When setting the initial range of outcomes for a player’s upcoming season and parsing offseason, camp, and preseason news, it is important to understand how much room a player has to change the perception of his coaches. The players with the most room to improve their standing are the ones have a new coaching staff to make an impression on. Which players have clean slates this year? Which ones might have been held back the most by their previous coaches? Which ones might have room to fall under new coaches?
DeVante Parker, WR, MIA - The previous staff went through periods of optimism and pessimism about Parker, with the Gase era most certainly ending on a sour note for Parker. The team surprisingly re-signed him, and at a salary that indicates some optimism about his ability to contribute after barely making an impact last year. The quarterback play and offensive coaching should also be improved, although the line play may be rough. Parker could be a best ball and spot start hit if he stays healthy.
Prognosis: Nowhere to go but up with a late round ADP
Kenyan Drake, RB, MIA - Drake took the NFL by storm in December 2017 and then promptly was forced to share the backfield with Frank Gore. The new regime didn’t spend heavily on a running back and Gore left for Buffalo in free agency, so Drake is the top returning talent. Adam Gase regularly frustrated us with his backfield management (more on that later), so it’s certainly possible that Drake gets bigger and more consistent workloads, albeit in one of the worst situations for a back in the league. That didn’t hold him back in 2017 once he got a chance to start. He’s a boom/bust running back that could pay off.
Prognosis: ADP is lower than last year even though Gase and Gore are gone
Mike Gesicki, TE, MIA - Gesicki failed in blocking boot camp, to the surprise of no one outside of maybe Adam Gase. If the new regime is rational in their usage of Gesicki, leaning on him as a receiver in mismatches, then he could rehabilitate his dynasty value and maybe even have some redraft relevance, but if he doesn’t start to make an impact this year, there will be no Gase-based excuses.
Prognosis: Waiver wire watch list
Le'Veon Bell, RB, NYJ - It’s bad enough that Bell is leaving the fantasy bonanza that is the Steelers backfield. Add Adam Gase (and a year off of football) and we have a volatile situation here. Gase reportedly didn’t want to pay for Bell, and the general manager who did is gone, muddying the waters further. The clean slate here means a lot of positive environmental factors are in the past and some potentially negative environmental factors like offensive line play and backfield management are in the past.
Prognosis: ADP shows little fear of Gase and believe that Bell, not Pittsburgh offense, generated most of his value.
Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Chris Herndon, Sam Darnold, NYJ - All of these players are going to be acclimating to a Gase/Loggains-led offensive staff. Who will it be good for? Who will it be bad for? Crowder has been working hard to establish chemistry with Darnold, but was signed by the deposed general manage. Enunwa looked like a top target under the previous offensive regime and the deposed general manager signed him to a generous extension late last year. Could they be competing for slot snaps and targets? Anderson’s arrive was pointing way up last year, but we remember how difficult it was for Kenny Stills to consistently show up in the box score last year. Herndon had a bit of a rookie breakout, but will be joined by Trevon Wesco - chosen in the fourth round this year by that former general manager? And what of Darnold? Did Gase make Peyton or did Peyton make Gase? Evidence points to the latter, and it’s possible this whole offense could underachieve this year.
Prognosis: ADP shows pessimism or at least skepticism across the board, in contrast to Bell’s current price. Anderson is the only one going in the mid-rounds, which seems like a discount considering his strong WR2 potential.
Keelan Cole, WR, JAX - Cole entered 2018 with an outside shot at being the team’s #1 receiver after a sensational rookie campaign despite going undrafted. By the end of the year, his involvement in the offense was on life support. A new offensive staff and quarterback, along with Marqise Lee still missing time coming back from his knee injury, could help him regain relevance, albeit in a modest role in a modest pass offense.
Prognosis: A deep waiver wire watch list candidate, Cole is here more to console my disappointment about his decline last year after an auspicious first chapter.
John Ross, WR, CIN - It was clear that Marvin Lewis wasn’t a big fan of Ross, so this is one to watch closely. The early buzz is positive and Ross maps well to the Brandin Cooks role in the Rams offense that new head coach Zac Taylor is importing from Los Angeles.
Prognosis: Used to be we didn’t fully judge receivers until their third year. Ross has to stay healthy, but he gets the benefit of a new coaching outlook while maintaining the excellent red zone chemistry he built with Andy Dalton last year. He’s going undrafted in most leagues, but could be a hot waiver wire pickup early in the season.
Antonio Brown, WR, OAK - Brown, like his former teammate Bell, may not see the same kinds of numbers in his new offense. Jon Gruden is a good offensive mind and Derek Carr’s penchant for high percentage, shorter throws will help Brown’s transition, but leaving an offense where your quarterback is basically your offensive coordinator and that quarterback is willing to force the ball to you and find you on extended plays can’t be a good thing for Brown.
Prognosis: Losing the connection with Roethlisberger just can not be a good thing for Brown’s fantasy value, although his ADP reflects an expectation of a dropoff to low WR1 numbers. His receptions may stay among the league leaders, but scores and yards per reception will take a hit.
DaeSean Hamilton, Courtland Sutton, WR, DEN - What kind of offense will new coordinator Rich Scangarello install? What kind of chemistry will the 2019 rookies establish with new quarterback Joe Flacco? Emmanuel Sanders will be sidelined with an achilles tear for a while, possibly even into the regular season, so there’s a lot of potential for resorting of target shares. Heck, we should include third-year UDFA Tim Patrick, who did a better impression of the player the Broncos want Sutton to become than Sutton at times last year. For dynasty, we should also be paying attention to reports on chemistry with Drew Lock (and Brett Rypien?).
Prognosis: ADP seems to be optimistic about Sanders returning to form, with Sutton and Hamilton close on his heels. If Flacco favors the easy, short passes, Hamilton could be a big surprise in PPR leagues.
Royce Freeman, RB, DEN - Freeman was a dud as a rookie and overtaken in short order by Phillip Lindsay. While Lindsay comes back from a broken wrist that was a little more serious than initially reported, Freeman can endear himself to the new regime. Scangarello came up under Kyle Shanahan and should institute more outside zone running, which will be a much better fit for Freeman than last year’s run offense.
Prognosis: It will take another Lindsay injury for Freeman to truly be a hit at a somewhat optimistic although greatly diminished from last year’s ADP, but he should at least get a chance to show why he was a third-round pick.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB - He should really be the centerpiece of this article. Rodgers was actively undermining Mike McCarthy and was far from bought into anything McCarthy was doing on offense. Winning the power struggle with McCarthy should give him an emotional, psychological, and spiritual bounce at least, and there’s also the chance that Matt LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett help make Rodgers job easier. No player has more negative reps to flush and replace with productive play than Rodgers.
Prognosis: ADP reflects a return top 3-5 fantasy form, so it’s difficult to be a buyer despite an inevitable bounceback to some extent
Aaron Jones, RB, GB - Jones showed up in terrific shape and he has always been decisively the best back on the roster. The team added Dexter Williams in the sixth round, and he is a good fit in the Shanahan-style outside zone running game the team might install, but it is difficult to envision him outplaying Jones. McCarthy seemed to be reluctant to commit to Jones, so there’s room for a lot of volume growth here if opportunity matches proven talent. Jones also came on as a passcatcher last year.
Prognosis: Jones can deliver second round value on his 3rd/4th round ADP and is one of an enticing group of backs available in the 3rd/4th that should keep you from starting RB-RB
Jameis Winston, QB, TB - Remember when the Bucs seemed ready to move on from Winston last year? He hasn’t gotten a long-term extension, but he has gained a head coach whose “no risk, no biscuit” philosophy in the passing game is ideal for Winston’s loose at times decision-making. This was one of the most productive passing games in the league last year, and it is poised to maintain that status with Winston and Arians joining forces
Prognosis: Winston is available outside of the top ten quarterbacks. Long live late round quarterback drafting.
Ronald Jones, RB, TB - The steady drumbeat of praise is following Jones this offseason. While he isn’t likely to become a passcatching stud out of the backfield, this offense should allow for better running lanes if it can establish stability. The line is still a major obstacle, but Jones should have a chance to redeem himself.
Prognosis: Jones ADP is very optimistic and basically projecting him to start, although still with more pessimistic feelings about the Bucs running game, as you can still get Jones in the 8th/9th round range after you’ve filled out your starting lineup.
Breshad Perriman, WR, TB - Perriman’s shoulder injury is a bummer, but he should be ok by camp. We can still project him as an ideal deep threat to create a vertical element opposite Mike Evans and open up the middle of the field for Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and Cameron Brate. Perriman decided to leave Cleveland when he saw the team was acquiring Odell Beckham Jr and pivoted to more upfront playing time in Tampa, and the arrow was pointing up as he was salvaging his career in Cleveland (yes that is a coherent phrase now) last year.
Prognosis: Perriman is going undrafted but could be an early season waiver priority with the Bucs likely getting involved in high-scoring games to cover for their poor defense.
Jared Cook, TE, NO - Cook is actually coming off of the rare career year in the 30s, so he doesn’t exactly need a fresh start, but going to an offense that made Jimmy Graham a fantasy force is something to heed for fantasy projections. The Saints went strong to the hole for Cook, holding off the Patriots, who were searching for their Gronkowski replacement in the passing game. Cook could set career highs during this 30s for the second straight year.
Prognosis: Cook is in the fat second tier of tight ends after the big three and well worth the mid-round pick it will take to land him.
David Johnson, RB, ARI - If Rodgers is the headliner for clean slate players, Johnson is the opening act that everyone will like better than the lead. Johnson’s usage was nauseating last year, with too many runs up the gut and not enough targets or routes run. That should change with maybe the most open-minded offensive staff in the league.
Prognosis: You might still get Johnson in the late first, but he is starting to settle in the mid-first. He could easily be the #1 fantasy back again this year.
Christian Kirk, WR, ARI - Kirk didn’t play in the Air Raid in college, but Kliff Kingsbury recruited him. Kirk’s inside/outside skillset will translate well and he shined at times last year despite terrible surroundings. As long as his broken foot heals well and on time, he should be the leading receiver in this offense.
Prognosis: Kirk is one of those players who should be written in your draft plan in pen
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI - How will Fitzgerald take to the Air Raid? He is more of a precise route runner out of the slot, but one assumes that his Hall of Fame level skills will still translate. He probably won’t return to his 100-catch ways with so much talent around him at wide receiver now, but the volume will be high enough for him to overachieve.
Prognosis: He’s going around the same point as Kirk, which is hard to justify when taking him over Kirk, but easier to back when Kirk goes before him. The rookies Isabella and Butler going later may be better boom for your buck than Fitzgerald.
Kevin White, WR, ARI - I had to include White here because between injuries and regime changes it just didn’t work out for him in Chicago. What kind of fairy tale could lead to his rebirth? How about landing in an Air Raid offense after he flourished in one at West Virginia? He might have a head start on the other outside receivers. His physical talent was never in questions.
Prognosis: Just file this one away and wait for more information