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2009 Coaching Changes
Fantasy Impact: Denver Broncos

New Head Coach: Josh McDaniels (NE OC: 2006-2008; QB Coach: 2004-2008; Def Assist: 2002-2003; Personnel Assist: 2001)

Previous Head Coach: Mike Shanahan (1995-2008)

New Offensive Coordinator: Mike McCoy (CAR QB Coach: 2003-2008; Off. Assist: 2002; WR Coach: 2001; Off. Assist: 2000)

At 32 years and 8 months of age at the time of his hiring (January 12, 2009), Josh McDaniels became the fifth youngest head coach in NFL history (currently the sixth after Tampa Bay hired Raheem Morris on January 17, 2009). He began his NFL career back in 2001 as a personnel and coaching assistant with the New England Patriots. The following year he took on coaching responsibilities full time – breaking down film and preparing scouting charts for the defensive staff. He continued to work in that capacity until 2004 when he was promoted to Quarterbacks Coach.

During his first season working under the new title McDaniels helped guide Tom Brady to a career best at the time 92.6 QB rating. That mark today is the second highest rating Brady has posted in his career, only topped by the amazing 117.2 efficiency rank he recorded in 2007 during New England’s undefeated march through the regular season.

In 2006, a year after Charlie Weiss had left New England to become Head Coach at Notre Dame, McDaniels received another promotion and began working as the Patriots offensive coordinator while still maintaining his coaching responsibilities with the quarterbacks. During his three years as coordinator the Patriots offense continually ranked among the best in the league in total yardage and points scored. Last season may have been McDaniels most impressive feat in guiding the offense when the unit finished fifth in total yards per game, and eighth in points scored per game despite losing quarterback Tom Brady during the first week of the season.

Following McDaniels to Denver is long-time Carolina Panthers coach Mike McCoy. McCoy will serve as McDaniels offensive coordinator after spending the last six-years as John Fox’s Quarterbacks Coach in Carolina. He spent the three years prior to that as an offensive assistant with the Panthers – working one season with their wide receivers. McCoy will also function as Denver’s QB Coach in 2009.

Quarterbacks: Kyle Orton; Chris Simms; Tom Brandstater (R)

After a failed attempt to acquire Matt Cassel during the offseason lead to a doomed relationship between McDaniels and Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton now finds himself in place to be the starting quarterback in Denver. Chris Simms will challenge him for the starting job during camp, but Orton should be considered the early favorite.

While some may expect Orton to be a disappointment in Denver in comparison to what Cutler had accomplished in his time there, it’s very possible he could function as a borderline starter in fantasy leagues this season. In fifteen starts with Chicago last year the Purdue product threw for 18 touchdowns and just under 3000 yards passing. Considering the upgrade in talent he now has at wide receiver those are statistics he could very well improve upon. The change in system itself should also benefit him.

I wouldn’t focus on acquiring Orton as a starter, but at the moment he is a QB I would target in later rounds of your draft. It’s very possible he could finish the season with 3000-3200 passing yards and 20-22 touchdowns.

Running Backs: Knowshon Moreno; Correll Buckhalter; LaMont Jordan; J.J. Arrington; Peyton Hillis (FB); Ryan Torain; Darius Walker; Cecil Sapp (FB)

Despite the departure of Mike Shanahan the Broncos running back situation remains as muddled as ever. With the use of the twelfth overall pick in this years draft on Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno, one has to assume he will be starting in Denver’s backfield at some point this season and may even earn that role during training camp.

Correll Buckhalter and LaMont Jordan will also battle for carries in Denver. Jordan is familiar with McDaniels system having played last year in New England. Back injuries have plagued him in recent years though and it’s unlikely the veteran will be able to handle a heavy work load over a full course of the year. It might even be a challenge for him to make it through the preseason without any issues.

If J.J. Arrington is to make the squad it is likely either Jordan or Buckhalter will be cut as a result. Peyton Hillis appears set to remain with the Broncos as their starting full back. Torain’s future in Denver is a question mark at this point, while Walker and Sapp are long shots to make the active roster. Denver may try to trade at least one of their rushers before the start of the season.

There are too many unknowns to begin predicting who will produce what stats, but in both the long and short term Moreno holds the most value among Bronco half backs. None can be considered better than a number three option in fantasy leagues at the moment though.

Wide Receivers: Brandon Marshall; Eddie Royal; Brandon Stokley; Jabar Gaffney; Glenn Martinez; Kenny McKinley (R)

At wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal are entrenched as the starters. It’s doubtful either will match the totals they posted last season however now that Jay Cutler is in Chicago. That said Marshall should still prove capable of producing 1000-1100 yards receiving on 85-95 receptions. He should also finish with about 6-9 touchdowns this year.

Royal’s numbers are likely to take a bigger hit after an impressive rookie campaign in which he recorded 91 receptions for 980 yards. If Denver has to play from behind a lot Royal may have a chance to reach 900 yards again, but I’d expect his numbers to drop by 10-20 receptions and a good 100-200 yards in ’09.

Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney will man the slot positions for the Broncos. Gaffney is familiar with the new system after spending the last three years of his career in New England with McDaniels. Both may come in handy off the waiver wire at times, but won’t be worth drafting. Martinez and rookie Kenny McKinley should be considered non factors this season.

Tight Ends: Tony Scheffler; Daniel Graham; Richard Quinn

Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham could both prove useful at the tight end position in 2009. There is no doubt Scheffler comes with the most upside, but he also is a bit of an injury risk and it was rumored this offseason the team was willing to trade him. Graham on the other hand is familiar with McDaniels from his years as a Patriot (2002-2006) and may pose a threat to Scheffler’s playing time as a result. He’s considered more of a blocking tight end, but his 32 receptions, 4 touchdowns, and 389 receiving yards in ’08 show that he can contribute as a receiver as well.