2017 Head Coaching Changes & How They Affect Your Fantasy Football Dynasty Team

By Alex McCarthy
Alex McCarthy It has been a few months since most coaching changes were made in the NFL, and fan bases have had time to digest the new hires- and more importantly, so have fantasy football enthusiasts. But how, you ask, do these hirings affect my dynasty team specifically? Is the impact of a particular move more or less significant from a dynasty perspective, and why? I’ll be running through the six teams that got new head coaches and discussing how these hires affect the dynasty value of the players on their teams, starting with the Bills.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills needed a coach to replace Rex Ryan and, in a somewhat surprising move, passed over former OC (and interim head coach) Anthony Lyn in favor of Sean McDermott, the DC of the Panthers. Defensive coordinators have little (direct) fantasy relevance, so we are more interested in Rick Dennison, the new OC hired by McDermott. Dennison is ultimately a disciple of Mike Shanahan and his West Coast, zone-blocking offensive schemes, and will thus represent a bit of a departure from a more traditional power run game recently emphasized in Buffalo. All signs point to the offense remaining run-first, but Dennison has expressed a willingness to accept outside input and alter the offense as necessary.

LeSean McCoy is an incredibly talented fantasy football running back who has the tools to succeed in any scheme. That said, the switch to a zone-blocking scheme emphasizes cutback runs that favor his elite vision and agility and if anything could potentially make Shady even more dangerous in 2017. At worst this is a lateral move for the veteran RB, as a run-heavy offense will continue to favor him and he will continue to shred opposing defenses one way or another.

Sammy Watkins owners may be disappointed by the hiring of Dennison, as it signals a continued commitment to a run-first offense. Luckily things really couldn’t get much worse in terms of situation, so again this is at worst a lateral move, with owners hoping that Dennison is smart enough to work Watkins into the game plan heavily.

Tyrod Taylor is already familiar with Dennison from his days as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore, where Dennison was then the QB coach. Taylor’s future with the Bills is still uncertain but some view the new OC as a positive sign, and if he does stay in Buffalo an offense heavy on bootleg plays and play-action passing should allow him to fully utilize his arm strength and running ability.

Dynasty Outlook:

The Bills are looking for a fresh start, so Dennison won’t have to worry about inheriting a hot seat. Whatever changes he implements will be given a reasonable chance to succeed, which is better news for some players than others. If Tyrod Taylor ends up staying in Buffalo he will be working in an offense that emphasizes his strengths and that should remain in place and stable long enough for him to realize his potential. Conversely, Sammy Watkins is likely to stay stuck in a run-first offense for as long as Dennison is around, which obviously does not play to his strengths. However, Watkins is talented enough that he can succeed in any system when healthy, so if the hiring of Dennison has frustrated a reactionary owner this could be a good time to buy low in fantasy football dynasty leagues.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers parted ways with both San Diego and their head coach at the end of the 2016 season, making former Bills OC Anthony Lyn their first HC in the city of LA. Lyn is a former running backs coach whose offense is run first, second, and third, and who most recently led a Bills rushing attack that has been one of the strongest in the league. He has retained offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, which likely indicates that the general offensive schemes and game plan will remain the same, but don’t be surprised if the influence of Lyn causes the Chargers to favor the run more in 2017.

Melvin Gordon is the player who will likely be most impacted by Lyn’s hiring. Though he was already clearly a featured back last year, Gordon had little to no support in terms of his offensive line. A coach like Lyn will likely prioritize shoring up the line and will also bring a wealth of expertise in designing a run game to help Gordon succeed. Under his new head coach Gordon will be given a chance to prove that his YPC last year was a fluke and that his TD numbers were not, so if you are a believer in his talent (disclaimer: I am not) then buy now. In an Anthony Lyn offense Gordon will get a chance to show the world what he’s really got in 2017, whatever that may be.

Dynasty Outlook:

It is difficult to speculate on how long Lyn will remain the head coach in LA, so it is likewise difficult to speculate on his dynasty-specific impact. That said, Melvin Gordon playing (in all likelihood) at least two years of his prime under a run-emphasizing coach like Lyn increases both his short and his long-term value. Lyn will give him the opportunity to blossom into a dependable, perrenial RB1 (an incredibly valuable asset in dynasty), if he has the ability.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers made potentially the best hire of the offseason when they stole offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan from the Falcons to replace failed experiment Chip Kelly. Shanahan coordinated one of the best offenses in the league in Atlanta in 2017, and he will assume play calling as well as head coaching responsibilities in San Francisco. Few believe he will be able to recreate the level of success he had in Atlanta with the meager talent available to him now, but his schemes should not change drastically. His offense is a West Coast variant that is predicated on zone-blocking and play-action passing, but he has never been unwilling to tweak his schemes to fit his personnel.

Carlos Hyde would seem to be a perfect fit for a Shanahan offense, but the new coach has expressed hesitance about his future with the organization. It is unclear if he simply doesn’t want to name Hyde the starter because he wants to implement a committee like he had in Atlanta, or if he doesn’t believe Hyde is a good fit for his offense. The former could be a boon to Hyde, as it is primarily injury that has kept him from flourishing and some additional backfield talent would allow him more rest. The latter would be extremely worrying, as RBs (particularly those with injury problems already) are largely viewed as replaceable through the draft. If Hyde enters the season without a firm role somewhere, it could mark the beginning of a rapid decline into irrelevance.

Pierre Garcon is, for the moment, the de facto fantasy football WR1 in a Mike Shanahan offense- not only that, he was specifically sought out and signed by the new head coach. He is also currently being drafted in the 16th round of dynasty startups, which is inherently absurd and should be exploited. Garcon had his second 1,000+ yard season last year and coincidentally had his best season under Shanahan in 2013 when he was with the Redskins. He will be 31 years old at the start of next season so his fantasy football dynasty value is less than his redraft value, but at his current price he still represents one of the biggest steals on the market (particularly for contending teams looking to upgrade a weak flex spot).

Dynasty Outlook:

Kyle Shanahan is intended to be the savior of the 49ers, so he will have an extremely long leash- look for his offensive schemes to be the way of life in the Bay Area for a long time coming. This seems like it would have significant dynasty repercussions for 49ers players, but at the moment Shanahan is still looking for his QB, RB, and WR1. The only player on the current roster whose dynasty value could be affected is Hyde- if he wins over his coach and becomes a featured part of the offense, he should remain as such for years to come and his dynasty value should increase significantly.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams have needed a new head coach since the day they hired Jeff Fisher, and they finally have one in baby-faced offensive wunderkind Sean McVay. McVay helped install a potent Redskins attack that averaged over 400 yards of offense per game last year, and Rams fans hope he can do something similar for them. McVay runs a very different offense than his predecessor, operating frequently out of the shotgun and focusing on the pass while also being more generally flexible and less painfully, painfully boring. He will be calling the plays on game day but has brought on Matt LaFleur, the quarterbacks coach of the Falcons who helped Matt Ryan to a career season in 2016, in a sort of OC lieutenant role (not dissimilar to the one he himself had in Washington under Gruden). He also hired QB coach Greg Olson out of Jacksonville to add another expert in QB development to the staff.

Jared Goff seems to have been the primary beneficiary of the offseason coaching additions in LA. McVay, LaFleur, and Olson form a holy trinity of QB expertise that should help him develop, and a McVay offense is far more similar to the Air Raid he ran in college than the unimaginative garbage he was forced to run last season. Goff was not really expected to succeed in his first year, but if you are patient these are excellent signs that I would say have increased his long-term value. Goff should be considered a strong hold in dynasty leagues.

Todd Gurley can really only improve, which is the good news. The bland offensive play calling from last season will likely get significantly more creative under McVay, and a stronger pass game should open up a rushing attack that defenses saw coming a mile away last year. However, McVay’s run offense operates frequently out of the shotgun and favors zone-blocking over a traditional, downhill, power-running style, and Gurley is at his best in the latter sort of system. Still, the coaching overhaul can only help, and it would be almost impossible for him to be any worse than he was last year, so look for improvement.

Tavon Austin has been rightfully dismissed for the most part as a gadget player, unreliable and only really fantasy-relevant in deeper or fantasy football best-ball leagues. However, creative offensive minds like McVay are often able to bring out the best in gimmicky players like Austin, so don’t be surprised if he ends up having more utility than most people expect. McVay will have a long leash in LA and should be around for a while, so if Austin ends up falling into his good graces he could represent a solid buy-low with high-end WR3/low-end WR2 potential.

Dynasty Outlook:

Like Shanahan, McVay will have an extremely long leash and can be counted on to be calling the Rams plays for several years at least. This means that the dynasty stock of his skill players will be tied to his success as a coach. Jared Goff gained more than perhaps any player in the NFL in terms of coaching, with a triple threat of development expertise joining the staff in LA, and while his value won’t go up until he performs on the field it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the right people in your corner. Gurley’s stock, while it goes up in the short term (mostly because it would be impossible not to), is actually hurt in terms of dynasty. While McVay’s offense will treat him more kindly than Fisher’s, it is not tailored to Gurley’s strengths, and since McVay should be around for a while that means Gurley’s ceiling is indefinitely limited.

Jacksonville Jaguars

After an offseason of hype that failed to materialize and a disappointing 3-13 record in 2016, the Jaguars decided to shake things up dramatically… by keeping everything the same. They removed the interim tag from Doug Marrone, making him the permanent HC, and he in turn did the same for interim OC Nathaniel Hackett. The best thing that can be said for either- both of whom have had only middling success in the NFL- is that quarterback Blake Bortles is comfortable with Hackett, or at least enough to give him a public endorsement. The coaching decisions seem to have been made with “continuity” in mind, which seems strange considering the lack of success that the Jaguars have experienced in the past forever.

Blake Bortles is getting what he wanted- Hackett is calling the plays. Bortles has expressed that he has a comfortable rapport with Hackett, which could hypothetically work in his favor as he attempts to recover from an abysmal year. He still has a strong arm and a team full of dangerous weapons, so the upside is there. If you believe that a coordinator who knows Bortles well is what he needs to return to form, then he got exactly that and his value should go up accordingly.

Dynasty Outlook:

Marrone seems more like a band-aid than a permanent solution, and Hackett is likely only around as long as the Jaguars remain committed to Bortles. It is difficult to make dynasty projections for a team that seems like it may have new coaches this time next season, but the good news is that chaos makes for opportunity. The Jaguars have multiple dangerous receiving weapons that be bought low as a result of the Jacksonville quagmire, most notably Allen Robinson but also Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee. In dynasty leagues the career length of young, top-end WRs like Robinson means that temporarily bad situations make for good investment opportunities.

Denver Broncos

New Broncos head coach Vance Joseph is best known for his defensive prowess, so we are more interested in his new offensive coordinator- former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. McCoy is known for tailoring his schemes to fit his players rather than the other way around, so given the state of the quarterback position in Denver you can probably expect an offense that emphasizes the run. The Broncos are committed to QB development, however, as they just hired former Raiders QB coach (and developer of David Carr) Bill Musgrave. McCoy himself also has six years of experience as a QB coach, which can only help whichever quarterback he elects to make the starter.

Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch will be the quarterbacks competing for the starting job. Neither Joseph nor McCoy has given any indication that they have a preference currently, suggesting that Siemian and Lynch will be fighting for the starting position in the offseason. Siemian has little upside and will likely be fantasy-irrelevant even if he becomes the starter, but if Lynch wins the job his raw talent and the QB-development tandem of McCoy and Musgrave could make him a worthwhile stash.

Devontae Booker and C.J. Anderson, like Siemian and Lynch, will be competing for McCoy’s favor. McCoy has a tendency to involve running backs heavily in the passing game, which is good news for Booker in particular. It is likely that Anderson and Booker will work as a 1A/1B sort of fantasy football committee that sees heavy volume, with their respective roles yet to be determined. While this may seem undesirable to owners, a true committee approach could help Anderson avoid injury and does not necessarily limit production (see: Coleman, Tevin). Considering the success of Danny Woodhead as a pass-catcher in San Diego, the value of Booker should see a fairly significant jump with McCoy at the helm regardless.

Dynasty Outlook:

Mike McCoy returns to a job at which he had success before, although it’s worth noting that much of it was on the back of on-field offensive coordinator Peyton Manning. His tenure will likely depend on if he is able to develop one of his quarterbacks into a competent starter, and since that is always a risky proposition I wouldn’t consider the Broncos offense stable in any sort of long-term sense, making dynasty projection difficult. However, McCoy’s presence likely means that Devontae Booker will continue to be utilized and allowed to develop, which improves his dynasty prospects despite the presence of CJ Anderson. Paxton Lynch is also worth keeping an eye on in dynasty (and particularly superflex) formats if he wins the job, as he has raw talent and top-12 QB upside.

Player I’m High On

LeSean McCoy.
LeSean McCoy gets me higher than Martavis Bryant at a Pink Floyd laser show. I know I’m not breaking any new ground by pointing this out, but the man is an absolutely incredible football player. I wouldn’t feel the need to mention it if I was covering fantasy football redraft leagues, as in those he is considered a consensus first-round pick. However, it seems to me that we are in that stage of the dynasty season where players like McCoy are criminally undervalued due to their age. Wide receivers may hold value but running backs win championships, and the price at which you can currently get McCoy makes him a steal for contenders. Within a month of the season starting you will see his price skyrocket when people remember what a force he is, so I would recommend buying him now no matter what (especially considering that the new offense in Buffalo should only make him more dangerous). If you’re a contender he could be the piece that puts you over the edge, and even if you’re in a rebuild he represents a valuable investment that can be flipped for a quick profit next season when other teams are making a playoff push.