These days, there’s no shortage of information to prepare for your fantasy drafts. Heck, there might even be too much info! Well, I’m going to add to the madness by looking at how offensive coordinators and head coaches have run their offenses and what it might mean for the 2021 season. After all, the coaches and OCs are the minds behind the chess game that is the National Football League. Some coaches like to run the football, thus producing a ton of fantasy points at the running back position. Others prefer the air assault, making fantasy heroes out of quarterbacks while loading up wide receivers and tight ends with oodles of targets and chances to score points in the passing attack.
Well, this article will break it all down for you.
Let’s start things off with the AFC East. What you’ll find below are each team’s current head coaches and offensive coordinators. I’ll discuss which positions have thrived or failed based on statistics and fantasy ranks during their respective tenures in the NFL.
- Head Coach: Sean McDermott (2017-present)
- Offensive Coordinator: Brian Daboll (2018-present)
Daboll’s offensive philosophy had been pretty even between the pass and the run, but that changed last season when the Bills threw the ball 60.3% of the time. That had much to do with the emergence of Josh Allen, who led all quarterbacks in fantasy points. He’s now finished in the top six at the position in two straight seasons. Before Allen, the best quarterback finished under Daboll was Matt Moore (QB23) in 2011.
The ground game hasn’t been all that successful under Daboll, however. He’s had just three running backs finish in the top 20 in fantasy points as a coordinator. That includes Peyton Hillis (RB3, 2010), Jamaal Charles (RB9, 2012) and Reggie Bush (RB13, 2011). While in Buffalo, no running back has finished better than 31st in fantasy points under Daboll. That’s not a promising trend for either Devin Singletary or Zack Moss.
Stefon Diggs is coming off a career season, finishing third in fantasy points among wide receivers while leading the league in catches and receiving yards. It was the first time a wideout has finished higher than 11th in points under Daboll, however. Overall, he’s had just three receivers finish in the top 20 in fantasy points during his time as a coordinator. On a positive note, Diggs and Cole Beasley were top 30 wideouts in 2020.
Daboll has coached just one top 10 fantasy tight end (Benjamin Watson, 2010), and the Bills are unlikely to field even a top 25 fantasy tight end this season.
READ MORE: Buffalo Bills Fantasy Team Outlook
- HC: Brian Flores (2019-present)
- OC: George Godsey (2021), Eric Studesville (2021)
Godsey has been a quarterbacks coach and a tight ends coach in the NFL, and he also has two years of experience as an offensive coordinator while in Houston (2015–2016). His offenses ranked an unimpressive 19th and 29th in total yards and 21st and 28th in scoring, but those teams really lacked at the quarterback position. In fact, among Denver QBs Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, T.J. Yates, Ryan Mallet and Tom Savage, none had a career passer rating higher than 82.1. That hurt Godsey’s chances of finding success.
His best wideout, of course, was DeAndre Hopkins. He provided a combined 189 catches for 2,475 yards and 15 touchdowns in 32 games with Godsey calling the shots. No other receiver had more than 658 yards (Nate Washington, 2015) under his watch. Godsey did help C.J. Fiedorowicz record career-best totals (54 catches, 559 yards) in 2016.
Studesville has experience as an interim head coach, a running backs coach and a run game coordinator, though he hasn’t held the title of “offensive” coordinator until now. Over these last three seasons in Miami, he helped Kenyan Drake finish as the RB14 in 2018. Fantasy sleeper Myles Gaskin averaged 16.4 points per game under Studesville (with Chan Gailey serving as the offensive coordinator) a season ago, which ranked a solid 13th among running backs on a points-per-game basis. With no significant adds made to the backfield in the offseason, Gaskin should remain the man back in 2021.
READ MORE: Miami Dolphins Fantasy Team Outlook
New England Patriots
- HC: Bill Belichick (2000-present)
- OC: Josh McDaniels (2005–2008, 2012-present)
McDaniels has had a lot of success with quarterbacks during his time as a head coach or coordinator in the NFL. Sure, a big part of that success came with coaching the great Tom Brady, but he’s also helped other field generals like Matt Cassel (QB8, 2008), Kyle Orton (QB15, 2009–2010) and Cam Newton (QB15, 2020) bring fantasy football value.
The Patriots’ backfield has long been difficult to navigate in fantasy land, so the fact that just three running backs (James White, 2018; Dion Lewis, 2017; Stevan Ridley, 2012) have been top 15 fantasy backs. Including his time in Denver and St. Louis, however, McDaniels has seen his running backs finish in the top 20 in points nine different times. Still, just two (White, Steven Jackson) have been better than 15th in McDaniels’s 15 years as either a head coach or coordinator. That doesn’t bode well for Damien Harris, Sony Michel, or Rhamondre Stevenson heading into 2021.
McDaniels’s offenses have produced five top-seven finishes among wideouts, and the position has produced another eight finishes from WR10-WR20. However, just one receiver (Julian Edelman, 2019) has been in the top 10 since 2007. What’s more, New England’s wideouts have had just four top 20 fantasy finishes in that time frame. With no real No. 1 option at the position on the roster, it’ll be tough for Nelson Agholor, N’Keal Harry or any Patriots wideout to make a significant, consistent impact in 2021.
The Patriots have produced seven top 10 finishes among tight ends during McDaniels’s tenure, but all but one was Rob Gronkowski. That was Martellus Bennett in 2016. New England did produce two top-three tight ends in 2011 with the duo of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, but McDaniels was the offensive coordinator in St. Louis that year. In the one season, McDaniels had both Gronkowski and Hernandez on the same roster; Gronkowski finished fifth while Hernandez was 17th (10 games). With Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in the pass attack, look for McDaniels to run a ton of 12 personnel.
READ MORE: New England Patriots Fantasy Team Outlook
New York Jets
- HC: Robert Saleh (2021)
- OC: Mike LaFleur (2021)
LaFleur has never been an offensive coordinator at the NFL level, but he’s been under the tutelage of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan since 2014 during their time together with the Browns. Since then, LaFleur has been an offensive assistant in Atlanta, plus a passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach in San Francisco. From 2018–2020, the Niners finished in the top 10 in scoring, total offense and rushing offense.
With LaFleur as the passing game coordinator, Deebo Samuel finished with an average of around 12 fantasy points a game. In 2020, rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk had an impressive 15.4 fantasy-point-per-game average. George Kittle also came into his own in the stat sheets, averaging nearly 16 fantasy points in his 38 games.
Shanahan’s offenses have also been very RB-friendly, producing five top 10 fantasy finishes and five seasons with 1,000+ yards on the ground. He’s also had seven seasons where a running back has had at least 39 catches, which is good news for the versatile Michael Carter. He’ll be worth a fifth- or sixth-round choice in redrafts.
READ MORE: New York Jets Fantasy Team Outlook
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!