The NFL coaching carousel has spun to a stop, and we can now view the landscape. This series starts with a look at the new NFC coaches (the AFC article can be found here). We examine scheme changes and assess rosters heading into free agency and the NFL draft.
CHICAGO BEARS - MATT EBERFLUS
Offensive Coordinator - Luke Getsy (formerly Packers)
Scheme - An run-pass option (RPO) heavy concept rooted in college football, Getsy's primary football background was under Joe Moorhead, dating back to 2006 when Getsy was Akron's quarterback with Moorhead his OC. Moorhead is an innovator within college football. The view of this offense gives the quarterback the choice of a pass option off almost every run play. The Packers ranked 15th in run vs. pass play-calls (41.7% rush) despite the presence of Aaron Rodgers.
This offense would benefit the Bears, offensive line, and quarterback Justin Fields. The options pause defensive lines, giving a battered and rebuilding offensive line an extra beat. The RPO would play into Fields' natural strengths as an athlete. However, he struggled in an RPO-heavy concept at Ohio St. Still, simplifying reads and giving Fields an extra moment with defenses has a proven track record with plus athletes at the position.
Shallow Sleeper - Khalil Herbert, Running Back
In rushing attempts, only two NFL teams had two running backs rank within fantasy RB2 territory: Green Bay and Denver. It is possible Fields takes the attempts, and there is not enough room to breathe for two relevant running backs. But Herbert excelled in a four-game sample in Week 5-8 with 388 scrimmage yards. David Montgomery is comfortable as the lead back, though a heavy rush offense allows Herbert to sneak into utility. Utilizing A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones together on the field was a concept the Packers dabbled in late in the season. However, an early injury to Dillon in their one playoff game did not see the idea crystalize in a meaningful opportunity.
Deep Dynasty Sleeper - Tarik Cohen, Running Back
The offense features heavy jet motion, a potential reentry point for Tarik Cohen off two seasons lost to injury. Cohen's future career is in question, but this role would give him a crack at fantasy utility even with the presence of David Montgomery and Herbert. Ten points per game were right at the cutoff for running back three qualifications. Five receptions for 40 yards and occasional touchdowns are possible. With Jakeem Grant and Marquise Goodwin hitting free agency, the Bears have no one on their roster to fill this role.
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Potential Free Agent Target - Allen Lazard, Wide Receiver
Lazard has deep Midwestern roots after staring at Iowa St. Not a flashy name, but a player comfortable operating within Getsy's potential scheme. He excelled in blocking opportunities, ranking 8th at wide receiver with a PFF grade of 75.0. Wide receiver pass blocking may raise a question about the context but think "lead man" on a wide receiver tunnel screen. It is no secret the Bears have a massive need, with Darnell Mooney, the only player under contract who saw over five targets.
NFL Draft Target - Wan'Dale Robinson, Wide Receiver, Kentucky
If the team does not believe in Cohen's ability to return and passes on retaining Grant, addressing this position via the draft becomes necessary. The Packers lacked a "Jet" player before drafting Amari Rodgers in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft. Robinson was a jack of all trades with Nebraska before transitioning solely to wide receiver following a transfer to Kentucky. Robinson gives them a versatile playmaker to grow in a role.
NEW YORK GIANTS - BRIAN DABOLL
Offensive Coordinator - Mike Kafka (Chiefs passing game coordinator)
Scheme - A spread-heavy offense that ran the third-most plays with three or four wide receivers on the field (78% in 2021). Daboll has a reputation as a quarterback whisperer, but much of it comes from playcalling designed to fall within comfort zones and routes that open wide receivers to large passing windows by NFL standards. The genius in Daboll's scheme is the simplification. The offense uses motion, bunch sets, and RPO action to manipulate defenses and create easy reads for the quarterback.
At first glance, the Giants' skill position players essentially look set. But when new GM Joe Schoen followed Bills GM Brandon Beane to Buffalo, he was a part of a massive tear down the Giants seem primed to replicate. Saquon Barkley is in the final year of his rookie contract, raising trade questions. Sterling Shepard has an out trigger on his contract; the team can save $18 million in cap space by exercising it in the next two years. Evan Engram is a pending free agent. The Giants could see a massive overhaul in personnel.
Shallow Sleeper - Kadarius Toney, Wide Receiver
Given the Giants' current personnel, the comparisons to Stefon Diggs will be frequent and unavoidable. The Bills offense frequently bunched Diggs to get free releases, and he excelled in crossing routes. His average depth of target went from 14 yards with Minnesota to 11 with Buffalo. This depth is a natural area of the field to exploit Toney's strengths.
Deep Dynasty Sleeper - Kenny Golladay, Wide Receiver
How the mighty have fallen. Golladay was a top 12 wide receiver option in the summer of 2020. The website KeepTradeCut.com (a crowdsourced dynasty ranking) has Golladay at wide receiver 59, in the same rage as players like Russell Gage and Cedrick Wilson, who are close in age and have never experienced Golladay's heights. His contract makes it extremely difficult for the Giants to get out. Daboll's usage of multiple wide receivers sets almost guarantees Golladay will be on the field.
Potential Free Agent Target - Cole Beasley, Wide Receiver
There are a lot of moving pieces on this one. First, the Bills would need to move from Beasley (a move that would save them about $7 million in the cap), and the Giants would need to move from Shepard. But if that happens, there may not be a more natural safety blanket to aid Daniel Jones's development, similar to Beasley's role with Josh Allen. The Bills switched up personnel following a disappointing Week 13 performance against Tampa Bay; in the first 13 games of the season, Beasley saw 9+ targets six times. In the last five, he never met that number.
NFL Draft Target - Jeremy Ruckert, Tight End, Ohio St
A New York resident who excelled at receiver in high school before shifting to tight end at Ohio State, Ruckert fits a similar size and athleticism mold to Dawson Knox. Knox plays a vital role in the Bills offense; Daboll frequently used him to shift through the formation to tip the defense's hand. If the team moves from Engram, this opens a hole to address in a deep tight end class. The expectation is the Giants will invest heavily in rebuilding the offensive line early, and Ruckert could land as a fourth-round player who fills a team need.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - DENNIS ALLEN
Offensive Coordinator - Pete Carmichael (Retains position)
Scheme - Carmichael continues as OC but gets the whole reign of Sean Payton's offense. The offense is a west coast system with the usual slant timing routes that made Michael Thomas a king. Adding a vertical element has allowed big plays to players like Deonte Harris and Tre'Quan Smith, boom or bust fantasy options. The team has traditionally relied on split backfields. However, the emergence of Taysom Hill and Mark Ingram II's departure has rendered the second back to little more than a fantasy handcuff.
No team with a new head coach will see as much structural stability from the previous regime. That is by design, with the team looking to maintain as much continuity as possible from Sean Payton's successful era. The team will likely carry that continuity to personnel. Quarterback will be a situation to watch, with Jameis Winston citing Payton for his reason to stay in New Orleans, though he becomes a free agent. The only other free agents of note are Harris and Smith, both bit players that have shown glimpses of promise. The absence of Thomas in 2021 laid bare the need for additional playmakers in the offense.
Shallow Sleeper - Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver
Once bitten, twice shy, doubt and negative buzz surrounding Thomas. He has disappointed back-to-back seasons and will be 29. But remember, Thomas finished one of the best fantasy receiver seasons ever in 2019. With health, his ceiling remains among the highest in the game. Winston continuing at quarterback would likely see a shift to more vertical routes, a double-edged sword taking the slant targets away but potentially shifting Thomas on some more varied routes. If Thomas is on the field without any significant additions, the passing offense will flow through him and Alvin Kamara.
Deep Dynasty Sleeper - Marquez Callaway, Wide Receiver
Callaway was THE buzzy early-season wide receiver leaguewide following Thomas's injury. He struggled early in the season, forced into seeing #1 receiver level coverage from opponents. But as the season progressed, he settled in and averaged 5.3 - 85 weeks 14-16. Those numbers space out to 91-1,445 over an entire season. Callaway's 698 yards led the Saints, and his physicality and vertical ability allow him to swap routes with Thomas, working slants or attacking downfield. Alvin Kamara praised Callaway's development as the season progressed: "He's been able to step up and fill a role that he got asked to fill." Winston's last season as a starter led Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to top 5 fantasy receiver finishes in 2019.
Potential Free Agent Target - D.J. Chark Jr, Wide Receiver
Given the free-agent status Harris and Smith and Thomas's general questionable status, the team has to explore adding talent at the position. Chark grew up just up the road from New Orleans, attending LSU. His career got off to a slow start, and injuries have plagued him, but he posted 73-1,008-8 his second year. He would fill the Saints role for a field-stretching wide receiver, an area to explore much more with Winston vs. Drew Brees, who ended his career with three straight years of declining air yards. Chark could easily price himself out of the Saints role if a team is enamored enough with his raw tools, but GM Mickey Loomis has also been the most creative at creating the space necessary to add talent in free agency.
NFL Draft Target - Breece Hall, Running Back, Iowa St
Alvin Kamara turns 27 before the 2022 NFL season. In Week 8, the team traded for Mark Ingram II to help patch over the backfield, but no long-term replacement for Kamara is on the roster. The franchise has a rich history of using first-round picks on running backs, traversing Ricky Williams, Deuce McCallister, Reggie Bush, and Ingram. Hall or Isaiah Spiller would be in play around the area of the Saints' pick at 18, ranging through to their second pick at 49. The addition of a back serves two purposes, to increase production and attempt and extend Kamara's career. After being forced to start three different quarterbacks, the team fell short of the playoffs. Although hesitancy on early drafted running backs is leaguewide, the position is a need in the long term.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS - KEVIN O'CONNELL
Offensive Coordinator - Wes Phillips (Rams tight end coach)
Scheme - After spending the last two seasons as Sean McVay's OC, O'Connell gets his chance at a head job. The expectation is the transplantation of Ram's system. A wide zone run scheme featuring multiple receiver sets. The Rams ran 11 personnel (3 WRs/1 TE/1 RB) on 86% of their plays, the highest in the league by nearly 10%. This offense has famously relied on one running back and consistently produced multiple fantasy wide receiver ones due to the volume funneled to the position.
The team should see consistency in skill personnel with no significant free agents looming. Over the past two seasons, the Vikings have funneled their production to just three players: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Justin Jefferson, and WR Adam Thielen. Jefferson has ascended into the star, and putting him into a scheme that just saw Cooper Kupp complete the best fantasy receiver season ever, with 292 points, is an exciting prospect. Cook regressed after the second-most rushing yards with 1,557 in 2020, coming back down to 1,159 after missing four games. Thielen displayed his usual redzone production, with ten touchdowns, but his 55 receiving yards per game were the lowest since 2015. As he enters his age 32 season, production will become a question mark.
Shallow Sleeper - Kirk Cousins, Quarterback
Can a 2021 QB1 be a sleeper? Kirk Cousin's 19.21 ppg finished QB12, and his offseason has started with a whirlwind of questions about his future. Should he remain, this offense is tailor-made for production. His current Sleeper ADP is 115, allowing a team to build a strong base while waiting on the position until round 9. Matthew Stafford tied his career-high with 41 touchdowns in 2021, and in 2018 Jared Goff finished as QB10, in the roots of this system.
Deep Dynasty Sleeper - K.J. Osborn, Wide Receiver
After emerging as the clear third wide receiver, K.J. Osborn should have graduated from this territory. But with a Sleeper ADP of 195, he can still be found deep in drafts. He placed third in receiving yards and touchdowns (655-7) and second in receiver snap share at 68%. He is the player most likely to benefit from the influx of three-receiver sets, which the Vikings used 4th fewest in 2021.
Potential Free Agent Target - Gerald Everett, Tight End
The Irv Smith breakout has been pending for three seasons. The team rotated tight ends after Smith Jr. missed the entire 2021 season. Uncertain contracts left Ben Ellefson's 81 snaps as the only player on the roster to play the position in 2021. The running back depth chart is one of the strongest leaguewide, but the team needs to build at tight end and wide receiver. Everett has ties to O'Connell from the 2020 Rams. He would bring experience in the offensive system and allow the team to work in concert with Smith Jr.
NFL Draft Target - Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Arkansas
At 6'3, 225 lbs, Burks is an archetype the Vikings do not have on the roster. Despite Osborn's emergence and Thielen's continued production, the team has to build depth in the wide receiver room to run this scheme effectively. The Rams scheme frequently features designed wide receiver rushes on sweeps to compliment the zone rushing attack. Burks is comfortable operating within these concepts. He would be an ideal long-term pairing with Jefferson.