There have been a number of coaching changes since the 2017 season, but the once I’m most interested in is Matt Nagy as the new head coach of the Chicago Bears. This is Nagy’s first season as a head coach. Previously, he worked as the OC for Kansas City (2016-17), QB coach for KC (2013-15), and various other positions since 2008. Although it’s not perfectly quantifiable and far from predictive, I want to look at the numbers behind Nagy’s coaching experience to try to see what he’ll bring to Chicago.
A Dominant Offense
Kansas City’s marquee pass-catchers, Tyreek Hill (WR) and Travis Kelce (TE), have been extremely productive in their short careers. Hill notched a top-ten season in both standard and PPR formats as a sophomore and helped push QB Alex Smith to the top of his game. Kelce has been a top-10 TE since earning the start in 2014 and has finished the last two seasons as the best fantasy TE (Gronk still won out in PPG, but consistently missed games brings his season totals down).
Andy Reid took over in 2013 and turned this team around from one of the worst to a yearly contender for the AFC West. He never experienced a losing season as KC’s HC, and his offense was one of the top scorers and his defense never finished worse than 10th in points allowed per season. Nagy got the upgrade from QB coach to offensive coordinator in 2016 and in 2017 his offense finished 6th in points and 5th in yards.
Here are the questions:
How much was Nagy responsible for?
How much was Reid responsible for?
How much were the players responsible for?
Unfortunately, these are all hypothetical questions and don’t have entirely knowable answers. What we can do is look at some of the statistics of how the team performed to try to determine what Nagy will bring to Chicago, and what that will mean for our fantasy prospects.
The Wide Receiver or the Tight End
Currently, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill cost about the same fantasy draft capital—a mid- to late-third round in PPR drafts—with Kelce off as the TE2 and Hill as the WR14. While it’s sometimes tough to pull the trigger on either of those players so high in the draft, Kelce’s TE2 spot seems about fair, and could even be a great value in PPR leagues. Kelce hasn’t missed a game as the Chief’s starting TE, and his targets have increased each year, with three successive 100+ target seasons. He is far safer than Gronkowski and can even rival or beat him outright in PPR formats if the trend continues. Although you can typically find a worthy TE starter deep in your draft, Kelce plays at such high volume, that he is a set-and-forget starter that can give you a huge positional advantage.
While finishing his two years as the WR25 and WR9, Hill’s late-third draft price almost seems like a discount. Unlike Kelce, however, Hill has had much more fantasy production on far fewer targets, seeing just over 100 targets in 2017. It is very reasonable to expect Hill’s yards per catch and touchdown efficiency to drop to human levels in the future. As well, Hill’s deep play opportunity could suffer with his new quarterback. Although Mahomes can probably throw a football over a mountain, Smith led 2017 in deep ball accuracy, while news out of KC is that Mahomes is struggling with interceptions.
Although both have been great and Hill is a speedfreak with the years to his advantage, nobody should be surprised to hear that Travis Kelce has been the dominant focus of this team’s offense basically since Jamaal Charles left. Kareem Hunt is the new fantasy face of the offense, but Kelce gets the most love and we have no reason to expect regression anytime soon. In fact, judging by a trend in KC to utilize the TE more and the WR less, Kelce may only get better with time, adding possibly the safest floor in all fantasy football.
Chicago is… a different story. 2013 was their last year as a top ten offense and 2012 the last as a top ten defense. Although they have had a more recent Super Bowl appearance than KC, the story for Chicago is the inverse of Kansas City, and their hopes of claiming a division title over Minnesota or Green Bay in the near future are bleak. While Kansas City has been producing top fantasy assets the last few years, Chicago’s abysmal 2017 provided virtually no pass-catcher worthy even of a roster spot. In 2016, Cameron Meredith led Bears receivers as the WR40 and Zach Miller as the TE20. It’s fair to say that John Fox hasn’t provided owners much to work with outside of Jordan Howard at RB.
Allen Robinson (WR) is the Bears’ most intriguing 2017 addition, and he is currently being drafted as the WR21 at the end of the 4th round. Trey Burton comes in at the start of the 8th round as the TE9. A 4th-round price tag isn’t silly, but it’s not cheap. Allen has proven to be a WR1 before and that was with Blake Bortles. I’m certainly not saying Mitch Trubisky is better than Bortles, but with the lowest TD efficiency of any QB in the NFL in 2017, Trubisky only has room to improve. As well, with Meredith off to New Orleans, Robinson comes in as the clear-cut top receiver on the team. Robinson has two seasons with 151 targets, and he could theoretically beat that in 2018.
But. He probably won’t. Over the past three years, no Bears receiver has received 100 targets, and the average top producer has been targeted 94 times. We have to go back to pre-John Fox days to find elite fantasy production in Alshon Jeffery, who (though close) never saw 151 targets. Even if the Bears say they’re coming around to those days of airing it out and to targeting one receiver plenty more than the others, they’re not going to be the same.
They’re going to be better. Why? In steps Trey Burton and Matt Nagy. Although both coaching changes and roster maneuvers indicate that the Bears will become less Jordan Howard’s team and more Trubisky’s, I think the scheme is going to open up for the tight end far more than anybody else. As we can see in the chart above, there is a consistent increased use of the TE, and it’s not only attributed to Kelce’s skill.
Since taking over as offensive coordinator in KC, Nagy increased the TE target share by over 35% over a three-year average! On the flip side, wide receivers as a whole received 9% less targets than average, and the WR1 (Tyreek Hill), received 19% less attention. Tyreek Hill hasn’t been good because of volume. Tyreek Hill has been good because Tyreek Hill is good.
When Matt Nagy took the offensive coordinator position in KC, he put the game around Travis Kelce. TE yards, TE targets, and TE1 usage all increased, while RB targets, WR targets, and WR1 targets all fell off. As a whole, his team increased passing opportunity by about 7.6%, while carries decreased roughly 6%. It’s not a remarkable change to a pass-heavy team, but it is a remarkable change to how much more the top tight end will be utilized. With a 4-year $32 million deal, Chicago is committed to Burton. According to a Chicago Sun-Times article, Nagy intends to use Burton as a Kelce role, or the “U-position,” a hybrid receiver/tight end.
Although there has been plenty of hype over the offseason, Burton’s ADP hasn’t risen quite enough, so I’ll buy him mid-way through my draft. The Bears as a whole haven’t been nearly as successful as the Chiefs, and that’s not going to change overnight. Expect a lot of negative game script, but also worse quarterback play than Nagy is used to. As well, Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen give plenty of reason for the Bears to continue to funnel their offense through the RBs.
While the community has him as their TE9, I’ll take Burton as my TE6.
98 targets, 67.3 recs, 667.1 yards, 8.5 TDs.
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