By Alex Levin
With the draft complete and the bulk of the free agency rush over with, it’s time to start looking ahead to the 2020 season! And with that, I’m back with year 2 of my Opportunity series.
For those who didn’t see this series last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill rankings. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.
As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.
Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.
Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.
New York Giants
Last Year’s Accuracy
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.
Pat Shurmur took over a talent-deficient roster last year and managed to produce five wins out of it. He spent last offseason upgrading the team and better fitting it to his needs. That only won him four games. Needless to say Shurmur and his staff no longer work for the Giants. New York replaces him at head coach with the Patriots special teams coach Joe Judge. Judge poached Patrick Graham from Miami to be his defensive coordinator. He also brings in the technically-not-fired Jason Garrett as his new offensive coordinator, likely hoping that Garrett can develop young quarterback Daniel Jones like he did Dak Prescott back in Dallas.
Turns out we were wrong about Shurmur transitioning to a more run-heavy approach last year. Funny what a hot seat and hobbled all-star running back will do to your gameplan. Regardless though, with Shurmur out we turn our attention to new OC Jason Garrett. Garrett has been the Cowboys head coach since 2010 and has been the mastermind of the Cowboys offense since 2007 when he initially took over as the offensive coordinator. However, Garrett hasn’t actually been calling the plays himself since 2012.
Way back when he did call the plays, there were some notable inconsistencies in his scheme from year to year. However, generally speaking he called a little over 1000 plays with around a 41/59 run-pass ratio. Tight ends were featured heavily to the tune of almost 30% of the targets, though a prime Jason Witten likely had quite a bit to do with that. Wide receivers typically saw a little over a 50% target share while the running backs were always in the upper teens. The actual range of outcomes each season for each of these numbers was pretty wide, but overall those were the averages.
Things have been a little different lately. While the Cowboys have still been running Garrett’s offense, his offensive coordinators have taken some liberties with playcalling. The Cowboys continued to run a little over 1000 plays per year on average with a similarly wide range of possibilities in any given year. However, none of the last five years have featured a pass rate higher than 58%, with a low water mark of 50.6%. Running backs have continued to see target shares in the upper teens, but the tight ends have been struggling to stay above a 20% target share while the wide receivers have dominated with around a 60% target share yearly. It’s difficult to say how many of these changes have been due to shifts in player talent versus a change in playcalling philosophy, but it’s safe to say that Garrett had at least a hand in those changes.
Garrett’s history definitely has a lot of ambiguity, which makes this part rather challenging. However, we can make a pretty educated guess as to what Garrett wants to do. Take a look at the Giants’ draft picks. Now take a look at who they threw money at in free agency. Notice a trend? Every single draft pick was either an offensive lineman or a defensive player. On top of that, the four biggest contracts by AAV the Giants handed out matched that trend (and for that matter, the 5th highest AAV contract was for a blocking tight end). There are two primary ways a team can successfully handle a young quarterback like Daniel Jones; surround him with weapons, or take the pressure off him by running the ball and playing defense. It seems pretty clear which direction Garrett wants to go.
Outside of trying to scale back New York’s pass rate that had been gradually inflating over the years, Garrett probably won’t shake much up compared to last year. As noted above, Garrett’s wideouts in Dallas had been hovering just shy of a 60% target share for the last few years, his tight ends were barely staying afloat above 20%, and his running backs were usually in the upper teens. Coincidentally, that’s a pretty close match to what Shurmur called last year in New York. Garrett’s average pace of a little over 1000 plays also matches closely with the 1012 plays the Giants ran last year.
This all makes sense from a personnel perspective as well. Dallas featured a solid (if not necessarily great) wide receiver corps, similarly solid tight ends, and an elite running back. That pretty much describes New York’s offense to a T. Interestingly, there isn’t even a need to adjust the run rate for QB carries. Daniel Jones recorded 45 rush attempts in 13 games, putting him on pace for around 55 carries for a full season. Despite Dak Prescott’s reputation as a dual-threat quarterback, he actually recorded right around that same 55 carries three out of his four years so far. We’ll need to see how well Garrett readjusts to calling plays again, but the pieces are there for him to continue to run more or less the same offense he had been in Dallas.
Alex Levin – Projections/Redraft
Ride or Dynasty