Fantasy football: NFL offensive coordinator changes

by Tim Heaney on July 30, 2012 @ 15:30:37 PDT


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Sixteen teams named a new offensive coordinator this offseason, and knowing how those systems drive can identify fantasy green lights and warning signs for the chess pieces.

Only 12 of those alterations, however, will have a significant impact. The entries for the Cleveland Browns (Brad Childress), Dallas Cowboys (Bill Callahan), Green Bay Packers (Tom Clements) and San Diego Chargers (Hal Hunter) are merely titular - focused on quality control and strategic assistance. Pat Shurmur, Jason Garrett, Mike McCarthy and Norv Turner run those play-calling shows. (Callahan might have a bit more influence on increasing Dallas' run game.)

On to the changes that matter:

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers
Jack up Jacquizz

The former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator and QBs coach upgrades from Blaine Gabbert to Matt Ryan. Maybe he'll actually give this talent-loaded team an identity, as well.

Expect Atlanta to implement more spread sets and screens, and in general more downfield pressure as they lighten Michael Turner's responsibilities. Koetter should expand their means of working the middle of the field and piling on yards after the catch. Getting the ball into the hands of their playmakers more quickly could produce devastating results and augment their already effective pass protection.

Ryan and Roddy White's connection commands elite fantasy attention, but in this design, the dynamic Julio Jones could close the value gap between him and No. 84.

Koetter believes in dump-offs, so Jacquizz Rodgers, as part of the Turner fade-out, could rack up PPR points - ditto for Harry Douglas, for depth purposes, though the general involvement warning applies when you go further down the ladder.

Maybe those cheapie targets Tony Gonzalez has been hand-fed will be dispersed to these two up-and-comers, making the vet an even less attractive settle option for drafters.

Chicago Bears

His pro-style system aims to refine the running game. The Bears have considerable firepower on the ground with Matt Forte now under contract and Michael Bush coming to town. Tice's expertise is along the line, which could do wonders for Chicago's suspect front five.

There are plenty of elements that resurfaced from Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall's Denver Broncos days, including slinger coach Jeremy Bates. Cutler has permission to audible, something he didn't have under Martz - speaking of which, buh bye, seven-step drops with five-man protection. The O-line improved as 2011 went along and their strategy evolved; they should be better to start 2012 with its former first-hand coach running the whole show without Greatest Show on Turf limitations. More so than most teams, this offense's fortunes ride on the OL's play.

Proper development by Devin Hester and Alshon Jeffrey could make this a surprisingly impressive aerial game. Marshall's midrange game should also cost Forte some receptions - you hear that, PPR drafters?

Indianapolis Colts

Arians conjured up a sometimes competent offense with Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb in Cleveland and helped groom Ben Roethlisberger from his rookie year on. Now, he has another first-year flinger in Andrew Luck.

Arians adapted to run spread offenses in Pittsburgh, so he should be flexible in playing to Luck's strengths and weaknesses. Look for a base attack of two tight ends with an emphasis on single-back, run-heavy sets. Luck has been working on his deep throwing motion to get the ball out faster and with more downfield accuracy. Typical rookie problems will arise this season, but don't expect Indy to coddle him.

Tight end Coby Fleener, Luck's roommate at Stanford, is his most comfortable target. Sure-handed snarers Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie, depending on where he lines up, should also welcome Luck's ability to ... you know, throw, unlike Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins.

The Donald Brown-Delone Carter pair receives a boost from this change. Arians' ground-first philosophy was so conservative Pittsburgh chose to replace him in efforts of opening up their offense. He brought in a former Steelers mainstay in Mewelde Moore as lurking depth, although the veteran back may be there to help teach the offense.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Bratkowski follows new head coach Mike Mularkey from the Atlanta Falcons. They endured a tumultuous run there, directing a talented O but falling short of expectations. This operation is a whole other beast.

Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings could form a potent one-two punch that'll keep the run-first M.O. Bratkowski, however, must complement that with his Air Coryell vertical foundation, with which he propped up the likes of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh during the aughts period for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Upgrading Jacksonville's throwing apparatus was the organization's main goal this offseason. Signee Laurent Robinson and draftee Justin Blackmon give the Jags more teeth in their tosses, but do they need braces to align properly?

Blackmon is more about overpowering opponents than blowing by them for deep chucks. Robinson was a red zone wonder for Dallas last year, but how will he do under a developing QB and new installation, while downgrading from Tony Romo? They're both bench material but are worth drafting for their talent.

Lee Evans actually fits quite well, but at age 31, his speed is dwindling. Mike Thomas moves back to the slot but doesn't gain much fantasy luster as a result, except maybe for PPR depth.

Marcedes Lewis? A non-factor. Zach X. Miller is intriguing, especially in this speed-valuing system, but too much needs to go right for his fantasy relevance to jump into draftability.

A key will be how the shaky offensive line can protect Blaine Gabbert to give the receivers time to develop the frequent go routes. Gabbert is surely better than he proved to be last year - he at least deserves a chance in a new system - but there are way too many steps he needs to take to add optimism to this scheme for 2012, especially early on.

75 percent of the AFC East saw an OC change....

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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