We're back, baby!
After a short rest, Going Deep is back for the offseason. Like a student loan officer or a popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth, you can't get rid of us. We'll be here through the spring and summer offering all sorts of analytical goodness to get you ready for the 2014 fantasy football season. Because sorta like an unneccessary Shia LaBeouf sequel, fantasy never sleeps.
That's why I'm taking a look at some of the moves we've already seen this offseason and analyzing what it could mean for your fantasy future.
"But Marcas, free agency hasn't started yet. What moves could you be talking about?"
You're right ... and wrong. Free agency hasn't started for players yet. But coaches have been renting moving vans since January. So we can already put some pieces together about what the 2014 season could hold for some big fantasy names. And we'll start with a really big one in Minnesota.
Leslie Frazier is out. Mike Zimmer is in. That wouldn't seem to make an impact on the Vikings offense, until you realize Zimmer is bringing Norval Turner with him to the Twin Cities. While Turner's effectiveness as a head coach can be (and has been) debated, his talents as an offensive coordinator aren't in question.
In the interest of brevity, let's look at Turner's OC work beginning in 2001. It encompasses the NFL's recent QB-friendly era. Anything before that is just too 20th century and we consider this to be a forward-thinking column.
It was in '01 that he took over the reins of the Chargers offense. It was just a small part of a larger overhaul. Ryan Leaf had just played his way out of San Diego and the team decided to build its attack around a rookie running back named LaDainian Tomlinson. It's a change that was reflected in the play calling.
Turner put the ball in Tomlinson's hands, giving the rookie 398 total touches. He would account for nearly 30 percent of the Chargers offense that season. It was a far cry from the previous campaign when the less-than-heralded combination of Terrell Fletcher and Jeff Graham did San Diego's dirty work.
While the Chargers upgraded from Leaf at quarterback, his replacement -- the 39-year-old Doug Flutie -- was no one's All-Pro. He finished the season with 15 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a passer rating of 72.0. Still, Turner helped turn the league's 26th-ranked offense into the 14th-best. For fantasy owners, he established a player who would be one of the game's best for the next decade.
Before most people knew who LeBron James was, Norv Turner was taking his talents to South Beach. He moved to Miami after one season in San Diego, just in time to pair up with Ricky Williams. History, as you might have heard, repeated itself.
In a quirky twist of fate, there was no change in the number of passes the team attempted when Turner took over in 2002. But once again, there was a notable uptick in rushing attempts. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where those extra carries went.
Before Norv arrived in Miami, Lamar Smith was the Dolphins' main man, posting 343 touches and accounting for 24 percent of the offense. The following season, Williams upped the ante. The dynamic back toted the rock 430 times, posting 2,216 scrimmage yards -- a whopping 39.8 percent of Miami's total yardage output that season.
The first decade of the new millennium was a lost one for the Niners franchise. However, one of the team's better seasons in that stretch came in 2006 when Turner made a brief stop in the Bay Area. It also marked a slight change in the coach's modus operandi.
True to form, the team ran the ball more once Turner arrived. But that wasn't where the biggest change happened. 2006 marked Alex Smith's first season as San Francisco's full-time starter. So it shouldn't be a big surprise that the team gave the No. 1 overall pick more opportunities to be a difference maker. It made only a mild difference on the stat sheets -- the Niners went from being ranked 30th offensively in 2005 to 24th in 2006.
One thing remained consistent. A running back shall lead them. This time around, it was newly-minted starter Frank Gore. He took over for Kevan Barlow and took off. Gore dominated the offense, touching the football 373 times and gaining more than 43 percent of San Francisco's scrimmage yards.
Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Norv Turner's tendencies, he flipped the script in Cleveland.
Turner settled on the shores of Lake Erie and suddenly the Browns became more pass happy. Then again, if you take a look at Cleveland's running backs -- especially after the Trent Richardson trade -- it makes a lot of sense.
But it was still a running back who was the focal part of the offense, right? Yes and no. Willis McGahee (146) touched the football more than any other Brown. Yet it was Josh Gordon who made things go, relatively speaking. The wideout's breakout season kept Cleveland's offense afloat. His 1,734 all-purpose yards were more than 30 percent fo the team's total ... and that's with Gordon missing two games due to suspension.
Now we get to the crux of the issue. What does this mean for you and any of the Purple People you might want to draft?
That answer might be the "duh" moment of your day. Norv Turner isn't afraid to put the ball in the hands of his best playmakers. Frequently. That's particularly exciting when you consider Minnesota has one of the league's best offensive playmakers in Adrian Peterson.
I'm not telling you anything you didn't know when I say Peterson is going to see the football a lot in 2014. It's not even a news flash that A.D. is likely to match or even surpass his career-best reception totals.
The more interesting outlook might belong to second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. It made headlines when Turner said he already had 10 plays installed for the young wideout. That speaks to how highly the veteran coach thinks of the young player.
It also adds a potentially interesting wrinkle to Minnesota's offense. One that my astute colleague Alex Gelhar highlighted effectively in the latest Fantasy Film Study. It's been awhile since Turner presided over an offense with two such dynamic talents. You might have to go allllll the way back to the last century when Turner directed the Dallas Cowboys attack that featured Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
Slow your roll. I'm not putting Patterson in the Irvin category just yet. But the young WR's skill set makes him an enticing option for next season.
(And just like that, I've talked myself into making Patterson a strong WR3 candidate for next season. Remember his name and don't tell your friends. You'll thank me later.)
The end takeaway is that Peterson will still be the top option in Minnesota's offense and worthy of being a top-five pick in most fantasy leagues. But don't be terribly surprised if his load is lessened this season and Patterson becomes a hot commodity around fantasy football.
Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who will likely bequeath his student loans to his children after he dies. You can follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.