- Scott Engel, ESPN Fantasy Games
While coaches don't earn fantasy points in most leagues, their impact is definitely felt in fantasy football. New approaches and schemes can play heavily into the performances of notable fantasy players. There were several coaching and coordinator changes during the past offseason, and here are the most important moves that will affect your fantasy strategies for 2006.
Buffalo: Dick Jauron is the new head coach, but he will delegate a lot of the offensive responsibilities to new coordinator Steve Fairchild, who was the Rams' offensive coordinator before coming to Buffalo. While Fairchild might try to open things up on occasion, he does place an emphasis on a strong running game, as does Jauron. The talent limitations at QB and a shaky offensive line present challenges for Fairchild. Look for him to depend heavily on Willis McGahee, with varying results if the QBs can't keep defenses honest on a consistent basis. He'll use some two-TE sets to help the line, and will likely feature Lee Evans often when the Bills go downfield. Roscoe Parrish could also make some big plays on occasion if he nails down the No. 3 receiver job. Peerless Price is also still a good run blocker, even if his receiving skills have faded. Fairchild might be able to run the ball successfully at times, but can he use the downfield pass effectively enough to keep pressure off McGahee? Probably not on a regular basis. Outlook: McGahee's numbers will fluctuate as the line gets a lot of blocking help, and Evans will still have some good games when the matchup is right. Consistency will be a major issue, especially if Kelly Holcomb doesn't win the starting QB job.
Denver: The Broncos replaced Gary Kubiak by promoting former offensive line coach Rick Dennison. Mike Heimerdinger returns to Denver, where he used to be a wide receivers coach. Heimerdinger, the new assistant head coach, will ensure that the passing game continues to operate efficiently, while Dennison will continue to utilize the traditional zone-blocking style of running the ball that has been so successful. While the ground game should remain the same, Heimerdinger could open up the passing game some more, especially with the addition of Javon Walker. Outlook: No matter which RB gets the most carries, the running game will still be strong. Jake Plummer could be more aggressive throwing downfield as Heimerdinger spreads defenses out more often, meaning a few more TD passes, and also a few more interceptions. Overall, the offense should be very proficient and balanced, in the Mike Shanahan tradition.