Vic Fangio has been an NFL coach for over 30 years and has finally gotten the call to become a head coach. The Denver Broncos are hiring another defensive minded head coach, but Fangio comes with a proven track record as a defensive coordinator. Last season, he led the Chicago Bears to the best defense in points allowed, turnovers forced, rushing yards allowed, and rushing touchdowns allowed. This led to Fangio locking up the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award with ease.
Now with the high pedigree as a defensive mind, he is sure to make the Broncos defense a lot better. They were 13th in points allowed per game and allowed 5,842 total yards which was ranked 22nd in the league.
Fangio has a lot of great players to utilize including Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Justin Simmons, Derek Wolfe, and Chris Harris Jr. Now there is a lot of promise for the defense, but the big thing for the Broncos is securing a good offensive coordinator to run the show on that side of the ball.
Fangio decided to bring in a Kyle Shanahan disciple in Rich Scangarello to run his offense. Scangarello has a tall task ahead of him as the offense was 19th in total yards and 24th in points scored per game.
So there is some reason for optimism but there is also some reason for trepidation with this new look coaching staff. What does this mean for fantasy owners? Here is a closer look at all the position groups and how the combination of Fangio and Scangarello will affect each group.
Fantasy Focus: Head Coach Vic Fangio Fantasy Impact On Denver Broncos
The Broncos were unhappy with Case Keenum’s play in his first year in Denver. Reasons included that he had to deal with a makeshift offensive line and lots of his receiving weapons were injured at some point during the season or were ineffective. Regardless, Keenum was brought in to bring some stability to the quarterback position and he was not able to do that. So general manager, John Elway, made a bold move and swung a trade for Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens. The trade is not official until the beginning of the league year, but this relegates Keenum to being a back-up again or possibly being cut or traded. Flacco can be seen as either a slight improvement over Keenum, the same level as Keenum, or even a little worse. Let’s see how this all shakes out for the Denver offense.
Now, of course, Fangio is a defensive minded head coach. Which is why it was crucial that he made a good move at offensive coordinator to run his offense. In comes Scangarello, who comes from being the quarterback’s coach in San Francisco. Now he doesn’t have a ton of experience in the NFL (two consecutive years, four total), but he did serve under Kyle Shanahan for three of those four years.
Scangarello has the point in his favor that he recognized Nick Mullens as being a quality quarterback when the 49ers signed him as an undrafted free agent. Of course, after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending injury, Mullens came in as a starter and flourished at times under Shanahan’s system and working with Scangarello. The Broncos are hoping that Scangarello can reignite that same spark into Flacco and turn this offense into something that can be feared week in and week out.
Now how does this all play out for fantasy owners? Flacco was never a reliable fantasy option when he was in Baltimore. Sure, he looked good one week out of five, but not a consistent option you can rely on every week as your QB1. Keenum is the same thing now, as we are not seeing the Keenum we saw back in Minnesota when he was an NFL and fantasy football revelation.
Most likely Flacco will become the starter unless this sparks Keenum to compete during camp, but regardless this is a fantasy situation to avoid. Yes, Scangarello is on that path towards becoming a quarterback whisperer, but he has only taken a few steps down that path is definitely not in the same conversation as a Sean McVay, Andy Reid, or his former boss Shanahan. The optimism is high, but we need to see how this plays out before investing heavily. There are tons of better quarterback options when it comes to your draft board but depending on how this all plays out over the course of the season, a Bronco quarterback may become a serviceable streaming option. Stay tuned.
Royce Freeman was drafted as the new lead running back for the Denver Broncos. He quickly beat out the competition in training camp and became the starting running back in week one. He looked solid at times but was never a dominant force that we saw back at Oregon. Instead, fellow rookie running back, Phillip Lindsay, was looking like a breakout star and was taking all the attention off of Freeman. An injury to Freeman in week seven led to Lindsay taking the starting role. This led to Lindsay earning a Pro Bowl invitation and becoming the first undrafted free agent to have that honor.
Scangarello comes to Denver after learning the effectiveness of a strong running game from Shanahan in San Francisco. Having a strong running game in your offense makes the passing game that much more effective.
Luckily, Fangio also has some familiarity with this as well. Having worked with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco and at Stanford, Jim Mora Sr. in Indianapolis, and Dom Capers in both Carolina and Houston. Also, knowing how murky the quarterback situation is, it would be wise to lean on the strongest part of your offense currently and build the rest around it. Fangio is going to make this defense better and they can win a lot of games with an elite-level defense and a strong running game to get points on the board.
So in case you are not picking up the clues here, the Denver rushing attack should be at the forefront of your fantasy rankings. Lindsay is on notice around the league, so he may not have as stellar a season as his rookie year. Regardless, he is a starting caliber running back in fantasy circles now and will be for years to come. Freeman is worth drafting as a handcuff, but it will be a wait and see approach to know if the backfield will be as dynamic with both players getting touches instead of just one of them. The hope for all is that this becomes similar to what Scangarello witnessed in Atlanta, with the one-two punch that was Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
This was an interesting group over the course of the 2018 season. The season started looking pretty good with Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton being their starting corps. As the season went on though, this wide receiver room became pretty different. Thomas was shipped to Houston right before a week nine game against his new team and Sanders suffered a ruptured Achilles during practice in week 14. This made the rookies Sutton and Hamilton the main guys and second-year man, Tim Patrick, the supplemental piece. Overall, this position group took some major hits over the course of the season, which was mentioned earlier as to why Keenum failed to produce in his first season in Denver.
Now this position group is bound to see some changes either through free agency or after the draft. Until then, this group is something to avoid for fantasy purposes. Although there is some optimism that Sutton and Hamilton can continue to develop and become producers in the offense, it’s a tall order to hang your hat on. Most likely, this offense will be going through the running attack and the focus on solid production from the receivers will be secondary. This group is not worth your time when it comes to your fantasy draft board.
There was a time when the tight end in Denver was the most productive option for all receivers concerned. Gone are the days of Shannon Sharpe and Julius Thomas to rely on to move the chains and score points for the offense. This group is going through a bit of a change and there are two young tight ends that are hoping to go into that same mold of Thomas and Sharpe.
Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli are the new blood for the tight end group in Denver. Fumagalli never got to see action during the season as a hernia injury put him on injured reserve before the season began. Butt was injured all of 2017 and finally saw action in 2018, but another ACL injury in week three saw him go back to the injured reserve list and derailed his career again.
Now, this may not seem like an ideal tight end group, but the promise and ability are there. Pairing these two young tight ends with the trio of Fangio, Scangarello, and Flacco is the reason for optimism. Fangio is familiar in his coaching history on how effective tight ends can help move the offense down the field.
Scangarello saw first-hand in San Francisco as George Kittle made a name for himself in the league and also in the fantasy world with his breakout, Pro Bowl, season. Then the final piece to this triage is Flacco, who loved throwing to tight ends when he was a Baltimore Raven. 23% of Flacco’s passes were targeted at tight ends in his career and 29% of his touchdown passes went to tight ends.
Flacco likes to rely on his tight ends to convert third downs and convert red zone opportunities. This is a good chance for both Fumagalli and Butt to become bigger names in the league.
For fantasy purposes, we are more interested in that latter option than the former. If Flacco is looking the tight end’s direction to score red zone touchdowns, those are points you want for your roster. Now, this is not a guarantee that these two tight ends will flourish, but we have some strong optimism that shows favor for both of these promising players. They may not be draft worthy just yet, but keep an eye on how they perform over the course of the season and they could become mid-season steals off the waiver wire.