For this set of articles I’ll be looking at NFL teams, their offensive coordinators and how their coordinating has or might impact their team’s offense and in turn our fantasy expectations. I’ll be using the offensive coordinator info compiled by Mr. Jeff Brubach, which tries to look at the last three seasons of a coordinator’s offensive output.
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Adam Gase and John Fox put together the best offense we’ve seen since the 2007 Patriots as Peyton Manning set the record for most passing yards and passing touchdowns. Gase was promoted from quarterbacks coach after Mike McCoy left and was given the reins to an even better team after the Broncos acquired Wes Welker and tight end Julius Thomas stepped into a star role to go along with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. They upped their total number of plays and ramped up the passing game from 55% to 59% of their total plays and accumulated 7,317 yards and 71 touchdowns. Suffice it to say these Broncos were unstoppable during the regular season.
So what can we expect this season? There have been a few personnel changes with Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno heading to New York and Miami, but the top talent remains and may be somewhat bolstered by Montee Ball and the combination of Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer at wide receiver. There’s no reason to think we won’t once again see a 59% pass to 41% run ratio. The Denver defense wasn’t elite, but those passing numbers aren’t due to the Broncos being behind.
Knowshon Moreno had a great season as the lead back last season, accumulating 241 rushing attempts and 60 receptions. As a team the Broncos were second in pass attempts and 11th in rushing attempts. That shows you just how up-tempo their offense is, which means that the running game can still produce plenty of fantasy points. And even though they passed the ball more in ‘13 than they did in ’12, they still managed 15 rushing touchdowns compared to just nine in ‘12. They actually led the league in rushing attempts inside the opponent’s five-yard line with 25. So continue to count on Broncos’ running backs in fantasy. That means Montee Ball and whoever turns out to be his backup are must owns this year.
Last season the Broncos were able to make fantasy stars out of every offensive skill position. QB1, RB5, WR2, WR8, WR21 and TE3. And that WR21 was Wes Welker who missed three games due to a concussion. The question is, can we count on these insane numbers once again this season? Of course not, record-breaking numbers are record breaking for a reason, but barring injuries you can count on another high volume fantasy season out of the Broncos’ skill positions.
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San Diego Chargers
Last season was coach was Mike McCoy’s first with the Chargers and he took a declining Philip Rivers and really turned his game around with his best touchdown output since 2008 and easily his most completions and best completion percentage ever.
On the whole the Chargers ran the ball 47% of the time and passed it 53%. In today’s NFL that’s a run heavy offense, the 7th most percentage-wise and 6th most total attempt-wise. That allowed both Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead to put up decent fantasy numbers even though they were splitting work. Mathews ended the season with 311 touches and Woodhead with 182, with 76 being receptions. The rest of the running backs had 66. The question this season is whether or not Donald Brown will cut into those touches for Mathews. It’s possible, but with Mathews still the lead back on a run heavy offense you can’t knock him too far down.
Rookie Keenan Allen led the wide receivers for the Chargers while Malcom Floyd was injured and Eddie Royal and Vincent Brown provided non-starter talent, but did accumulate decent numbers as they combined for 88 receptions, 1,103 yards and nine touchdowns. At least some of those touchdowns and yards should be available for Floyd this season.
The tight ends are extremely interesting in San Diego with future hall of famer Antonio Gates and young phenom Ladarius Green vying for snaps and targets. Between the two of them last year they had 94 receptions, 1,248 yards and 7 touchdowns. Amazingly Green only had 17 of those receptions, but 376 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged a whopping 22.1 yards per reception. So there are plenty of targets for tight ends in this offense. They ranked 4th in the league with 148 tight end targets. If Green could see 80-90 targets his ability would put him as a top ten tight end. His 30 from last year aren’t going to cut it though. It’s obvious that Gates has slowed way down and Green is the better offensive weapon at this point, but it will be a transition as the baton is handed off.
Philip Rivers has thrived in this offense so far and with Malcom Floyd back and Ladarius Green most likely taking a step forward in usage this season, it’s not inconceivable that he would put up similar numbers as last year when he finished as the sixth best fantasy quarterback. The offense doesn’t lend itself to huge passing numbers, but is extremely efficient and safe and should remain that way again this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
Last season was the first one for Andy Reid as Kansas City’s new head coach and he decided to make his new team The Jamaal Charles show. As a team, Kansas City had a total of 5,396 yards and 430 points. 1980 of those yards and 114 points came from Mr. Charles. So 37% of their yards and 27% of their points came from Charles. Those are both highs for any one player last season. The big change for Charles was his usage around the goal line and in the passing game. His 70 receptions were an all-time high for him and his 12 rushing touchdowns eclipsed his high of seven. Of course the big question for his fantasy production is if he can come close to his total of 19 touchdowns again.
Kansas City didn’t run the ball quite as much as you would think because they used Charles so often in the pass game. Of the 308 completions by Alex Smith, 70 or 21% of those went to Charles. Charles average 9.9 yards per reception while Smith averaged 10.8 yards per completion. Dwayne Bowe averaged his worst yards per reception ever with 11.8. I think we can feel pretty certain that KC won’t be airing it out with Smith anytime soon. But they did get to the playoffs last year with defense and Charles and with the players they have I don’t see why they wouldn’t take the same approach as last season and run with JC, throw screens to JC, get JC the ball near the goal line and JC some more JC.
They didn’t add any impact offensive players this off-season, but they did get tight end Travis Kelce healthy after a lost rookie year. He has the ability to be a true asset to this offense. Most of last year their tight ends were injured and/or practice squad fodder. This season Kelce could bring a much-needed boost to the offense, playing a position that Alex Smith can work with in the short to mid-range passing game.
The Raiders were all kinds of bad last year winning just four games, but their run game was not horrible as they ranked 11th in total rushing yards, 7th in rushing touchdowns and sixth in yards per carry. That is something to build from and with a roster of four decent to good running backs, I believe they will once again try to run the ball to take pressure off their not-great passing game.
Last season Terrelle Pryor was overmatched as a passer so they went and signed Matt Schaub, who had a horrible 2013, but does have a much better body of work than any other quarterback they might have been able to find on the market. A more reliable quarterback and run game should keep the Raiders in more games this season.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson’s track record is not great. His best finish in total points scored was 15th in 2010 with Tampa Bay. So it’s difficult to see a strong pattern of hope from Olson. And when we look at the personnel for the Raiders, there is some reason for hope, but for the most part there are too many question marks, especially in fantasy, to really get a good gauge on one position or player to excel this year.
The Raiders wide receivers have shown ability in short stretches for the last few years, but haven’t been able to put together whole seasons of above-average play. Denarius Moore has been making some outstanding plays over the last couple years and is now on the roster bubble. Their quarterback changes every season, along with their coaches and OCs. Continuity is not in the Raiders vocabulary yet.
My biggest fantasy hope for them is to find one running back and one receiver that they can count on as go-to players. We can guess at Maurice-Jones Drew and Andre Holmes being those players this season, but the odds are slim that they both will remain consistent all season.