- Pat Shurmur will radically change the Giants' offense, and no one should be happier than Saquon Barkley.
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 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
2009-10: Rams Offensive Coordinator
2011-12: Browns Head Coach
2013-15: Eagles Offensive Coordinator, Interim Head Coach
2016: Vikings Tight Ends Coach, Interim Offensive Coordinator
2017: Vikings Offensive Coordinator
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 Minnesota’s interim OC late in the 2016 season after Norv Turner’s release. 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 trailing by eight or more points. Positive game script is leading by eight points or more.
Raw pass splits suggest Shurmur is a pass-first playcaller, but situation-adjusted passing rate tells a different 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% 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
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—Steven Jackson in 2009 and 2010, and Trent Richardson in 2012—have finished a season with at least 72% 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% touch share, or the 27th-largest running back share in football last season.
*RB Steven Jackson ranked second in target share for the Rams in 2009.
Last season marked the first time 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% 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. Last season, 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 and one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league in Evan Engram, all while adding 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-plus 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, and 75% of such a workload translates to nearly 350 touches for the rookie. Even if game script dictates passing situations, expect Barkley to stay on the field and secure 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 see at least the 27% target share that Adam Thielen received 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, with last season the first time that two players exceeded 17% of team targets under Shurmur. With Engram and Sterling Shepard cannibalizing one another'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.