The Browns have made it official, naming Kevin Stefanski as their new head coach. Stefanski was the Vikings offensive coordinator in 2019 after working his way up from assistant to the head coach, starting in 2006. It was a slow and steady rise through the Vikings coaching ranks.
The Vikings tapped Stefanski as the offensive coordinator after he finished out 2018 as the interim OC after John DeFilippo was let go. In 2019, he helped improve the Vikings offensive output considerably, as his offense helped Davlin Cook and Stefon Diggs to their best seasons so far and helped Kirk Cousins go from the 14th-highest-rated passer in 2018 to the fourth-best in 2019.
The Vikings ranked 30th in pass attempts and 24th in passing yards and 14th in passing touchdowns while ranking fourth in rushing attempts, sixth in rushing yards and sixth in rushing touchdowns. That is a pretty efficient passing game and likely a little too reliant on the run. Coaching under Mike Zimmer probably dictated some of the run-first approach, as he wasn’t happy with DeFilippo’s pass-heavy offense, so Stefanski’s offense could be a bit more balanced. His offense also ranked eighth in targets and receptions for running backs, which is always a strong trait for fantasy upside.
Pro Football Focus has a metric where they try to quantify play calling but looking at a team’s success on a play-by-play basis, which ranked Stefanski as the fourth-best play-caller. Much of the Browns trouble was linked to Freddie Kitchens’ play calling, so an upgrade in that department is severely needed for an offense stacked at the skill positions.
Baker Mayfield’s 2018 was one Browns fans would like to forget, as he ranked 20th in quarterback fantasy points and 27th in fantasy points per game. He came in at 31st in completion percentage and quarterback rating while Cousins finished third in completion percentage and seventh in quarterback rating. The Vikings also had a below-average offensive line and missed Adam Thielen for a big chunk of the season. The expectation that Mayfield would become more efficient under Stefanski is one we should be able to bank on, as he doesn’t have much room to get worse.
If Stefanski continues to be run-heavy with an efficient passing game, we can expect Nick Chubb to be a top fantasy back once again while Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry should have more touchdown opportunities due to offensive efficiency but also have trouble seeing big target numbers.
Kitchens’ offense was frustrating to watch last season. The Browns should have worked harder at shoring up their offensive line but seemed to think playmakers would magically make the line look better, and it did not. Mayfield did not look good under duress, but Kitchens never seemed to adjust to his quarterback’s needs as a player. Mayfield has talent, but he’s not going to all of a sudden be a player that can win based on him willing it to happen. He needs to be brought along a bit slower, and Stefanski should be able to get more out of the offense and Mayfield.