Every season coaching changes affect players and fantasy owners,
either positively or negatively. Sometimes a new coaching staff
can mean an increase in production for a player, while other times
it means a decrease in playing time or taking on a different role
in the offense.
Here are seven players whose fantasy value will be altered in one
way or another by coaching changes in 2013:
Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs – It’s not like Charles isn’t
already a fantasy stud. Despite playing on one of the worst offenses
in the NFL last season, Charles rushed for 1,509 yards and five
touchdowns. Sure, the five scores were disappointing, but that’s
about how many touchdowns the Chiefs scored as a team in an entire
month. The guy simply didn’t have a lot of scoring opportunities
in 2012, but that should change this season with Andy Reid in town.
The main reason Reid’s arrival could mean a boost to Charles’
overall production is the running back's increased role in the passing
game. Despite being one of the most dynamic open-field runners in
the NFL, Charles has been vastly underutilized as a receiver by
previous Kansas City coaching staffs. That will change under Reid.
Charles set a career high in receptions (45) and receiving yards
(468) in 2010 when Charlie Weis was the offensive coordinator in
Kansas City. Reid has admitted to studying the way Weis moved Charles
around in the offense and said he plans on using him more as a receiver.
Keep in mind that when Reid was in Philadelphia, LeSean McCoy averaged
4.28 receptions per game, making him a fantasy monster in PPR leagues.
New Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson recently confirmed
that Charles would be more involved in the passing game. “You've
seen him sprint out of the single receiver set, and he'll come out
of the backfield,” Pederson told Fox Sports, Kansas City.
“He’s a guy that needs to move around and one you can
put in different positions, motion out the back, shift him from
the backfield. He catches the ball so well that you have to take
advantage of that offensively.”
Add all this up and Charles should smash his career high for receptions
Adrian Peterson is the consensus first pick in fantasy drafts this
year. There’s a debate as to who should be the second pick
after AP. Charles deserves to be in that discussion. In his last
two full seasons, Charles has rushed for 1,467 and 1,509 yards.
Now toss in 60-plus receptions and an improved Chiefs offense and
you have a bona fide Top 3 pick on your hands.
Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills – Jackson has been a strong fantasy
player since 2009, but that will change this season. As long as
Spiller remains healthy, Jackson will be relegated to a pure
New head coach Doug Marrone has already stated that he prefers to
use one back and that Spiller will be used in goal-line situations,
which has to be music to fantasy owner’s ears. Jackson is
still a talented runner, but Spiller has shown he’s a special
player when the ball is in his hands.
Last year Spiller ran for 1,244 yards, caught 43 passes and scored
a total of eight touchdowns. And he did that in a season in which
he had more than 20 carries only three times in 16 games and was
often taken out near the goal line. Now imagine the kind of numbers
Spiller will put up if Marrone is true to his word and makes him
the feature back.
This is no longer a committee situation. Jackson is now 32 years
old and he’s coming off season-ending knee injuries in back-to-back
years. What it comes down to for Jackson is that the Bills have
a very talented second-string running back that will get a few carries
a game to spell their starter, but it is Spiller’s time to
shine in Buffalo.
In early fantasy drafts Jackson is getting selected in the Round
7 area. That’s awfully high to start drafting handcuffs. Jackson
is being over-drafted based of his name and past production, but
fantasy owners should be prepared to see a whole lot of Spiller
Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers – You can pick any member of the
Carolina Panthers to see a decline in production now that Mike Shula
has been inexplicably hired to call offensive plays. I decided to
go with Smith.
Steve Smth and the Panthers offense could
be on shaky ground with Mike Shula calling the shots.
Cam Newton is the obvious choice to struggle under Shula’s
reign of terror, but he’ll always be a strong fantasy player
because of his running ability. The two things all of Shula’s
inept offenses have in common are that they lack imagination and
don’t create big plays downfield. That’s why I think
we’ll see Smith not only struggle mightily but come out publicly
against Shula at some point this season.
First, let’s take a look at Shula’s resume so we can
establish that he’s still getting promotions only because
of his last name.
He was fired as the offensive coordinator of the Buccaneers after
Tampa Bay failed to rank higher than 22nd in offense during his
After being fired by Tampa Bay, Shula was hired as a quarterbacks
coach by—you guessed it—the Miami Dolphins. He was then
hired as the head coach at Alabama where he compiled an unimpressive
26-23 record and had one of the most predictable offenses in the
Since then Shula has been a quarterbacks coach with Jacksonville
and Carolina. Do you notice I keep writing that Shula has been a
quarterbacks coach? So maybe the guy is a good quarterbacks coach,
but then people like Ron Rivera give him jobs that Shula has proven
are beyond his capabilities. Trust me, the Panthers are in for a
long season on the offensive side of the ball.
Smith is one of those receivers that can probably play until he’s
50, and while he doesn’t mind going over the middle, he excels
at getting down the field and making big plays. Smith won’t
get many chances to do that in Shula’s three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust
passing attack. I think Newton is going to struggle throwing the
ball in Shula’s conservative system, thus Smith’s numbers
will decline as well.
Like I said, Shula may be a good quarterbacks coach. Paul Hackett
was a good quarterbacks coach but an atrocious coordinator and head
coach. Some guys are just what they are, and the Panthers are about
to find out Mike Shula isn’t an offensive coordinator.
Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles – With Chip Kelly in town, the
Eagles' offensive players are popular choices among fantasy owners
this summer. However, Maclin is slipping through the cracks a little
bit. Once again, DeSean
Jackson is getting drafted higher on average over Maclin.
Jackson may be the most overrated fantasy player of all-time. He’s
barely topped 1,000 yards just twice in his career, he’s never
gone over 62 receptions, nor has he recorded one season of double-digit
touchdowns. However, because Jackson once returned a punt to beat
the Giants late in a game and because he makes a big play here and
there, some people still believe in perception over reality.
The bottom line is Jackson has never improved his game since coming
into the NFL. He’s never put on any weight or improved his
route running. He is basically a fly pattern or bust, and corners
have figured him out. Maclin is the better overall receiver, and
that’s why he has outproduced Jackson since coming into the
league. While Kelly will move Jackson around and maximize his big-play
ability, I expect Maclin to be the one who really benefits from
playing in the new offense and will once again produce the better
numbers of the two.
One thing Kelly did in college is use the running game to exploit
man coverage with his receivers. He didn’t do that just with
big plays down the field but with short passes that allowed his
receivers to run after the catch. Because Maclin is such a better
route runner than Jackson and is used more across the middle of
the field, I think this is the area where he’ll excel in Kelly’s
Maclin is one of those guys who has been a good fantasy receiver
but is on the verge of busting out and taking that next step if
a couple of things fall into place for him. If Kelly’s offense
clicks and the Eagles get consistent quarterback play, this could
be the year Maclin takes that next step. He offers great upside
as a receiver being selected in the seventh or eighth round area.
Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars – Sometimes a player is just
in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s the case with Lewis.
After starting his career off slowly, Lewis finally got on track
in 2010 and made the Pro Bowl after catching 58 passes for 700 yards
and 10 touchdowns. Then the bottom fell out in Jacksonville and
Lewis has only found the end zone four times in the last two years.
Obviously, things haven’t been fixed on the offensive side
of the ball for the Jaguars, considering Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert
are still battling for the starting quarterback job and Louisville’s
Teddy Bridgewater is already looking for homes in the area. However,
the good news for fantasy owners is the new Jaguars coaching staff
wants to get Lewis much more involved in the offense than he was
The thing about Lewis is he is such a physical beast that he creates
mismatches with most safeties and linebackers, especially in the
red zone. On a touchdown reception against Houston last year Lewis
was covered tightly by two defenders, but Henne just threw the ball
up to him. Lewis used his big body to shield the defenders and his
long arms to go up and grab the ball for a score.
Regardless of who the Jaguars quarterback is, it’s a good
sign that new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch wants to throw the
ball more to Lewis because those are the types of plays he can make
if given the opportunity. Lewis is such a problem near the goal
line that he just needs the ball thrown his way more often. Even
if he’s covered there is a good chance he will come down with
the football because of his imposing size.
It’s hard to trust any offensive players on Jacksonville right
now, but Lewis has a shot to be a TE2 with upside this year. He
has all the physical skills to put up strong fantasy numbers, now
Lewis just needs more opportunities to make plays.
Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns – Cameron is one of the hottest
names heading into fantasy drafts but it’s for good reason. When
you combine Cameron’s physical skills with how new head coach and
former tight end Rob Chudzinski likes to utilize the position in
his offense, the writing is on the wall for Cameron to have a breakout
Not only does Chudzinski like to feature the tight end, so does
new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Then when you look around
at Cameron’s competition for playing time, it’s wide
open for him to really gobble up virtually all the targets as the
Browns’ pass-catching tight end. The only people standing
in his way are Kellen Davis and Gary Barnidge. So if I said I was
standing in Cameron’s way for playing time, it would basically
amount to the same thing.
When looking for a breakout candidate you have to weigh talent and
opportunity. Sure, the Browns still have questions at quarterback,
but Cameron has ability and he’s in a perfect situation to
catch 50-plus balls this season as the Browns' starting tight end,
especially with receiver Josh Gordon suspended for the first two
games of the year.
Like I said, Cameron will be hyped by a lot of fantasy people this
summer, but everything is in line for him to have a breakout 2013
season under the new coaching staff. His arrow is definitely pointing
up with TE1 potential.
Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts – You can count on one hand
the TEs that have had a big fantasy impact as rookies. Yet Fleener
was vastly over-drafted last year because owners fell in love with
the idea that he would be catching passes from his former college
It’s hard to say that Fleener really disappointed in 2012;
he missed four games to injury yet put up numbers (26 rec, 281 yds,
2 TDs) similar to other rookie tight ends that went on to be stars.
It’s not his fault people expected too much from him. Fleener
was also asked to block a lot under old offensive coordinator Bruce
Arians, who likes to spread the field with receivers and use his
tight ends to stay in and pass protect.
Arians is now the head coach in Arizona, and a major reason Fleener
could see a big bump in production is because he not only has his
former college quarterback throwing him passes, he has his former
college offensive coordinator calling the plays. Chuck Pagano brought
in Pep Hamilton to replace Arians. With Hamilton directing the offense
at Stanford, Fleener was used more like a wide receiver, catching
62 passes for 1,107 yards and 17 touchdowns over his final two seasons.
Expect Hamilton to use Fleener and Dwayne Allen more as receivers
instead of blockers in 2013, giving both players much more fantasy
value than last season. Pagano even predicted that Fleener would
double his reception total this year. That could just be coach talk,
but 50 receptions seems like a reachable goal for Fleener with Hamilton
Fleener enters 2013 as a TE2 but he is a candidate to see a big
increase in production. He was over-drafted as a rookie but he’ll
be under-drafted this year. He makes for a great value pick later
in the draft.