Coaching Changes that will impact Fantasy
Coaching turnover is a part of life in the NFL. Things move quickly, and teams and head coaches can't be afraid to move if expectations are unmet. Heading into the 2023/2024 season, there are six new head coaches and 16 (!) new play callers for NFL offenses. While we, as fantasy players, tend to zoom in on player movement and performance, keeping track of coaching moves and how they use the personnel on their roster is also important. Below I will outline three of the more important coaching moves and how they could affect the corresponding fantasy players on their roster.
Sean Payton: Head Coach Denver Broncos
While there were several highly consequential coaching changes in the NFL, there is none more drastic than the Broncos both trading for and hiring Sean Payton. Again, if you had forgotten, the Broncos gave up significant draft capital to the tune of a first and second-round pick (returning a third) for Sean Payton. That tells you about their belief in what Sean Payton can do with their current roster.
Payton's coaching acumen and offensive prowess are well-known to NFL fans and fantasy players. Payton's teams were a top 5 scoring offensive in the league a whopping 9 of the 15 years he was the Saints coach and either led or were second in yards gained 6 of the 15 years. That’s astounding success and consistency in the NFL. And yes, he had Drew Brees for the entirety of his coaching career, which certainly helps, but you don't go top 5 in 60% of your seasons without elite scheming and offensive genius.
And guess what, he gets another terrific QB in Denver in the form of Russell Wilson. The jury remains out on whether last year's implosion was Wilson's or Nathaniel Hackett's fault, but I have a hard time placing more blame on a player who has consistently been a top 5 fantasy player. It's much more likely that Hackett was a generationally bad head coach, and Wilson did not adapt well to the new surroundings in Denver.
So what does this mean? I'm all in on a Broncos offensive revival this season. They have a good QB, a rising offensive line, and terrific offensive weapons. I think it's stock up across the board for their offensive players, especially their wide receivers. With a clear vision on offense led by one of the best minds in the game, expect a resurgence for Denver's fantasy weapons.
Kellen Moore: Los Angeles Chargers
After a huge regression in offensive output that saw the Chargers go from fourth in Football Outsiders DVOA in 2021 to 19th in 2022, the Chargers fired Joe Lombardi as their offensive coordinator. Enter Kellen Moore, who was not resigned in Dallas after four years serving in the same role. Moving from Lombardi to Moore represents a large shift for the Chargers and a huge opportunity for this offense to take a leap forward.
The Moore departure from Dallas was a bit of a surprise given the impressive offensive stats that he helped put up. It seems the lack of post-season success is the likely culprit. Still, during his time in Dallas, Moore twice led the league in yards per game, including leading the NFL's highest-scoring offense in 2021. Additionally, over that period, Dallas was ranked 5th in EPA per play, 5th in points per drive, and fourth in third-down efficiency.
Those are gaudy numbers all around for an OC. And while people are quick to point to the offensive talent in Dallas, the Chargers' skill position players rival the Cowboys across the board with an improving offensive line to match. Moore will not have to re-engineer his offense based on the talent he inherits.
Moore's offensive philosophy is a marriage of a down-the-field passing attack and a shorter horizontal passing game a la the West Coast offense. However, expect the emphasis for the Chargers to be on the downfield portion. I see Moore's hire as a huge boon for Mike Williams if he can stay healthy. Allen will remain a consistent PPR WR if healthy, but Williams will see significantly more deep balls moving forward. And there is potential for Joshua Palmer and Quentin Johnson here as well given their vertical prowess. Gerald Everett will also remain involved given how Moore has used TEs in the past. The main watchout is Austin Ekeler. I would expect his target share to drop and his rushing attempts to tick up. That's a net loss on his value, but given this offense should be better overall, Ekeler still profiles as elite.
Eric Bieniemy: Washington Commanders
It's not shocking that Eric Bieniemy left the Chiefs. He had accomplished almost everything possible as an offensive coordinator in Kansas City. It was surprising that it was for a "lateral" move to the Washington Commanders. Lateral is in quotes there given the pay bump, but Bieniemy has been on the head coaching radar now for multiple years but still hasn't gotten his shot. If he brings success to the Commanders, you will have to assume that would change for good.
Obviously, much of Bieniemy's success was predicated upon Pat Mahomes being the best quarterback on the planet. But he will bring a vastly different scheme to the Commanders, one that will look to free up their playmakers more frequently and get their pass-catching running backs in more favorable matchups.
Bieniemy's brilliant schemes may not matter given the quarterback play he will be afforded in D.C. Sam Howell is a far cry from an elite NFL quarterback, but if anyone can salvage the situation, it is Bieniemy. Despite Howell's limitations, I'd expect serious upticks from rising Sophomore Jahan Dotson as he takes advantage of the coverage eaten up by Terry McLaurin. And I know we say it every year, but I think Antonio Gibson could truly perform in Bieniemy's offense. His dynamic athleticism and pass-catching ability are a dream fit. They will need to move the ball for it to matter in fantasy, but he's a PPR monster waiting in the wings.
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