NFL trends, coaching changes and player movement have dramatic affects on fantasy football.
The Super Bowl success of pass-heavy teams like New Orleans, New England and Indianapolis along with rule changes to benefit quarterbacks and receivers have led to major changes in the NFL. This is all pretty obvious to fantasy veterans. We’ve noticed changes for some time and fantasy leagues have embraced the changes with points per reception and three-receiver setups.
It’s worth noting, however, that some of the most conservative offenses in recent history are embracing the pass. Let’s talk about a few of them.
New York Giants
I don’t see a lot of references to change in New York, but it’s obvious. Last season, injured RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw disappointed fantasy owners. While the blame is placed on their shoulders, don’t forget that Eli Manning threw the ball 509 times for 4,237 yards and 27 TDs. WR Steve Smith had 107 catches, WR Hakeem Nicks and WR Mario Manningham had a combined 104 and TE Kevin Boss had 42. Despite their expected health in 2010, do not overvalue Jacobs or Bradshaw.
The arrival of Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth speaks volumes about the direction the Ravens are going under coach John Harbaugh. Yes, Ray Rice will still be a significant part of the offense, but don’t be surprised if Joe Flacco surpasses the 3,800 yards and 21 TDs from 2009 by a large margin while throwing more passes to his receivers.
This one is so obvious it almost didn’t make the list. QB Jay Cutler threw for 4,526 and 27 TDs for Denver in 2008. Now his new offensive coordinator in Chicago, Mike Martz, was the orchestrator of the Greatest Show on Turf. Cutler also had a full season to get comfortable with the talent around him. Cutler’s not going to throw for 4,500, but he’ll throw for more than the 3,869 he had last season and Bears receivers like Devin Aromashodu will benefit. RBs Matt Forte and/or Chester Taylor should get a handful of catches, too.
Any team that trades for Donovan McNabb is going to throw the ball. While the Redskins won’t abandon the run for entire games like McNabb’s former team, the quarterback will add a wrinkle to the offense that Jason Campbell was never able to. On the surface, TE Chris Cooley and WR Santana Moss seem like the most likely beneficiaries.
Yes, they are always behind and throw the ball a lot anyway. But for years the Lions have run their running backs into the ground. They ruined Kevin Jones a few years ago then fed Kevin Smith until he broke down. The addition of pass-catching TE Tony Scheffler and speedy RB Jahvid Best, the maturation of QB Matthew Stafford and the return of a healthy WR Calvin Johnson could launch Detroit’s offense into pass-happy(ier) territory.
San Francisco 49ers
A full season of TE Vernon Davis playing to his potential and the further development of second-year WR Michael Crabtree will only help QB Alex Smith. If Smith can perform like the QB he was for the final 10 games of 2009, there will be far more fantasy value in San Francisco than RB Frank Gore and Davis.
The inventors of the Wildcat offense will run the ball as long as they have a talented tandem like Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown in the backfield. However, the addition of Brandon Marshall will push the Dolphins’ current receivers down the depth chart into roles more befitting their talents and give developing QB Chad Henne a legitimate top-level receiving threat. If this offense goes nuts in the preseason, believe it.