, the Falcons could again lead the NFL in yards and points in 2019.

Baltimore Ravens: Greg Roman
Greg Roman was promoted to offensive coordinator in January. He has spent the last two seasons overseeing the Ravens running game as assistant head coach and also coached the team’s tight ends. He succeeded as an offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers (2011-2014) and Buffalo Bills (2015-2016). Roman’s offense in San Francisco averaged 142.5 rushing yards per game. His offense in Buffalo averaged 158.2 yards per game, which led the NFL in 2015 and 2016.

Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, and Kenneth Dixon all benefit from Roman calling plays. Colin Kaepernick had his two best statistical seasons with him, and Jackson has an eerily similar skill set. Alex Collins struggled with injuries last season and finished the season with just 411 yards. He’s not necessarily a lock to be tendered a contract offer by Baltimore.

The passing game was nearly non-existent with Jackson under center. This trend will continue in 2019, which limits the fantasy value of the Ravens’ wide receivers. There is currently a lot of uncertainty at the position considering the contracts of John Brown and Michael Crabtree.

Cincinnati Bengals: Brian Callahan
Brian Callahan is listed as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, but head coach Zac Taylor will call the plays after working closely with Sean McVay as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach last season. Taylor will attempt to emulate what made the Rams offense so successful over the last two seasons. The team used 11 personnel on a high percentage of their snaps, but the alignment and route combinations changed.

A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and Joe Mixon can thrive in this scheme. The biggest question marks are quarterback Andy Dalton and the Bengals offensive line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Byron Leftwich)
Bruce Arians is back in the NFL as the Buccaneers head coach after a year-long sabbatical. He has delegated playcalling duties to offensive coordinator and mentee Byron Leftwich. An assistant coach under Arians in Arizona, Leftwich was also a backup quarterback for the Steelers during Arians’ time as the offensive coordinator.

Leftwich was promoted to interim offensive coordinator last season when the Cardinals fired Mike McCoy after seven games. We have a nine-game sample size of his playcalling, but it must be taken with a grain of salt. Leftwich used McCoy’s playbook with a roster that included minimal offensive talent. This will not be the case in 2019. The Buccaneers have an experienced quarterback in Jameis Winston and a strong group of wide receivers that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard.

Leftwich’s playcalling philosophy is likely influenced by his mentor. Arians’ offenses with the Colts and Cardinals leaned heavily on the vertical passing game with a high percentage of those receptions going to the wide receivers. The pass-run split during his time with these two teams was around 60-40. This bodes well for Winston, Evans, Godwin, Howard, Cameron Brate, and Adam Humphries (if the Buccaneers resign him).

Ronald Jones had a forgettable rookie season, but he cannot be written off yet considering the small sample size. Peyton Barber is set to become a restricted free agent. There’s a good chance the Buccaneers retain him and the two running backs form a committee in 2019.

Detroit Lions (Darren Bevell)
The Lions hired Darren Bevell to replace Jim Bob Cooter. The team ranked 23rd in rushing yards per game (103.8), 20th in passing yards per game (223.5), and 24th in points per game (19.38) this past season. Bevell held the same position with the Seattle Seahawks from 2011 to 2017. His offenses averaged 132 rushing yards, 216 passing yards, and 24 points per game. Bevell had Russell Wilson at quarterback and Marshawn Lynch at running back for most of those seasons. He was the Vikings offensive coordinator for five years prior to landing in Seattle. Those teams averaged 133.2 rushing yards and 201 passing yards per game.

Bevell’s hiring suggests that Lions head coach Matt Patricia favors a ball-control offense. The front office traded up in last year’s NFL Draft to make Kerryon Johnson their franchise running back. He displayed the ability to be a workhorse before missing six games due to a knee injury. Theo Riddick is still a viable receiving back with limited upside due to Johnson’s presence. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Lions draft a running back in the later rounds, but it would if they acquire a running back in free agency. Johnson is in position to have a breakout season.

The Lions have a need at the wide receiver and tight end positions. Their tight ends combined for only 461 receiving yards last season. Jared Cook and Tyler Eifert are two tight ends the Lions could consider in free agency. T.J. Hockenson (Iowa), Tommy Sweeney (Boston College) and Irv Smith (Alabama) would be good fits for the team if they decide to address the position in the draft.

Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are locked in as the Lions’ top-two wide receivers, but who will become the team’s No. 3? Brandon Powell is the likely candidate if they look in-house. Yet there is too much talent in the upcoming draft for the Lions to pass up. Golladay and Jones remain the Detroit receivers to own from a fantasy perspective. The passing volume likely won’t be high enough to support another wideout.

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Eric Moody is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Eric, check out his archive and follow him @EricNMoody.

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