2018 New York Giants
Fantasy Football Preview
Shurmur has agreed to a five-year deal with the New York Giants, leaving behind a dramatically improved Minnesota offense in hopes for a similar turnaround in the Meadowlands. Shurmur has yet to name an offensive coordinator, but he's fully expected to call plays regardless. Though Shurmur's coaching and coordinating track record is spotty, he's been around some highly innovative minds while generally creaing explosive attacks when afforded the right talent. He'll inherit plenty of firepower in New York, making this a crucial hire to dig deep into
In 2018, Todd Gurley added 881 yards and 13 TDs to his 2017 total.
The Rams also went from dead last in scoring to 1st in the league, more than doubling their points (14.0 to 29.87).
Did the line and WR upgrades help? Of course.
But the most important addition wasn't one with a helmet, but rather the guy with the headset:
Coaching Scheme plays a huge role in fantasy success, but is so often overlooked.
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Despite a rough start, Shurmur's recent history suggests he's absorbed plenty from the brilliant offensive minds he's been around.
Note - if looking for 2018 Impact only, scroll to "Run Game Impact"
Shurmur entered the NFL in 2004 as quarterbacks coach for Andy Reid's Eagles; as explored below, Reid's "West Coast" fingerprints are all over Shurmur's offensive philosophy. Moreover, Shurmur's close relationship and work with Donovan McNabb certainly provided some creative juice for the future.
Still, Shurmur's first coordinating gig didn't come until 2009 with the Rams. Lacking any semblance of firepower (Donnie Avery at WR1 lol), his offenses sputtered to 32nd and 26th rankings in total points scored during his two years here. Puke start.
So who came calling for a head coaching offer? The Cleveland Browns of course! Shurmur again had minimal talent to work with, and his offense again struggled mightily for two seasons (30th and 24th in points scored respectively). Unsurprisingly, he was fired following a 5-11 record in 2012.
Not until 2013 did Shurmur finally experience some offensive success. He joined Chip Kelly and the Eagles, while helping Kelly's innovative "Oregon Spread" offense take the league by storm. The team ranked in the top-five of nearly every single offensive category -- points, total yardage, all rushing categories, passing scores, really everything outside passing yardage, which still ranked 9th. The Eagles rolled out another juggernaut in 2014, ranking 3rd in points and 5th in total yardage, before dropping to 13th and 12th in each category for 2015.
Much of this success is rightfully attributed to Kelly. Still, just as with his time under Reid, Shurmur undoubtedly absorbed plenty of offensive innovation.
Shurmur finally got a playcalling gig with some juice by joining the Vikings in 2016. Yet, Adrian Peterson and his suspension torpedoed this rushing attack, and Shurmur again found himself with minimal talent and produced more paltry Points (23rd) and Yardage (28th) totals.
2017 represents his masterpiece, however. Shurmur finally put together a highly productive offense outside of Chip Kelly's shadow. He weathered a journeyman QB in Case Keenum and a devastating ACL tear to his stud workhorse in Dalvin Cook. His team ranked 10th in points for and 11th in total yardage, while ranking top-10 across all Rushing categories, plus 11th and 12th in passing yardage and scores.
Though the track record is uneven, I'm siding with the recency here. Shurmur has gained plenty of offensive inspiration from innovators like Reid and Kelly. This is his first head coaching gig since collaborating with Kelly, and definitely his first time in the lead role with a legitimate signal-caller and explosive surrounding skill talent. With no one left to answer to and trending in the right direction, Shurmur could coordinate a juggernaut here.
Shurmur is an apple that doesn't fall far from his Andy Reid tree, meaning he's rooted in a “West Coast System.” Yet, he's also soaked in plenty of run game concepts from Chip Kelly, and in general Shurmur's offense unfurls from the backfield outwards.
In general, West Coast offenses stretch defenses horizontally via a quick-strike passing attack that features plenty of ins and outs. Re: slants, drags, and flat patterns. The goal is to minimize the risk, get the ball in your playmakers hands, and let them do their thing. The offense is predicated on timing, rhythm, and getting the ball out of the QBs hands quickly are all general staple, and prioritizes ball-control and minimizes turnovers.
Unlike Reid, Shurmur's offenses have been far more balanced -- the Vikings ranked 2nd in the NFL in rushing attempts in 2017, and their 53:47 pass-to-run ratio was the fourth lowest in the league. Shurmur's run-heavy approach came despite running three-wide receiver sets 56% of the time, suggesting he likes to spread defenses out but still pound the rock. Similar to Reid, Shurmur does pepper his backs with targets, and will gleefully ride workhorses when provided the talent (more on this later).
The Vikings ranked towards the top of the league with two tight end sets (29%), which falls in line with their run-centric approach. Though Shurmur's system is predicate on high percentage, safe throws, he does enjoy going vertical, especially off of playaction (28.7% of Keenum's passes).
This balance and creative personnell groupings will be music to Giants' and fantasy fans ears. After a successful initial campaign, Ben McAdoo became increasingly predictable and stale in his playcalling and groupings. He ran 11 personnel (3 WR sets) a whopping 92% of the time, while almost exclusively dialing up short curls and slants. A revived rushing attack and more deep emphasis, mixed into the established high-percentage, "West Coast" tendencies could work magic.
Though the track record is uneven, I'm siding with recency here. Shurmur has gained plenty of offensive inspiration from innovators like Reid and Kelly. This is his first head coaching gig since collaborating with Kelly, and definitely his first time in the lead role with a legitimate signal-caller and explosive surrounding skill talent. With no one left to answer to and trending in the right direction, Shurmur could coordinate a juggernaut here.
Shurmur has at least attempted to breed a workhorse in 6 of his 9 seasons (Dalvin Cook's ACL injury cut a gem campaign far too short last year). Indeed, he's had some historic talent to work with in Steven Jackson and LeSean McCoy, but Shurmur was able to churn a thoroughbred campaign out of awful Trent Richardson. Shurmur prefers a versatile power back who he can run up the gut one play, then hit for a screen on the next, keeping defense's guessing.
In fact, entering last year, Shurmur ranked second among active play callers in creating "weighted opportunity" for RBs, via PFF: 308.7 carries per season (83.9% of team's share) + 61.3 targets = insane volume, especially in a committee-plagued era.
Glory, allelujah, praise the Fantasy Gods for all their generosity!
Saquon Barkley is among the most "complete" prospects who's entered the league in decades. His versatility is legitimately on par with Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson thanks to butter-smooth route running and silky soft hands. He’s incredibly dangerous with the ball in space, weaving through defenses with incredible open field vision.
This makes Barkley the ideal fit for a Shurmur Workhorse role.
You see, the “Generational” Label is thrown out far too often, but with Barkley it’s fully warranted. Beyond just his insane receiving prowess, Barkley’s not unfairly labeled a “Bigger Barry Sanders” by many due to his elite elusiveness and breakaway speed, combined with a powerful, sturdy, and shredded 230+ lbs frame that pushes the pile and gets the tough yards up the gut.
According to Giants GM David Gettleman, Barkley was his highest graded prospect ever outside of Peyton Manning. Some “light praise” from the GM includes: “Touchdown maker,” “Unanimous best player in the draft,” Haven’t seen a guy like this in a long time…for 30-plus years,” and, of course the ever important, “He was touched by the hand of God, frankly.”
The team is clearly infatuated with him. Behind an aging Eli Manning, they are ready to hand the offensive reigns over to a 25+ weekly carry bellcow; prior to the draft, Todd McShay noted as much, stating: “I’ve heard very strongly that there are important people in the building who believe in Saquon Barkley and being a physical, run-first team. Barkley can be the face of the team for the next 10 years.”
Shumur himself said, “He’s a three-down running back. He’s gonna be on the field for as long as he can handle it.”
Over his career, Shurmur's faced injury woes and sub-par talent, thus yielding minimal quality QB fantasy campaigns. His higher-percentage throws and heavily reliance on the run also limits signal caller upside, and QBs have only been true fantasy assets when in Chip Kelly's fast-paced attack. Still, the minimal turnovers have generally created a decent floor, making Shurmur's QBs fair "Blue Chip" prospects.
Fantasy owners weren't kicking down doors to acquire Eli Manning anyways, and the Shurmur hire does minimal to move the upside needle. Still, Shurmur has been praised for squeezing productive campaigns out of guys like Case Keenum and Nick Foles, and Eli at least is in the same ballpark talent-wise.
One area owners can expect definite improvement, however, is on turnovers, as Shurmur's teams have finished in the top-10 in minimizing turnovers in 5 of his 9 campaigns, despite mostly garbage heap QBs. Shurmur also is known for scheming to his team's strengths, and Odell Beckham should be used far more creatively, bringing Manning along for the ride. All-in-all, Manning will likely end up a high-floor QB2 given the explosive players around him. He'll net a few monster weeks but hover around 14-15 FPs a contest.
The trend seems fairly clear: when he's had talent to work with, Shurmur's coached some fantastic WR seasons. When Donnie Avery is his top target, the WRs predictably flop. Shurmur specializes at getting the ball into his playmakers hands, and his wideouts run routes all over the field. He frequently moves his wideouts around the formation, and has particularly thrived with deep concepts out of the slot. In fact, his last 4 predominantly slot WRs have averaged 8.94, 7.88, 8.62, and 8.88 targets per game.
Diggs recently explained how Shurmur maximizes his playmakers and schemes to their strengths, stating:
“He’s gonna call plays that work for you,” Diggs said. “He’s gonna do what you’re good at. He’s not gonna make it hard. He’s gonna make it as easy on you as possible. Whatever you’re good at, he’s gonna let you do. That’s it. As a player that’s what you want. So whatever you do well, he’s gonna let you do it to the best of your ability — and a lot.”
Despite dominant campaigns since joining the league, Beckham still feels somewhat untapped. He'd inexplicably disappear for stretches under Ben McAdoo, and wasn't target deep or utilized creatively nearly enough. That's likely to change under Shurmur, who's always funneled looks to his top talents in creative manners. Beckham can be moved all over the formation, and though he's been primarily an outside threat, Beckham has proven insanely dangerous on vertical slot routes. As mentioned, Shurmur loves attacking teams deep down the seams with his slot weapons, and no one is more equipped than Beckham to capitalize on these chances. He's one of the few talents who can catch a slant and rip it 70 yards down the field for a score, and Beckham will see these chances multiply under Shurmur.
Diggs himself expects a monster season for Odell, noting:
“As a player, (Beckham) does a lot of things well, so it’s gonna be a fun offense for him to be in. Because Pat knows how to get people the ball. He’s special. Good coach.”
Though he's a notorious headcase, Beckham's already expressed his excitement and approval over the hire, stating: "God really works in mysterious ways....let the journey begin.... I’m geeeked"
If Shurmur can coach a WR1 monster season out of Adam Thielen, he could craft a masterpiece for the ages with Beckham, who'll be shooting up my next Big Board.
Additionally, Sterling Shepard should continue rising. He flashed his ability to carry a passing attack, posting over 130 yards three times in only 11 games, while hauling in 11 receptions on two separate occasions. He logged 55% of his snaps out of the slot, where again Shurmur has made magic happen. Of course, Beckham was also sidelined most of the year, though Odell only logged 1.9% of snaps from the slot last year and 11% the year prior. Shepard should have a stranglehold on the WR territory Shurmur thrives.
If Shepard maintains a stranglehold on these snaps, he could be in line for his first 1,000 yard season, health permitting. That's a major rub with Shepard, who missed 5 games last year, and was constantly nagged or pulled early in others. The upside is rising, however.
Similar to his wideouts, Shurmur's track record feels pretty consistent: when he's had talent, he's put it in position to succeed. Over his last four campaigns, Shurmur has targeted his tight ends at least 80 times, including an insane 132 targets for Rudolph just two seasons ago. He loves the play action ball and sending his tight ends streaking down the seams, while also crafting up tight end screens.
2018 Outlook - Evan Engram to ascend into Elite Territory?
Rookie tight ends notoriously translate slowly to the NFL, so Evan Engram's 722 yards, 6 TDs and TE5 fantasy campaign emphasizes his immense talent. Again, Shurmur crafts opportunities for his playmakers, and Engram will certainly be towards the top of his priority list. He's a true matchup nightmare with a blazing 4.42 forty at 6'3", 234 lbs and butter smooth route running.
He'll see immense red zone volume and have plenty of space underneath, as Beckham's return should only further shake Engram free. Expect Shurmur to capitalize upon these physical gifts, while Engram takes the usual sophomore leap himself.
He may struggle for the volume to reach Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz territory, as Engram will be below Beckham, Barkley, and likely Shepard most weeks on the target totem pole. Still, the quality of these looks will be sky-high, and Engram should approach or surpass double-digit scores with similar yardage and reception totals.
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Though his track record appears shaky, Shurmur's recent years have flashed far more promise than his early career. Now as the head coach with arguably his most talented offensive personell yet, Shurmur seems primed to unleash his offensive mastermind in 2018.
First and foremost, a monstrous bellcow season should be in the cards for Saquon Barkley. He's among the most talented three-down horses to ever join the NFL ranks, and will be fed voluminiously as a runner and receiver by the Bellcow Breeder. If Barkley falls out of your drafts Top-6, he's a steal.
Beyond Barkley, the most relevant name is Odell Beckham, who could be in line for his most dominant season yet -- no light statement considering his record-setting first three seasons. Shurmur is known as a talent maximizer who sets up his players to do what they do best, and Beckham can do it all at the highest levels. Expect his vertical tree to expand, plus plenty of short game touches manufactured.
Not to be outdone, the rising Evan Engram should take a leap in his sophomore season. In addition to another year of seasoning, Engram will benefit from Shurmur's willingness to pile on tight end targets, especially in the red zone. Expect him to spearhead the tier just below Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz.
Last but not least is Sterling Shepard. Shurmur's track record with slot WRs is golden, and Shepard has flashed game changing abilities in this role before. He should see the most volume and creative usage of his young career, and is a real threat for 1,000+ yards.
All-in-all, I'm clearly fired up for Shurmur to light off a fantastic offensive fireworks display in the Meadowlands.
Copyright 2018, Roto Street Journal