We’ve already tackled the draft and free agency, but there is one more facet of the IDP offseason that could potentially play the biggest role in altering a player’s value: scheme changes. When a team brings in a new Head Coach or coordinator, it’s a good bet that the new guy will want to imprint his own style on the team he’s inheriting. And while only seven teams changed their Head Coach since the 2014 season, a whopping 12 changed their Defensive Coordinators. Not all of these personnel changes will result in a true scheme change, but they all figure to have an effect on the opportunities presented to IDPs. It may take until training camp and the preseason to get a read on some situations, but there are other teams where we can already sense how things will look in Week One.
Buffalo Bills – Hired Head Coach Rex Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Dennis Thurman. Anticipated shift from 4-3 to 3-4.
Rex’s recent defenses have been known for their hybrid approach as much as anything, but he’ll always be a 3-4 guy at heart. This isn’t totally new for the Bills, who ran a 3-4 just two years ago, but it does have the potential to be significant in the IDP world, depending on how fantasy sites classify Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. From what I can tell, both will be listed as Linebackers, which would be disastrous to their IDP value. For reference, Williams and Hughes were DL6 and DL 9 respectively in 2014, but would have been just LB49 and LB51. There is always the chance that they get more tackle opportunities lined up as OLBs, but they will still see a huge drop in overall value.
The rest of the defense shouldn’t be affected too much. Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham should resume their prosperous roles in the middle without having to worry about Kiko Alonso taking their spots. Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams will be interesting to watch, as one of them will likely play nose tackle and see their value drop completely, while the other should be in decent shape as a 3-4 DE. IDP owners would love to see Williams in the middle with Dareus on the outside, but there is no official word yet.
Denver Broncos – Hired Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. Anticipated shift from 4-3 to 3-4.
There’s no ambiguity here: Wade Phillips runs a 3-4 everywhere he goes. This is very similar to the situation in Buffalo, but instead of Williams and Hughes, it’s Demarcus Ware and Von Miller. Ware is familiar with Phillips’ system, which could bode well for him, but he’s not the same player that he was in 2008 and I expect to see a huge drop in value. Miller will likely see a slight dip in tackles but an increase in sack opportunities, so his value is essentially unchanged as an LB4-5. Shane Ray will also be considered a Linebacker, which further diminishes his already low value.
The MLB position has been a revolving door in Denver for the last few years, and I expect nothing different in 2015. The move to a 3-4 shouldn’t help clear things up, as now Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan will both be manning the middle and eating into each other’s stats. If either of their health issues persist, Danny Mason and Steven Johnson should be in the mix to replace them.
Chicago Bears – Hired Head Coach John Fox and Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio. Anticipated shift from 4-3 to 3-4.
Here’s a case where the Head Coach’s preferred scheme differs from that of his DC. Fangio presided over some dominant defenses for the last few years in San Francisco, but the talent he’s inheriting in Chi-town is nothing close to what he left behind. Instead of the cornucopia of goodness that was Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman and Chris Borland, he gets the pupu platter of Jon Bostic, Mason Foster, and Christian Jones manning the middle. Whoever emerges here will likely be an IDP contributor, but we have a long way to go to figure that one out. Arizona castoff Sam Acho is a wild card here as well.
The scheme change is most devastating to Jared Allen, who will see a similar value drop to that of Ware, but without the added benefit of previous 3-4 experience. He had a career low in sacks last year, and even if that rebounds, it won’t be enough to make him draftable outside of extreme big-play leagues. Pernell McPhee was brought in to book-end Allen, but he should make more of a real-life impact than from an IDP perspective.
Atlanta Falcons – Hired Head Coach Dan Quinn and Defensive Coordinator Richard Smith. Anticipated shift from 3-4 to 4-3.
Finally a shift to 4-3! The 3-4 sometimes seems like all the rage, but from an IDP perspective, 4-3 is the path to points. Unfortunately Atlanta has neglected their defense for years, so even with a better scheme there won’t be too much upside here. Paul Worrilow remains the IDP world’s biggest overachiever, and the presence of Justin Durant and Brooks Reed doesn’t figure to change who’s manning the middle. Kroy Biermann and Adrian Clayborn could be low-ceiling value plays at Defensive End, and Ra’Shede Hageman is an interesting name for DT-required leagues as well.
The real name of intrigue here remains Vic Beasley. He’ll likely be used as a situational pass-rusher to start his career, but he has the highest upside of anyone on this team. If he can get a DE positional designation and supplant Biermann or Clayborn, Beasley can make some noise in the IDP world as a Mario Williams-type threat. If he’s relegated to Linebacker, which appears to be the case right now, then his best case scenario is Von Miller, and even that would be after a year or two of experience.