NFL coaching changes impact fantasy futures

Now that training camps are underway, the NFL’s new head coaches have a chance to start to put their philosophies into action. That means the rampant speculation that marked the weeks and months leading up to today will start to be replaced by practice reps and game tape. It’s also a good time for us to re-visit some of that speculation and see what impact the league’s coaching moves will have on fantasy football’s more productive players.

Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals: Arians masterminded some rather productive offenses during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers — especially when it came to running the football. Now he reunites with Rashard Mendenhall in the desert for 2013. The veteran back rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two of the three seasons he was a starter in Arians’ offense. Even more intriguing is the Cardinals’ addition of Carson Palmer. It marks a huge upgrade at the quarterback position. That, combined with news that the Redbirds plan to line up Larry Fitzgerald in multiple spots in the offense could mean the resurrection of a fantasy commodity that fell off the radar in 2012.

Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars: Bradley cut his teeth as a defensive coordinator in Seattle, helping build a Seahawks defense that had previously been a doormat. What can he do with a moribund Jaguars offense? That remains to be seen. It could be a task that falls to largely unproven offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. One thing is certain: having a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew will go a long way toward boosting the fortunes of the Jaguars and fantasy owners alike. The other big issue will be whether Blaine Gabbert can show any improvement over a disappointing first two seasons — and how his progress (or lack thereof) will impact budding fantasy WR prospects Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III. On the flip side, maybe this is a positive for the lackluster Jags defense.

Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns: If there’s anything that makes Chudzinski appealing, it’s his ability to work to the strengths of his quarterbacks. What else can you say about a coach who has found offensive success with both Derek Anderson and Cam Newton? Now he gets to work with the big-armed Brandon Weeden and a host of speedy, but underperforming wideouts. More importantly, Chudzinski is employing Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator — a man who has done wonders with running backs in the past. This time around, Turner has Trent Richardson under his tutelage. That bodes well for the young rusher. If the Browns can get Weeden and the passing game going, there could be more fantasy value here than initially anticipated.

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles: Easily the most intriguing hire of the offseason. So far, everything Kelly and the Eagles have done has been shrouded in mystery. While most observers don’t expect Philly’s offense to be a clone of what the head coach ran at the University of Oregon, it’s likely going to be something we’ve never seen before. However there’s one thing most fantasy enthusiasts can agree upon, things are looking up for LeSean McCoy. As for the rest? We’re all waiting to find out.

Doug Marrone, Buffalo Bills: Marrone was successful at Syracuse by throwing the football. The problem is that he doesn’t have an NFL equivalent to Ryan Nassib in Buffalo. Instead, he’ll roll with Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel battling for reps and throwing to a group of receivers that features a mixture of the inconsistent and the unproven. In this case, the job is easy — feed C.J. Spiller with occasional doses of Fred Jackson. Until there’s a little more clarity under center, there are few other productive options in western New York.

Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers: McCoy is a new-age quarterback guru. He turned Tim Tebow into a productive quarterback. ‘Nuff said. That would seem to bode well for the rebuilding of Philip Rivers as a fantasy option. It’s probably a stretch to think Rivers will again be a top 10 fantasy option, but he could become a legitimate backup in plenty of leagues. McCoy’s ability to work with QBs should also mean good things for a dynamic crop of receivers, including Danario AlexanderVincent Brown and sleeper rookie Keenan Allen. They might not end up like Denver’s duo of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but they could be a fairly productive group in 2013 if things go as expected.

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs: With Reid, we have a body of work to go on — which is both good and bad. Fantasy owners who suffered through the ups-and-downs of LeSean McCoy’s 2012 might be a little nervous about going after Jamaal Charles in 2013. But the upside is that Charles could see his value rise, especially in PPR leagues, if he’s factored into the passing game the way past Eagles running backs were. Plus with the addition of Alex Smith at quarterback and the inclusion of elements of the Pistol offense, the Chiefs offense could be a little more dynamic than it has been in past seasons. That’s good news for Dwayne Bowe.

Marc Trestman, Chicago Bears: He could be the new “mad scientist” of the National Football League, a title once held by the likes of Mike Martz. Trestman isn’t afraid to try new things on offense. More importantly, he likes to spread the ball around — especially to his running backs. Derek Loville once caught 87 passes as a running back under Trestman in San Francisco. Who’s Derek Loville, you ask? Exactly. Look for Matt Forte to have bigger numbers in the passing game this season. It could eat into Brandon Marshall’s totals, but the receiver should still see enough targets to be a top five option at his position. Now if the Bears could find a tight end, things might really get cooking in Chicago.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

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