Published On: Fri, Jun 1st, 2018

Fantasy: 7 players who will thrive under new coaches

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Get ready for your season with theScore’s 2018 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

The NFL’s offseason coaching carousel can have a pretty serious impact on the fantasy landscape. Players on an existing roster can have their values rise under the direction of a new head coach or offensive coordinator more willing to use them to their strengths.

These seven players warrant more fantasy consideration largely due to their new instructors.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

Carr’s best fantasy season was in 2015, when he finished as QB14, then QB16 the following year, and QB19 while battling injuries last season. His growth – at least as it pertains to fantasy performance – seemed to have stagnated under Jack Del Rio.

The expected hype of new head coach Jon Gruden has not yet had a serious effect on Carr’s average draft position, as he’s being selected as the 16th quarterback off the board, according to Fantasy Football Calculator.

Gruden’s notorious enthusiasm, that has already drawn praise from Raiders players, could provide the necessary spark with a new focus on the passing game. As too will Gruden’s West Coast Offense that emphasizes shorter, quicker passes, allowing Carr to find more success after averaging just 5.9 completed air yards last season as he allows Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, and the running backs to rack up yards after the catch.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns

The Cleveland Browns chose to stand by head coach Hue Jackson and instead opted to bring Todd Haley over from the Pittsburgh Steelers to direct the offense.

Haley had been with the Steelers since the beginning of the 2012 campaign, and had a big part to play in turning Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and occasionally Martavis Bryant into stars.

The Browns crowded their wide receiver group this offseason by bringing In Jarvis Landry, Jeff Janis, and rookie Antonio Callaway to join the pre-existing group led by Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman.

Haley knows how to spread the ball around, having five Steelers players rack up more than 60 targets last season, but allowing clear No. 1 Brown to lead the team and rank second in the league with 162 looks.

Gordon still carries the threat of off-field risks, but he should see the green light as the team’s top downfield option as long as he can stay on the active roster.

Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears

New Bears head coach Matt Nagy has already sung Cohen’s praises ahead of their first season together.

Cohen’s expertise in the passing game – he received 71 targets and totaled 353 yards with a lone score in 2017 – better suit Nagy’s system that had Kansas City Chiefs rookie Kareem Hunt catch 53 of 63 targets for 455 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Nagy said the Bears may not lean as heavily on third-year rusher Jordan Howard in 2018, after he topped 250 carries in each of the past two seasons as the clear bellcow.

“He’s proven that he’s done that, so that’s for sure,” Nagy said Thursday, according to Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun Times. “In this offense, it’s more game specific, as to whether or not you need that.”

For a team that’s had its projected win total set at 6.5 by Bovada, game flow could end up favoring Cohen and the passing game rather frequently.

He should be viewed as a high-end RB2 in standard leagues with RB1 upside in PPR formats, despite the likeliness of being listed behind Howard on the depth chart.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants

Shepard’s loss in fantasy value with a return to the No. 2 receiver role behind a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. could be partially mitigated by the hiring of Pat Shurmur as head coach.

Shurmur led Minnesota Vikings wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen to more than 150 combined receptions in each of the past two seasons and more than 2,000 receiving yards in 2017 as the clear top two options in the passing game.

Beckham and Shepard have similar separation on the Giants’ depth chart, allowing Shepard to return excellent value at his current 10th-round ADP.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

Though Matt LaFleur didn’t call plays for the surprising Los Angeles Rams last season, he surely learned a thing or two from Sean McVay’s transformation of quarterback Jared Goff. The Titans brought in LaFleur with the hope that he could have a similar influence on Mariota as a young QB struggling to take the next step to greatness.

LaFleur could follow the models set for him by McVay and previous tutor Kyle Shanahan by controlling the clock and possession with shorter controlled passes, before airing it out deep for the big plays once the defense starts to lower its guard.

The current QB19 could have a big breakout season if LaFleur can have the Titans emulate the Rams’ 2017 season that had four players top 590 receiving yards with at least five touchdowns each.

Marlon Mack, RB, Colts

A big strength of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles last season was how they were able to utilize a cast of versatile RBs in a wide variety of ways.

The Colts’ current backfield lacks the star power and experience of the Eagles, allowing new head coach – and former Eagles’ OC – Frank Reich to lean on Mack as the focal point in his sophomore season.

With rookies Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins expected to be next on the depth chart, Mack should be able to add the bulk of Frank Gore’s 261 carries in 2017 to his workload that consisted of a modest 93 rushes last season. He’s already displayed abilities as a pass-catcher, averaging 10.7 yards per carry as a rookie.

He’s one of the last remaining options with RB1 potential at a mid-seventh-round ADP.

Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions

Previously a defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia’s years of learning strategy underneath head coach Bill Belichick and beside offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could have him well prepared to use the Lions’ X-factor on offense.

The Patriots have routinely ranked near the top of the league in passing plays of at least 20 yards.

Golladay measures in at 6-foot-4, 213 pounds and ran a 4.50 40-yard dash ahead of the 2017 draft. With both Marvin Jones and Golden Tate commanding plenty of defensive attention, Golladay could find himself with plenty of room in open field if he’s able to slip past the secondary.

Patricia’s well versed in knowing the proper times to attack with deep shots, and Golladay represents the ideal tool.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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