The Fangio Effect
The Denver Broncos hired Vic Fangio on January 9, 2019. Fangio brings 27 years of NFL coaching experience with him to Denver. Fangio spent nine years coaching the linebacking corps in New Orleans before finally getting a defensive coordinator job in Carolina in 1995. He has been a DC for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, Ravens, 49ers and the Chicago Bears. He spent a year in the college ranks as the DC for the Stanford Cardinal in 2010.
It is somewhat surprising that Denver went defensive again after just having Vance Joseph as their coach the past two seasons. We typically see owners go to the other side of the ball when they change out coaching staffs. Fangio finally gets his first shot at 60 years old, and quite honestly, I think he deserves it. His former players rave about him from every stop he’s had as a DC.
Broncos “Buck” the Recent Trend
The Broncos hiring of Fangio goes against the trend of hiring offensive-minded coaches. Especially young ones. The five coaching positions that have been announced have all been from the offensive side of the ball (Arians, LaFleur, Kitchens, Kingsbury, and Gase). They also have been extremely young. Even with the 66-year-old Arians factored in, the average age of the five coaches listed is just 45 and a half years old.
Fangio’s defensive background makes it hard to predict how it will impact players on offense from a fantasy perspective. Making it even harder is his choice in an offensive coordinator. Vic brought in Rich Scangarello to run his offense in the mile-high city. Scangarello has bounced between college and the NFL over the past 21 years. He is best known for his work with Nick Mullens in San Francisco and has worked primarily under Kyle Shanahan in the pros.
Scangarello is also credited with scouting Jimmy Garoppolo before the New England trade as well as getting C.J. Beathard game-ready after the Brian Hoyer experiment failed miserably. He is expected to run a West Coast style offense with zone schemed running tendencies like Shanahan’s offense incorporates.
Case Keenum (QB1?)
At the time of this writing, Case Keenum is currently QB1 on the depth chart. After Senior Bowl week, John Elway is apparently “smitten” with Missouri QB Drew Lock. Regardless of who’s under center Week1 in Denver, Scangarello has the potential to get the most out of him. We see a pattern if we look at the two seasons he was QB coach in San Fran under Shanny. QB1 tends to struggle the first couple of weeks, but then gets straightened out and performs at or above average among fantasy points for the position.
This wasn’t necessarily the case as much in 2018, but closer examination reveals that 49ers QB finished at or above league average for 10 of the 16 games they played. Three of the six “down weeks” were against the likes of the Minnesota Vikings, LA Rams, and Chicago Bears. Sub-par performances can be expected in matchups such as those.
I think regardless of whoever the starter is in Denver next year, they will be primed to at least be serviceable for fantasy. This is especially true in two QB leagues. It’s a situation to monitor in OTA’s and preseason at the minimum.
Phillip Lindsay (RB1)
One of the bright spots coming out of the 2018 Denver Broncos 6-10 season was “The Pitbull”. Lindsay was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Colorado who made an immediate impact right from the start. The zone blocking scheme coming in with Scangarello should only increase his upside. Phillip Lindsay finished as RB13 in PPR despite missing Week 17 with a wrist injury and missing most of Week 3 against the Ravens for throwing a punch in the bottom of a pile.
If we look at his points per game in 2018 via the weekly metric plot found on FFS, we see that he only missed double digits three games. One of them was Week 3 when he was ejected, Week 15 was against an underrated Cleveland defense and Week 16 he injured his wrist against Oakland.
One of the more impressive stats the unlikely rookie star posted was no turnovers. In 227 touches, he lost zero fumbles. “The Bulldog” also managed 10 TD’s in his rookie campaign. Lindsey is currently going around 30th in redraft leagues. I feel like that may be too late for him. Royce Freeman is the only real threat to Lindsay next year with Devontae Booker likely to fade into the distance with a new coaching staff that has no ties to him. Draft Lindsay with confidence as an RB1 for your “fake team”.
Cortland Sutton/Emmanuel Sanders (WR1)
There is some talk that Sanders may be done in Denver. His torn Achilles coupled with his high salary may spell the end for him there. The injury occurred late in 2018 so there it’s a long shot he will be ready for the start of 2019. He is owed almost $13 million for the year. The Broncos could get over $10 million of that back by cutting him prior to June 1st. The cap hit would only be about $2.7 million for 2019.
The heir apparent would seem to be Cortland Sutton. The rookie out of SMU showed flashes last year as a possible WR1 but did struggle once Sanders went down. The front office had enough faith in him to deal Demaryius Thomas at the deadline. Coincidentally Sutton’s comp out of the draft was DT.
Sutton struggled to be the focal point of the offense. He did, however, manage a hearty 16.7 yards per catch in his rookie season. He has almost the exact physical traits of Julio Jones. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets used the way Shanahan used Julio in his time in Atlanta. I am by no means comparing the two, just stating that the build is the same and potential for targets could exist for him in this West Coast style offense being bought in.
DaeSean Hamilton (WR2)
Hamilton had 16 more targets than Sutton and could push for a larger role in 2019 with Sanders gone. Working out of the slot exclusively after Week 13 when Manny went down, he had at least five catches in all four of the games Sanders was out. Hamilton turned 38 targets into 25 receptions and 2 TD.
DaeSean averaged only 7.28 yards per catch over those four games. Keenum seemed to develop a chemistry with Hamilton late. Look closely in preseason to see if this continues. If Hamilton outpaces Sutton again, he may be the WR to own for fantasy purposes even though he is the WR2 on the team. Using the weekly splits tool compliments of FFS we can dig deeper into the stats for the two.
Tim Patrick certainly showed he is worth a spot on the 53-man roster but is a restricted rights free agent. Patrick was able to haul in 19 catches for 242 yards the last four games that Sanders was out. Other WR on who are restricted free agents or future/reserves are River Cracraft, Jordan Taylor, Fred Brown, Chad Hansen, and Aaron Burbridge. WR is certainly a position of need for the Broncos despite spending a 2nd round pick on Sutton last year.
Kelvin Harmon is a name being tossed around for the Broncos. With the team likely going QB with the 10th pick in Round 1, they may have to snag him in Round 2. Harmon has all the tools they are looking for in a receiver. Kelvin Harmon is only 20 years old coming into the draft. He runs good routes, is a YAC monster and has sturdy hands. If he doesn’t land with Denver, he is someone to keep an eye on in all formats this draft season.
Jake Butt is the only Tight End under contract with the Denver Broncos. Butt has had three torn ACL’s already and only played in three games since being drafted. In a loaded TE class, Denver will likely address the position. The problem here is they already have needs at QB and WR. The depth may allow them to wait on the position. Regardless of who they take, it’s a “stay away” type situation except in dynasty leagues if they draft someone with potential.
The TE position isn’t heavily targeted in the Shanahan version of the West Coast offense unless there is a George Kittle, Jordan Reed or Owen Daniels in the picture. I don’t see them drafting someone with that potential if they plan on waiting on the position.
There is a lot of fantasy potential on this roster. Phillip Lindsay is easy to root for and he should duplicate 2018’s numbers at the very least. I like Hamilton better than Sutton personally, but I’m very anxious to see how the draft plays out in Denver. A first time OC and defensive minded coach do make me temper my expectations from a fantasy perspective. The Broncos D will be a target of mine. Fangio has done well with talented defenses in San Francisco and Chicago. There is no reason to think he won’t duplicate that success in Denver.
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