As we inch closer to the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs, we've officially seen all head coach vacancies filled ... except for the Browns. Surprise, surprise. Haven't caught up on the whirlwind of post-season coaching changes? Check out Jesse Pantuosco's latest update in his Coaching Carousel Series.
A Ruling in New York
Just hours after rumors swirled that the Giants requested to interview Jason Garrett, the Giants announced an end to their search for a head coach... and it wasn't Jason Garrett. Whew... Instead, Dave Gettleman has brought in Joe Judge, now former special-teams coordinator and wide receivers coach for the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick apparently gave a glowing endorsement on Judge's behalf.
It's a risky move for the Giants, given Judge's lack of head coaching experience, but his coaching tree certainly helps his case. In addition to working with the Patriots since 2012, he also spent three years under coach Nick Saban in Alabama - an intriguing blend of experience. Judge will have the opportunity to manage many young fantasy assets. Here's what we'll watch in 2019:
- Daniel Jones: The sixth overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft showed lots of promise in his rookie year after Eli Manning found the bench, but his year was riddled with turnovers. He totaled 20 giveaways in his 11 outings but showed promise in both the passing game and on the ground, ranking as the QB10 in his initial stint as starter before suffering an ankle injury in Week 13. If he can take a step forward under the direction of Judge, we should expect similar production with a (hopefully) healthier surrounding cast in 2020.
- The Pass Catchers: Though we never got to see this group of pass-catchers on the field at the same time in 2019, it's not hard to imagine the magic they could make together. An incredible mix of youth and experience, the Giants are oozing talent at the wide receiver and tight end position - just the kind of ticket to help develop a young QB in the passing game. Judge took over the role as wide receivers coach in 2019, but admittedly, this wasn't the best year to assess his skills in that department. Outside of Julian Edelman, the Patriots struggled to find a number two receiver. We saw a six-game stretch of Josh Gordon, a flash of Antonio Brown and a dash of Mohamed Sanu as the Pats acquired him prior to the trade deadline, but never found the consistency they were looking for behind Edelman. Judge will have lots to work with in New York, between his wide receivers and TE Evan Engram, to put his coaching to the test.
- Saquon Barkley: Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain that seemed to limit him after his quick return in Week 7. Even while banged up, Barkley maintained typical workhorse duties and was the centerpiece of the offense that he was drafted to be. It's hard to imagine Saquon bring any more... Saquon than Saquon, but if Judge can help to develop the Giants' pass attack, we may have the opportunity to see a new monster unleashed. Barkley is a buy candidate in all league formats.
Hear Rhule Roar
That's right - Matt Rhule, former coach of the Baylor Bears, is headed to the Carolinas. The Panthers reportedly signed him to a seven-year deal worth $60 million - a massive investment in a coach who has yet to prove himself at the NFL level.
His collegiate accolades speak for themselves. Rhule joined the Bears as head coach in 2017, to lead the team to an 1-11 record in his first season. Fast forward to 2019, when Baylor finishes the year ranked eighth in the AP Poll and an invite to the Sugar Bowl. It was a tremendous turnaround, not just by record, but by transforming the culture of a program that was marred by a sexual assault scandal involving the football program in years prior. Owner David Tepper is excited about his long-term prospects and ability to build a winning culture from the ground, up. Here's what we'll watch in 2019:
- Cam Newton... Maybe: There's been plenty of chatter as to whether or not the Panthers will elect to bring Cam Newton back in 2020. Now through two shoulder surgeries and now a Lisfranc injury repair, the former MVP has seen his fair share of scrutiny when it comes to his ability to stay healthy. The Panthers can let him go with minimum dead cap, but if he's truly healthy and Rhule sees fit, we could see a return for Newton in 2020. Newton will be a risk in any fantasy draft, regardless, but his QB1 upside is unmistakable.
- Young Pass-Catchers: Good news for Rhule, the Panthers already have a talented receiving corps under their belts. Sophomore wideout D.J. Moore had his first season of 1,000 receiving yards while ranking top ten among wide receivers in both yards after the catch and avoided tackles. Third-year receiver Curtis Samuel was less effective, finishing as the WR36 this season despite off-season hype of a budding connection with Cam Newton and ranking ninth among wide receivers in air yards for 2019. Regardless, Rhule's scheme should benefit the pass attack by getting his playmakers into space to work that magic after the catch.
- Christian McCaffrey: McCaffrey inked his name in the Panthers' record books in 2019 as the first player in franchise history to eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage. He single-handedly accounted for 43% of the team's offensive yardage while managing 403 touches on the season and staying healthy. With the coaching change, we have to wonder if we'll start to see a shift in McCaffrey's workload if he's part of the Panthers' long-term plans. McCaffrey will likely be the first pick of your 2020 fantasy drafts, and if you believe in selling high, now is the time. McCaffrey ranked second among all running backs who played 50% or more of their team's offensive snaps in fantasy points per touch in 2019. He should continue to see significant work in the passing game in Rhule's offense.
Divisional Round Daily Slants
TE Mark Andrews was limited in practice Tuesday in preparation for the Ravens' matchup against the Titans in the Divisional Round. Andrews has been listed on the injury report almost all of 2019 and has still managed to lead all tight ends in touchdowns and rank fifth in receiving yards for the year. The stud tight end should be good to go for the Ravens' Saturday night spot. ... RB Mark Ingram appears questionable heading into Saturday's game with a calf injury. He is likely to suit up after the Ravens' first-round bye, but did experience some tightness after ramping up practice sessions last week. If he does sit out, Gus Edwards would likely get the start. Edwards managed 130 yards on 21 carries against the Steelers in Week 17, who hadn't allowed a single 100-yard rusher in 2019. Edwards would be a very intriguing DFS play, if Ingram continues to be limited. ... Texans WR Will Fuller is expected to be active Sunday. He was a game-time decision in the Wild Card round, but with an extra week to nurse a groin injury, Houston should have their deep threat back into action. It couldn't be better timing, as the Texans will need some fire-power to keep pace with an explosive Chiefs Offense.