Three Crucial Fantasy Football Takeaways From Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken to Browns - Roto Street Journal
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Three Crucial Fantasy Football Takeaways From Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken to Browns

The Browns made a smart move by hiring interim head coach Freddie Kitchens full time as their 17th head coach in franchise history. Although Kitchens will still call the plays, the hiring of Todd Monken as their offensive coordinator will take this offense to another level. Monken’s Air Raid offense is the scheme that Baker Mayfield thrived in under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma and we all know how much Mayfield improved with Kitchens calling the shots during the second half of 2018. The blend of Kitchens’ Air Coryell and Monken’s Air Raid will be a fantasy spectacle in 2019.

Meshing the Air Raid with the Air Coryell

Even though Kitchens will be the play-caller, the Browns will mesh concepts between Monken’s Air Raid and Kitchens’ Air Coryell schemes.

Both of these schemes are based on an emphasis of spreading horizontally to go vertical. The route concepts and schemes are heavily influenced from Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense, which is largely predicated on timing. The Air Coryell exploded in the 80’s with Don Coryell’s Chargers teams and then really made its name for itself in the 2000s during the Rams’ prolific offenses under Kurt Warner.

Kitchens’ offenses want vertical chunk plays down the field — which is saw last year when he took over the play-calling. The Four Verticals route concept is a major part to both the Coryell and the Air Raid. As you’ll learn below, Baker Mayfield excelled in the Air Raid at Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley and is very familiar with these two offensive schemes. Although the Air Raid relies on mostly quicker underneath throws than the Air Coryell, both offenses are predicated perfect timing between the quarterback and the skill position players.

Monken called the plays for Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon’s 11-1 2011 Oklahoma State team under Mike Gundy, which finished second in total offense with 48.7 points per game. Blackmon finished with an absurd 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns on 122 receptions. Meanwhile, the 100 year old Weeden 4,727 passing yards and 37 touchdowns.

After taking over a winless program at Southern Miss, he led them back to a respectable 9-5 season after just three seasons. Monken was then hired by Dirk Koetter in Tampa, where he meshed his Air Raid scheme with Koetter’s Air Coryell — something that he hopes to do in Cleveland with Kitchens.

Baker Mayfield Officially Set to Explode

No one should be happier about the hires of Kitchens and Monken than QB Baker Mayfield. Unlike Todd Haley, Kitchens quickly morphed to Mayfield’s quick-slinging strengths, and the results on the entire offense were enormous. Under Kitchens, Cleveland tied for the league lead in yards per pass attempt (8.72), ranked fourth in both total yards (395.1) and passing yards (285.9) per game, all while leading the NFL in yards per play (6.86).

Unsurprisingly, Mayfield’s stats similarly skyrocketed. His completion percentage rose from 58% to 68%, while his YPA rose from 6.6 to 8.6 despite a quicker-hitting offense. Overall, Mayfield was on pace for 4508 yards, 38 TDs, and 16 INTs, equal to 300.3 FPs and a QB9 finish, a point below Drew Brees. Prior, under Haley and Hue, Mayfield was on pace for 3922 yards, 21 TDs, and 16 INTs pace, which equals 208.8 FPs, good enough for a QB20 finish just below Case Keenum.

Instead of learning an entirely new offense, Mayfield will now be able to develop inside a system where he’s already thrived. This invites innovation and refinement, which will only be furthered with new OC Todd Monken. Though Monken just completed a wildly successful campaign as the Bucs OC, Kitchens will continue calling plays. Still, he’ll rely heavily on Monken, who has 23 years coaching college Air Raid offenses, for scheming. This has already translated well to the NFL, as the 2018 Bucs led the league in passing yardage (5125 total, 320 per game) thanks to an emphasis on the deep ball (8.6 YPA, second in the league). In fact, Monkens stated:

“I like having fun. I don’t know why it has to feel like such drudgery all the time. Who needs more 5-yard plays? How can we be explosive? That’s what the game is about, man. People like big plays. I like big plays.”

As noted, Mayfield himself thrived in an Air Raid offense at Oklahoma. Between Kitchens’ familiarity and Monken’s aggressiveness, Mayfield and the Browns offense are set to explode in 2019. He’s far-and-away my favorite late round QB target, and now up to QB6 in our rankings.

The Wide Receiver Group Gets a Major Boost

This is where things will get interesting and the fantasy potential will be off the charts. With both Monken and Kitchens’ offenses being aerial-centric with chunk plays being at a premium, the Browns wideouts will be on the rise. As of now, the most talented of the bunch will of course be Jarvis Landry. However, the team has been connected to alpha wide-outs such as Odell Beckham Jr., and Antonio Brown. Landry is one of the quickest and best slot receivers in the game, which will fit in Monken’s Air Raid attack. If they can get their hands on a big-time outside receiver, Mayfield and the rest of the offense will reach new fantasy heights.

From when Monken took over the Buccaneers offense in 2016, Mike Evans was fed to the absolute maximum. In 2016, he had 96 receptions, 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns on an insane 173 targets. Although he followed that up with a below average campaign by his standards, he still recorded a 71-1,001-5 season on 136 targets. Then just last season, he racked up 1,524 yards and 8 touchdowns on 86 receptions (138 targets). Overall, the Browns need to add an Evans-type receiver to take Monken’s offense to the next level.

Landry’s production should also increase under this mesh of the two schemes. As noted in our Air Raid preview, the Air Raid is predicated on widening the field horizontally, meaning Landry can go back to being a PPR monster. He’ll be utilized on whip routes and underneath patterns that will get him open immediately and also keep the pressure off Mayfield. Landry far exceeds Adam Humphries’ talents. However, Humphries still averaged over 80 targets per season, highlighted by his 76-816-5 2018 campaign.

Antonio Callaway is also another player who will benefit from being a full time receiver in these schemes. He’ll be more of a boom-or-bust player who will represent good value in DFS, but Mayfield looked his way more and more as the season went on. It also helps that the likely departure of Breshad Perriman, yes, Breshad Perriman, will free up more downfield looks for Callaway. Since Perriman joined the team at the halfway point, he averaged 21.25 yards per reception. How’s that for chunk yardage?

Monken Will Make Things Easier for Chubb… Until Hunt Returns

Nick Chubb’s our running back. I don’t know about that. We’re always looking for good
football players to come in and compete. We like competitive situations, and, of course, that’ll be a competitive situation. Nick Chubb’s not going to back down from any kind of competitive situation. That’s why Nick Chubb’s a great football player and a great Cleveland Brown.”

– Freddie Kitchens at the NFL Combine

If there’s a major question mark of this fantasy offense, it will be based off the usage between Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb had a very solid rookie year, finishing just four yards off a 1,000 yard campaign. We were expecting big things from Chubb in his sophomore year. However, Browns GM John Dorsey decided to roll the dice on former Chiefs’ and currently suspended running back, Kareem Hunt. Chubb proved he could be a three down horse, but the addition of Hunt will turn this once great value hole, into a disgusting committee — with the possibility of the more talented Hunt taking over eventually.

Although Monken’s Bucs’ teams have struggled on the ground, it could be more of a talent issue than a scheme issue. According to Jake Burns of Cleveland.com, the mixture of schemes could be a positive for whichever running back is lining up behind (or next to) Mayfield. Last season, Chubb ran the ball into 8-man boxes a league-leading 30 percent of the time. On the contrary, the Bucs ran into 8-man boxes less than 20 percent of the time. Also, Monken ran three or more wide receiver sets nearly 60 percent of the time, which will help Chubb immensely, as he had one of the league’s highest yards per carry when there were three or more wideouts on the field.

This backfield will of course be based on how many games Hunt is suspended. The baseline is six, with it ranging into double digits. For now, we dropped Chubb down to our RB18 (-8 vs ECR), and have Hunt up to our RB30 (+11 vs the ECR). It’s clear the rest of the internet is either waiting for the suspension number, or they’re buying in on Chubb no matter what the suspension will be.

Summary

Overall, the retaining of Kitchens and the addition of Monken should take the Browns offense to the next level. We couldn’t have been higher on the Browns offense last year (just check our YouTube), and these two hires will take our love to a new level. The mesh of Monken’s Air Raid and Kitchens’ Air Coryell is a match made in fantasy heaven for Mayfield and it should make life easier for the wideouts. Although the run game looks like a negative from the outside, if they sprinkle in more of Monken’s 3-wide receiver sets, the running backs will also benefit from more space. These hires couldn’t be better and get ready for year two of the Browns fantasy hype train.

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