For this set of articles I’ll be looking at NFL teams, their offensive coordinators and how their coordinating has or might impact their team’s offense and in turn our fantasy expectations. I’ll be using the offensive coordinator info compiled by Mr. Jeff Brubach, which tries to look at the last three seasons of a coordinator’s offensive output.
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New Orleans Saints
The Saints have had the most consistently great offense of any team over the last eight years and until Drew Brees and Sean Payton move on to other endeavors it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon. It truly doesn’t matter who Brees is throwing or handing off to, they still put up yardage and a lot of it.
Over the last three seasons the Saints have passed for the most yardage twice and the second most once (and you can thank the record breaking Broncos for that). So you know that Brees is going to throw for around 5,000 yards no matter who is catching the ball. His accuracy and the surgical offense Payton and Carmichael have is a machine you just have to keep finely tuned.
The question of course comes down to who will catch passes and get rushing attempts? This offense loves to spread the ball around. Last season six players had 50+ targets, the same the year before, seven players in 2011. 2010 had eight over 40 targets and so on and so forth. The target leader over the last three seasons, Jimmy Graham, is safe to continue that distinction as long as he’s healthy. Like Brees he is as safe a fantasy player as you can imagine. In his three seasons as a starter he has averaged 90 receptions, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those are insane numbers for a wide receiver, let alone a tight end. So as long as the 6’7’ 265 pound freak of nature can stay healthy, well, you know what to do.
But after Brees and Graham, who can we count on? There are 350+ receptions, close to 4,000 yards receiving and 30 receiving touchdowns left to dole out to other players along with 400 rushing attempts, 1,700 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns.
Marques Colston has been good for a big chunk of those stats, but his body is wearing down and so are his stats as he had his first season under 1,000 yards receiving where he played in over 14 games. He is 31 years old and the Saints have been collecting receivers to take over for him. Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks and Nick Toon to name a few, will all start to eat into Colston’s production. And with so many big juicy fantasy stats on the table, it means someone could really break out for the receivers this season (my money is on Stills).
The running back situation for the Saints is always somewhat confusing, but we could usually pencil in Darren Sproles for a ton of receptions at the very least. But now that Sproles is gone, we have to rethink what we might see from this offense and the running backs. We know that Payton is flexible, so he doesn’t need to just plug in the next Sproles for his offense to work, but he does have a player with a similar skill set at wide receiver in Brandin Cooks. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Cooks get Sproles’ 70-100 receptions if he is healthy and on top of the offensive scheme. Of course the running back beneficiary should be Pierre Thomas. Last season he caught 77 passes and had three receiving touchdowns. The question is, will Cooks take Sproles’ role and Thomas stick to his previous one while maybe someone like Mark Ingram or Khiry Robinson or Travis Cadet or all three cut into his rushing attempts? This is where the Saints offense gets tricky for fantasy. You know the yards and touchdowns are going to be there, but consistency from week-to-week is usually reserved for Brees and Graham, you just have to hope your pick stays healthy and makes the best of his chances.
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After Mike Smith became head coach in 2008 the Falcons were eighth or better in pass attempts from 2009 on. His newest offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, has continued the passing ways, but there has been little choice with Michael Turner, Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers unable to get the job done during Koetter’s two-year tenure.
The Falcons 2013 season was killed by injuries to Julio Jones, Roddy White and Steven Jackson. They still threw the ball a lot because they had to, but were not nearly as efficient as they have been, with Matt Ryan attempting his most passes ever at 651, but having his fewest touchdowns since 2009 and his highest number of interceptions in his career. The return of a healthy Jones and White will turn those numbers back closer to 30 and 10 this season.
Last season Jones started on a tear. In just five games he caught 41 passes for 580 yards. Extrapolate those numbers out to a full season and we’re talking Calvin Johnson and Jerry Rice numbers. And also consider how much those numbers would have helped Matt Ryan, the running game, the defense, everything.
From 2010 to 2013 the Falcons had the second-most rushing attempts inside the five-yard line. Much of that had to do with Michael Turner, but this offense doesn’t want to throw the ball quite as much as they did last season. The offensive woes without their star players kept the defense on the field longer and in turn made the defense even worse. They want to get leads with Jones and company and hold them with Jackson and company. Of course Jackson is already hurt in training camp and Jacquizz Rodgers has underachieved and Devonta Freeman is still a bit of an unknown. Without Jackson though, they do not have anyone who can keep those ‘killing the clock’ drives sustained in short yardage. I could easily see this team needing to throw the ball to get the lead and throw the ball to keep it.