There are seven new head coaches in place this offseason, and six of them are bringing new offensive coordinators with them. That means new concepts and playbooks and, most importantly in the fantasy world, opportunities for offensive skill position players. New coaches provide plenty of food for thought as the season approaches, and how their players fit in their systems goes a long way toward making a successful team. In this series, we’ll take a look at some of the most intriguing players/new coach tandems who hope to take advantage of new roles in 2018.
Norv Turner broke into the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams — the original Los Angeles Rams — in 1985, when Eric Dickerson was toting the pigskin.
A lot has changed since then. Turner is now on his tenth different team. The Rams left Los Angeles and moved back, and they were joined by another one of his former teams, the (then-San Diego) Los Angeles Chargers, last year. After a year out of football, Turner is back in action, and he’s bringing with him his deep-drop, tight end-oriented attack that should flourish in Carolina.
1. Greg Olsen will flourish in Turner’s offense
During Turner’s tenure with the Chargers (a stint that including an AFC Championship game appearance), he leaned heavily on Antonio Gates. During Turner’s two-year run as Vikings offensive coordinator, Kyle Rudolph was the team’s most-targeted player. In 2016, he was targeted 132 times, sixth-most for a tight end since 2010, despite the Vikings throwing the ninth-fewest passes in the league.
Turner is one of the game’s premier minds in getting tight ends involved, and Olsen still very much has the speed to get vertical, an area in which Cam Newton flourishes. Before his injury-marred 2017, Olsen finished second, tied for fourth and fourth among tight ends in total fantasy points in the three seasons prior. And that’s with a relatively low touchdown output — 16 in those three years combined. Expect him to put up much bigger red zone numbers: Gates averaged 8.2 scores per season with Turner in San Diego, and Rudolph averaged six in Turner’s two years in Minnesota. Olsen is TE6 in our rankings, but with some more touchdowns, he’s in line to be a top-five option.
2. The Christian McCaffrey hype train has left the station, but be wary
While Turner’s ability with tight ends is well noted, he’s also dependent on a solid running game. He had LaDanian Tomlinson in San Diego and a healthy Adrian Peterson in one of his most successful seasons (2015) in Minnesota. Those were both early-down dominant running backs. That’s not what Christian McCaffrey is. There’s a reason Carolina brought in 1,000-yard rusher C.J. Anderson this offseason.
During Turner’s most successful years in San Diego, he leaned heavily on Tomlinson and used Darren Sproles. That’s not to compare Anderson to a Hall of Famer nor to pin McCaffrey’s skills to Sproles’. It is, however, to say that McCaffrey’s carries might not go up that much, says the Charlotte Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue. McCaffrey is our 14th-rated running back, which is about where he’s being taken in most drafts (early third round). But considering he saw more targets than any other running back in the league last year, unless he sees a major jump in carries, there’s not a whole lot of upward trajectory. Both Brad Evans and Liz Loza label him a strong bust candidate.
3. D.J. Moore could be the best fantasy rookie wide receiver
The Panthers had a glaring need opposite Devin Funchess, so they brought in D.J. Moore in the first round. The former Terrapin was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year last year and ran a 4.42 at the combine. Moore is absolutely terrific with the ball in his hands and can win at all three levels. His college highlight tape is outstanding, and he put up strong college numbers despite Maryland’s awful injury luck at quarterback. He’s drawn comparisons to another former Terp, Stefon Diggs.
Moore is fast and quick out of his cuts, he can line up in any spot in the formation, and he’s adept at extending plays, which fits nicely with Newton’s scrambling ability. Plus, there’s not a lot ahead of him on the path to playing time in Carolina. He already looks ready to play a big role. Moore is a solid choice for a late-round, high-upside flier.
Other New faces in new places:
Coaching changes could get Marcus Mariota back on track
Aaron Rodgers welcomes back old friend