The inevitable coaching carousel between NFL seasons is a big factor in IDP fantasy football draft preparations. Head coaches (HC), as well as defensive coordinators (DC), play a huge part in player designations and fantasy production.
It is important to know what defensive scheme an HC or DC has utilized in the past to anticipate player designations. A defensive end (DE) in a 4-3 scheme could see their designation switched to linebacker (LB) should a DC that favors a 3-4 scheme be hired. A defensive tackle (DT) in a 4-3 may see their designation switch to DE in a 3-4.
There are scoring implications involved in designation changes and staying abreast of all coordinator changes on a year-to-year basis is critical for IDP success. Let’s take a look at all the DC and the scheme changes that will affect the IDP landscape in 2019.
New head coach Kliff Kingsbury has brought in former Broncos head coach, Vance Joseph, as the new DC. This move will see the Cardinals return to a 3-4 scheme, as Joseph has favored the scheme in his past coordinator stints.
This is bad news for Chandler Jones, who will see his designation switch to OLB, which would result in his fantasy stock dropping significantly. For some perspective, let’s consider that Jones finished as the 10th-highest scoring DL in 2018, according to FantasyPros scoring. Had he been designated as an OLB Jones would have finished outside the top 30.
Newly acquired Jordan Hicks is the LB to target as long as he can stay on the field. Hicks has missed 21 regular season games due to injury over his four years in the league, managing a full 16 games only once. If he can stay healthy Hicks can post solid LB2 numbers and flirt with low-end LB1 numbers.
The secondary situation is a bit murky as reports are that Budda Baker will be moved to FS, which will see his tackle totals dip, making him more of a ‘big play’ dependent option. The winner could be D.J. Swearinger, who will line up at SS in his return to Arizona.
Let’s keep this one short and sweet. The Panthers haven’t changed their HC or DC, but are switching to more of 3-4 scheme in 2019. The current personnel along the DL don’t have much fantasy relevance outside of DE Mario Addison as a late round roster depth selection. At LB, Luke Kuechly remains a top-10 fantasy option and only SS Eric Reid is worth drafting from the secondary.
The Bears did not make a head coaching change, but did replace the departed Vic Fangio with veteran DC Chuck Pagano. That will keep the Bears in a 3-4 scheme, which limits the fantasy value of Khalil Mack, who will retain an OLB designation. Mack remains an LB2 option heading into 2019. Inside linebackers, Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan, finished as an LB1/LB2, respectively, last season, and retain that value moving forward. There’s not a lot to be excited about with the rest of the IDP options outside of newly acquired Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who will play SS.
The situation for the Bengals is a little harder to define, as new head coach Zac Taylor is giving Lou Anarumo his first full-time DC (he was interim DC in Miami back in 2015) job. The personnel in Cincinnati would be best suited to remain in a 4-3 scheme, but Anarumo hasn’t committed to it.
A player to target, assuming the 4-3 does remain the base scheme, is consistently productive DE Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap has posted DL2 numbers or better in seven consecutive seasons with three top-10 finishes. Geno Atkins remains a must draft in DT required leagues and can be a later-round depth selection in standard formats.
The LBs to target would appear to be Preston Brown and Nick Vigil, but both should be mid-to-late round selections. Both SS Shawn Williams and FS Jessie Bates were top-12 fantasy options last season and can be expected to have big 2019 seasons as well.
Freddie Kitchens has taken over the reins in Cleveland and has brought in veteran DC and former Cardinals HC Steve Wilks to run the defense. The Browns will remain in a 4-3 scheme as it’s been Wilks main scheme of choice throughout his career.
The main beneficiary of the scheme is newly acquired Olivier Vernon, who will be designated as a DE, immediately boosting his fantasy value. Vernon will line up as the bookend to Myles Garrett, who is poised to crack the top 10 in DL scoring in 2019, and that’s a bonus as well.
The LBs to covet are Joe Schobert (MLB) and Christian Kirksey (WLB). The duo struggled with injuries last season and are poised for bounce-back performances in 2019. They are top-20 LB options come fantasy draft day. Damarious Randall had a big first season in Cleveland, finishing with top-20 DB numbers and can be drafted late at a position of value. Veteran S Morgan Burnett is also a late round flier option at DB.
The Broncos will continue to run a base 3-4 scheme under new HC Vic Fangio and DC Ed Donatell. Unfortunately, this keeps edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb designated as OLBs which deflates their fantasy value. Both Miller and Chubb are middle round IDP draft selections with an LB2 finish likely as their ceiling. There is no real fantasy value with any Denver DL.
Training camp and preseason action will hopefully sort out the ILB positions with Todd Davis and Josey Jewell as the current front runners. Of the two Davis seems to be the safer fantasy selection in the middle rounds.
The DBs to target are Kareem Jackson, who posted top-10 DB numbers last season, and Justin Simmons, who brings solid DB2 potential. Again, we can wait until later in the draft to select either player.
Green Bay Packers
New head coach Matt LaFleur decided to retain DC Mike Pettine, which will keep the Packers in a 3-4 scheme. This Packers signed OLB edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, but neither bring significant fantasy value as the duo combined for just 12.5 sacks in 2018.
The only DL worth selecting later in drafts are DT Kenny Clark, who has developed into an interior force and rookie Rashan Gary who brings a high ceiling if he stays healthy. Blake Martinez remains a top-10 ILB for fantasy purposes.
At DB, there are a couple of intriguing options in newly signed Adrian Amos along with rookie Darnell Savage. Amos has flashed fantasy production in the past and Savage looks to be in line to be the starting SS.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs retained HC Andy Reid, but made a move at DC bringing in Steve Spagnuolo to run the unit. This will see Kansas City switch from a 3-4 base to 4-3, which Spagnuolo prefers. The main fantasy benefactor will be newly acquired Frank Clark, as he will lead the Chiefs’ edge rushers. The only other DL worth selecting is DT Chris Jones, who put up top-five DL totals last season.
The safest LB option is WLB Anthony Kitchens, who’s coming off a top-25 finish in 2018. There looks to be a training camp/preseason battle for the starting MLB position between Reggie Ragland and Darron Lee. Should one emerge clearly as a three-down LB, then they will bring value come draft day. Monitor the situation closely.
Tyrann Mathieu is coming off a bounce-back season for the Texans last year, but remains a ‘big play’ dependent option. Rookie Juan Thornhill will bring fantasy value if he manages to secure the starting SS position.
Both new HC Brian Flores and DC Patrick Graham have worked for Bill Belichick, so determining a base scheme is a bit murky as New England runs multiple fronts. Using another New England former DC that’s an HC now, let’s assume Miami is designated with the same 4-3 scheme that Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions have been.
If that’s the case, then there is little fantasy value on the DL line with the departures of Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake. There are a pair of inside LBs worth selecting in Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan. Alonso put up LB2 numbers last season and McMillan will be fully recovered from the torn ACL that cost him his rookie season back in 2017.
Reshad Jones was once a fantasy stud as SS in Miami, but is coming off a dreadful 2018 and is not guaranteed a starting job under the new regime. That being said, I believe ‘water always finds its level’ and Jones will be the starting SS come Week 1. If that’s the case, Jones could flirt with DB1 totals in a bounce-back performance.
New York Jets
New head coach Adam Gase has hired Gregg Williams, who is known for an aggressive blitzing approach, as the new DC in New York. Surprisingly, reports out of New York are that Williams will use a 3-4 scheme, which is contrary to what he’s mainly done in the past.
With this scheme in place, there is little to be excited about along the DL outside of rookie Quinnen Williams in DT required formats. The edge rushing OLBs are unproven commodities that can be avoided and picked up off the waiver wire if they do start fast.
The ILB to target first is newly signed C.J. Mosley, who remains a top-10 LB, and then Avery Williamson, who unfortunately will take a fantasy hit from Moseley’s presence making him an LB3 option.
In the secondary, SS Jamal Adams, who led all DBs in scoring last season, should be the top DB off the board.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is another head-scratcher, as new HC Bruce Arians picked his old friend Todd Bowles (he was Arians DC in 2013-2014 in Arizona) to run the defense. Bowles favors the 3-4 scheme, which doesn’t really seem to fit the personnel that well. Even before being injured, Jason Pierre-Paul has rarely played in the scheme and would seem a bad fit for it. Newly acquired Ndamukong Suh can be selected late in DT required leagues and avoided in standard formats.
Once again, we like the ILBs in this scheme for fantasy purposes. Both rookie Devin White and veteran Lavonte David are top-15 fantasy options on draft day. Go ahead and avoid the DBs for the Buccaneers heading into 2019.