Pat Shurmur's Impact on the Giants' 2018 Fantasy Outlook
The Ben McAdoo experiment lasted just two seasons in New York, resulting in offenses that never finished better than 21st in points scored or total yards. This offseason, the Giants replaced McAdoo with head coach Pat Shurmur in hope of revitalizing an offense that finished in the top 10 in scoring and total yards just three years ago. The following will explore which changes Shurmur might bring to New York and how that will impact the fantasy outlook of the Giants skill players.
A Snapshot of Pat Shurmur’s History
Pat Shurmur has been a head coach or offensive coordinator in the NFL for each of the past nine seasons, but he’s been the primary playcaller for a team just five times, ceding play-calling duties to Chip Kelly in Philadelphia and taking over as the interim OC late in the 2016 season after Norv Turner’s release in Minnesota. While Shurmur struggled with a lack of talent on his rosters early in his play-calling career, we finally got to see how he works with a more explosive offense in 2017.
*Neutral game script is when the score is within seven points. Negative game script is down by eight or more points. Positive game script is up by eight or more points.
Raw pass/splits suggest Shurmur is a pass-first playcaller, but situation-adjusted passing rate tells a story. In fact, in neutral game script, Shurmur has favored the run more often than not, ranking higher than 19th in game-neutral passing rate just once in his career. This discrepancy in passing rate suggests that Shurmur is generally quite sensitive to game script, especially when nursing a large lead—Shurmur’s 43.5 percent career passing rate in positive game script would have ranked 21st in the league in 2017.
Last season marked the first year that a Shurmur quarterback posted an adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) above 7.00—none of his signal-callers before Case Keenum finished a season with an AYA above 5.61, a mark that would have ranked 30th last season. While this lack of quarterback talent may explain Shurmur’s general disposition towards the run, he has seemingly evolved as a playcaller as it relates to game script—Shurmur opted to stay with the run early in his career in negative game script but his teams have ranked in the top half of the league in negative game script passing rate in his last three stints, even with some mediocre quarterback play.
Increased passing attempts won’t necessarily boost a quarterback’s fantasy value—we want to favor efficiency over volume—but it can increase the prospects of pass-catchers on teams that figure to find themselves in losing situations often.
Shurmur’s Running Backs
|Year||Player||G||Att||Yds||TD||Tgt||Rec||Yds||TD||PPR||Backfield Touch %|
Some coaches prefer a running back committee while others will force a workhorse role but Shurmur has adjusted to his roster talent. Given a player worthy of a three-down role, Shurmur will maximize that player’s usage—three of his backs have finished a season with at least 72 percent of the backfield touches, a touch share mark reached by just four backs in 2017. Without a workhorse, though, Shurmur hasn’t afforded a back more than a 43.5 percent touch share, or the 27th-largest running back share in football last season.
|2009||Brandon Gibson *||9||7.7||3.8||38.7||0.1||8.1||12.8%|
Last season marked the first season that a pass-catcher scored more than 200 PPR points (approximate WR24 numbers) under Shurmur and he had two players finish as top-20 fantasy wide receivers. Not only has Shurmur lacked quality quarterback play, but he’s also lacked pass-catchers worthy of a dominant target share—prior to 2017, no pass-catcher commanded a target share higher than 21.4 percent under Shurmur, a market share that would have ranked 20th last season.
It’s also notable that Shurmur has rarely deployed a tight end as a primary target in his offenses—Kyle Rudolph was the first tight end to post a target share above 15 percent under Shurmur and just the second tight end to finish the season as a top-three target on his team.
What it All Means for the Giants in 2018
In addition to a new head coach, the Giants will return a healthy Odell Beckham Jr., one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league in Evan Engram, and have added one of the best rookie running backs in recent history. The pieces are there for a dynamic offense and it will be on Shurmur to deploy his weapons in the most effective way possible.
After finishing as the fantasy QB7 in 2015, Eli Manning has finished outside the top 20 in consecutive seasons. The Giants are projected to win just 6.5 games this year and Shurmur is willing to ramp up the passing attack in the face of negative game script, but volume hasn’t been the problem for Manning—he’s ranked in the top seven in attempts in each of the last two seasons. Where Shurmur may be able to coax Manning into a more efficient season is through the deep ball. After ranking 23rd in deep ball rate (passes thrown 15+ yards downfield) in 2016, Case Keenum ranked 13th under Shurmur last season. Manning hasn’t ranked higher than 20th in deep ball rate in any of the last three seasons. The hiring of Mike Shula as Shurmur’s offensive coordinator emphasizes the desire to get Manning back to his 2015 form.
Maybe the most important precedent that Shurmur has set as it relates to the fantasy value of the Giants is his willingness to use a single running back at a tremendous rate. The Giants spent the second overall pick on Saquon Barkley and Shurmur has proved willing to offer three-quarters of backfield touches to a single back.
Over the last two seasons, the Giants averaged 465 total running back touches—75 percent of that workload would mean nearly 350 touches for the rookie. Even if game script dictates passing situations, expect Barkley to stay on the field and command a notable target share.
Regardless of how many mouths there are to feed in an offense, a player as dominant as Odell Beckham will command a target share that rivals any player in the league. Expect Beckham to at least see the 27 percent target share that Adam Thielen saw under Shurmur last season.
Beyond Beckham, targets will be thin. Whether because of talent or by design, Shurmur has rarely supported a relevant fantasy receiver beyond his primary target—last season was the first time that two players exceeded 17 percent of team targets under Shurmur. With Engram and Sterling Shepard both cannibalizing each other's targets in the middle of the field and Barkley taking a fair amount of short targets, it’s unlikely that any receiver besides Beckham draws more than 17 percent of targets.
While a moderate target share could still produce starter-caliber numbers for Engram, a similar target share will make it tough for Shepard to provide competitive fantasy numbers relative to more consistent receivers.