The Fangio Effect: Questions Abound
The Fangio Effect: Questions Abound
This is an update of a previous article in my New Coaching Impact series to reflect roster moves and changes since it was first published on January 30th, 2019. Please enjoy.
The Denver Broncos hired Vic Fangio on January 9, 2019. Fangio brings 27 years of NFL coaching experience with him to Denver. The veteran coach spent nine years mentoring the linebacking corps in New Orleans before finally getting a defensive coordinator job in Carolina in 1995. Fangio has been a defensive coordinator for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, Ravens, 49ers, and Bears. The well-traveled coach also spent a year in the college ranks as the defensive coordinator 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, it is well deserved. His former players have raved about what he has meant to them.
Broncos “Buck” the Recent Trend
The Broncos hiring of Fangio goes against the trend of hiring offensive-minded coaches. Especially young ones. Six of the seven other coaching positions that were filled have all been from the offensive side of the ball (Arians, LaFleur, Kitchens, Kingsbury, Gase, and Taylor). The offensive-minded coaches also have been extremely young. Even with the 66-year-old Arians factored in, the average age of the seven coaches listed is just 43 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.
Joe Flacco (QB1)
The Denver Broncos sent the 113th overall pick in 2019 to the Baltimore Ravens on March 13th. This came six days after they shipped Case Keenum off to Washington for a swap of late-round picks in 2020. The shift from Keenum to Flacco does not move the needle a ton offensively. Flacco is apparently a stop-gap fill in for Denver. After Senior Bowl week, John Elway is apparently “smitten” with Missouri QB Drew Lock.
A look back at Rich Scangarello’s history in San Francisco gives us some idea of what we can expect from the Denver passing attack in 2019. We see a pattern if we look at the two seasons he was the quarterback coach in San Francisco under Kyle Shanahan. The 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.
Is Flacco Elite?
Flacco is obviously more seasoned than Beathard, Mullens, and Garoppolo. Is he elite? The elite Flacco talk mostly stems from his incredible playoff run in 2012 when the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. A look at Flacco’s fantasy finish all but dismisses any talk of him truly being an elite quarterback.
With a young and injured receiving corps in Denver, we can expect similar outputs from Flacco in 2019. Draft him only in 2 QB or Super Flex leagues.
Phillip Lindsay (RB1)
One of the bright spots coming out of the 2018 Denver Broncos 10-loss season was Phillip Lindsay. 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-digit scoring in 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 former Colorado Buffalo also managed 10 TD’s in his rookie campaign. Lindsay is currently going around 43rd in redraft leagues. 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)
Emmanuel Sanders is the de facto WR1 in Denver. His Achilles injury brings his Week 1 status into question, however. Sanders will be nine months removed from the injury when the season kicks off so there is no guarantee he will be on the opening day roster.
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 coming out of the draft was Thomas.
Sutton struggled to be the focal point of the offense. The former Mustang did manage a hearty 16.7 yards per catch in his rookie season. Sutton has nearly the exact physical traits of Julio Jones. Sutton is 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds. Jones measures in at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds.
It’ll be interesting to see if he gets used by Scangarello the way Shanahan used Julio in his time in Atlanta. Comparing the two goes beyond the physical build. The potential for targets could exist for him in this West Coast style offense being bought in. The combine charts for Jones and Sutton are similar as well.
DaeSean Hamilton (WR2)
Hamilton had 16 more targets than Sutton and could push for a larger role in 2019 with Sanders on the mend. Working out of the slot exclusively after Week 13 when Emmanual Sanders went down, the Penn State grad had at least five catches in all four of the games Sanders was out. Hamilton turned 38 targets into 25 receptions and two TD over that span.
DaeSean averaged only 7.28 yards per catch over those four games. Watch closely in the preseason, 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 and it showed when Denver signed him to a one year, $570,000 contract on March 7th. Patrick was able to haul in 19 catches for 242 yards the last four games that Sanders was out. Other wideouts on the roster who are restricted free agents or future/reserves are River Cracraft, Jordan Taylor, Fred Brown, Chad Hansen, and Aaron Burbridge. Wide receiver 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 quarterback 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. The North Carolina State alumn runs good routes, is a yard after the catch monster and has sturdy hands. If Harmon does land in Denver, he is someone to keep an eye on in all formats this draft season. You can see Harmon was extremely efficient in his sophomore and junior years with the Wolfpack, going over 1,000 yards in both seasons.
The Denver Broncos signed Jeff Heuerman to a two year, $8 million dollar contract on March 15th. It is a decent contract for an oft-injured tight end and shows that they may have plans for him to work as the TE1 next year. The big question at this position will be the health of Jake Butt.
Butt has had three torn ACL’s already and only played in three games since being drafted. In a loaded tight end class, Denver will likely address the position. The problem here is they already have needs at quarterback and wide receiver. The depth of the class may allow them to wait on the position. Regardless of who they take, it’s a “stay away” type situation except in dynasty leagues unless they draft someone with potential or you already own Butt.
The chart above shows that the tight end position is not heavily targeted in the Shanahan version of the West Coast offense that Scangarello is expected to run. The only time the position was targeted heavily was when there was George Kittle, Jordan Reed or Owen Daniels in the picture. It is hard to 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. A first-time offensive coordinator and defensive minded coach should make us temper our expectations from a fantasy perspective. The Broncos defense should be a target in drafts. 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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