The Market Report: Coaching Carousel

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The Market Report: Coaching Carousel

The 2022 season just wrapped up, but it’s never too early to start thinking about the next fantasy season. The excitement really starts when free agency officially kicks off the new league year in mid-March, and it rounds into high gear during the NFL Draft in late April, but players are already gaining or losing momentum based on the latest batch of coaching hires.

The coaching carousel took another spin this off-season, with five teams replacing their head coaches and nine other teams making changes at their offensive playcalling positions. In this article, I broke down every new offensive playcaller before analyzing how these coaching changes will affect fantasy for the 2023 season.

OFFENSIVE PLAYCALLER CHANGES

Arizona Cardinals

  • Offensive Playcaller: Drew Petzing

  • Age: 35

  • Playcalling Experience: None of note

  • Other Coaching Experience: Browns QBs (2022), Browns TEs (2020-21), Vikings WRs (2019), Vikings assistant (2014-17)

  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Kevin Stefanski (2018-22), Pat Shurmur (2016-17), Norv Turner (2014-15)

  • Notable: 10 years of NFL experience, worked with new HC Jonathan Gannon from 2014-17 in Minnesota

Baltimore Ravens

  • Offensive Playcaller: Todd Monken
  • Age: 57
  • Playcalling Experience: Georgia OC (2020-22), Browns OC (2019), Buccaneers (2016-18), Southern Miss HC (2013-15), Oklahoma State OC (2011-12)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Jaguars WRs (2007-10), LSU WRs (2005-06), Oklahoma State WRs (2002-04)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Freddie Kitchens (2019), Dirk Koetter (2016-18, 2007-10), Mike Gundy (2011-12), Jimbo Fisher (2005-06), Les Miles (2002-04, 2005-06)
  • Notable: Back-to-back NCAA titles as Georgia OC in 2021-22, 34 years of offensive coaching experience, cousin Jeff Monken is the Army HC

Carolina Panthers

  • Offensive Playcaller: Frank Reich
  • Age: 61
  • Playcalling Experience: Colts HC (2018-22), Chargers OC (2014-15)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Eagles OC (2016-17), Chargers QBs (2013), Colts QBs/WRs (2009-11)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Doug Pederson (2016-17), Mike McCoy (2013-15), Ken Whisenhunt (2012), Jim Caldwell (2008-11)
  • Notable: 41-35-1 career HC record (.539), Super Bowl LII champion as the Eagles OC in 2017, 14-year NFL career as a QB

Dallas Cowboys

  • Offensive Playcaller: Mike McCarthy
  • Age: 59
  • Playcalling Experience: Packers HC (2006-18), 49ers OC (2005), Saints OC (2000-04)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Cowboys HC (2020-present), Packers QBs (1999), Chiefs QBs (1995-98)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Sherman Lewis (1999), Paul Hackett (1994-97, 1989-92)
  • Notable: 166-107-2 career HC record (.607), Super Bowl XLV champion as the Packers HC in 2010, worked with Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, and Rich Gannon

Denver Broncos

  • Offensive Playcaller: Sean Payton
  • Age: 59
  • Playcalling Experience: Saints HC (2013-21, 2006-11), Cowboys assistant HC (2003-05), Giants OC (2000-02)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Giants QBs (1999), Eagles QBs (1997-98)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Jim Fassel (1999-2002), Jon Gruden (1997)
  • Notable: 161-97 career HC record (.624), Super Bowl XLIV champion with Saints in 2009, most points (2804) and yards (40,158) by any HC in first 100 games

Houston Texans

  • Offensive Playcaller: Bobby Slowik
  • Age: 35
  • Playcalling Experience: None of note.
  • Other Coaching Experience: 49ers offensive assistant (2019-22)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Kyle Shanahan (2019-22)
  • Notable: Started under Mike Shanahan as a defensive assistant in Washington in 2011-13, son of Bob Slowik, who worked two decades in the NFL as a defensive assistant and is now in the CFL

Indianapolis Colts

  • Offensive Playcaller: Shane Steichen
  • Age: 37
  • Playcalling Experience: Eagles OC (2021-22), Chargers OC (2019-20)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Chargers QBs (2016-19), Chargers offensive assistant (2014-15), Browns offensive assistant (2013)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Nick Sirianni (2021-22), Anthony Lynn (2017-20), Ken Whisenhunt (2016-18), Mike McCoy (2014-16), Frank Reich (2014-15), Norv Turner (2013), Rob Chudzinski (2013)
  • Notable: UNLV QB (2003-06), has worked with Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert, and Jalen Hurts to open his career

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Offensive Playcaller: Kellen Moore
  • Age: 34
  • Playcalling Experience: Cowboys OC (2019-22)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Cowboys QBs (2018)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Mike McCarthy (2020-22), Jason Garrett (2019)
  • Notable: 50-3 record as Boise State QB in 2008-11, only FBS QB with 50 wins, 104 career attempts with Detroit (2012-14) and Dallas (2015-17)

New England Patriots

  • Offensive Playcaller: Bill O’Brien
  • Age: 53
  • Playcalling Experience: Alabama OC (2021-22), Texans HC (2014-20), Penn State HC (2012-13), Patriots OC (2011), Duke OC (2005-06), Georgia Tech OC (2001-02)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Patriots QBs/WRs (2007-10)
  • Coaches Worked Under: Nick Saban (2021-22), Bill Belichick (2007-11), Chan Gailey (2002)
  • Notable: 54-52 NFL HC record (.509), four AFC South titles in six-plus seasons in Houston

New York Jets

  • Offensive Playcaller: Nathaniel Hackett
  • Age: 43
  • Playcalling Experience: Broncos HC (2022), Jaguars OC (2016-18), Bills OC (2013-14), Syracuse OC (2011-12)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Packers OC (2019-21), Jaguars QBs (2015-16)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Matt LaFleur (2019-21), Doug Marrone (2010-18), Jon Gruden (2006-07)
  • Notable: 4-11 career HC record (.267), son of Paul Hackett, who coached 42 years in the NFL and college including as Pitt HC (1989-92) and USC HC (1998-2000)

Philadelphia Eagles

  • Offensive Playcaller: Brian Johnson
  • Age: 36
  • Playcalling Experience: Florida OC (2020), Houston OC (2017), Utah OC (2010-13)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Eagles QBs (2021-22), Florida QBs (2018-19), Mississippi State QBs (2014-16), Utah QBs (2010-11)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Nick Sirianni/Shane Steichen (2021-22), Dan Mullen (2018-20, 2014-16), Major Applewhite (2017), Norm Chow (2011)
  • Notable: Utah’s starting QB after Alex Smith graduated, 2008 Mountain West Player of the Year, and 2009 Sugar Bowl MVP

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Offensive Playcaller: Dave Canales
  • Age: 41
  • Playcalling Experience: None of note
  • Other Coaching Experience: Seahawks QBs (2022, 2018-19), Seahawks pass game (2020-21), Seahawks WRs (2010-17)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Shane Waldron (2021-22), Brian Schottenheimer (2018-20), Darrell Bevell (2011-17)
  • Notable: Coached under Pete Carroll from 2009-22, Super Bowl champion in 2013,

Tennessee Titans

  • Offensive Playcaller: Tim Kelly
  • Age: 36
  • Playcalling Experience: Texans OC (2000-01)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Titans passing game (2023), Texans OC (2019), Texans TEs/O-line (2016-18)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Todd Downing (2022), David Culley (2021), Bill O’Brien (2012-20)
  • Notable: Brother Dennis Kelly is entering his 12th season as an offensive tackle in the NFL

Washington Commanders

  • Offensive Playcaller: Eric Bieniemy
  • Age: 53
  • Playcalling Experience: Colorado OC (2011-12)
  • Other Coaching Experience: Chiefs OC (2018-22), Chiefs RBs (2013-17), Vikings RBs (2006-10)
  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Andy Reid (2013-22), Darrell Bevell (2006-10), Karl Dorrell (2003-05), Gary Barnett (2001-02)
  • Notable: Nine-year NFL RB, Colorado’s all-time leading rusher (3940 yards), 1990 All-American and national champion, two-time Super Bowl champion with Chiefs (2019, 2022)

UPGRADES

Players that I’m more optimistic about for the 2023 fantasy season because of an offensive playcalling change.

Quarterbacks

Jalen Hurts (Phi) — Hurts is set to become one of the league’s highest-paid players after a special third season. He finished behind only Patrick Mahomes for the 2022 MVP and behind just Josh Allen in FPG (25.9 to 25.7), and he’s coming off one of the best performances by a losing player in Super Bowl history. The Eagles should still have an elite offensive line and arguably the league’s best WR tandem with DeVonta Smith developing into a bona fide superstar next to A.J. Brown. Hurts did lose former OC Shane Steichen to Indianapolis, but new playcaller Brian Johnson is one of the league’s top rising offensive coaches since joining Nick Sirianni’s staff in 2021. Johnson has actually known Hurts since Jalen was a five-year-old ballboy for his high school team in Texas in 2003. Johnson quarterbacked at Robert E. Lee High School where Jalen’s father, Averion Hurts, served on the coaching staff as a defensive coordinator. Johnson unsuccessfully recruited Hurts to Mississippi State out of high school and Florida as a transfer student — he went to Alabama and Oklahoma, respectively — before finally getting his chance to work with Hurts for the last two years as his QB coach. Hurts will be hard-pressed to top his sensational third season, but I wouldn’t put it past him after making significant gains under Johnson.

Justin Herbert (LAC) — There was some thought the Chargers could move on from Brandon Staley after back-to-back disappointing finishes in his first two seasons, especially with Sean Payton available and living in the Los Angeles area. Owner Dean Spanos decided to give Staley a third crack at the job with OC Joe Lombardi and his horizontal offensive attack taking the fall after the 2022 season. The Chargers were conducting a wide-ranging search for their next offensive coordinator until Kellen Moore fell into their laps a week after the Cowboys lost in the Divisional Round. Los Angeles inked him to a deal less than 24 hours after being let go by the Cowboys, and he’s built an impressive resume of offensive success at just 34 years old.

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense had the only offense better than Dallas’ during Moore’s four-season tenure in Big D. The Cowboys ranked second to Kansas City in offensive PPG (26.02) and YPG (391.0) in that span. What makes the feat even more impressive is the fact that the likes of Andy Dalton (9 starts), Cooper Rush (6), Ben DiNucci (1), and Garrett Gilbert (1) started a full season (17-of-66 games) in that span with Dak Prescott missing action for leg and thumb injuries. Moore took some criticism for his passing game concepts being too reliant on curl, hitch, and comeback patterns, which limited the yards-after-catch opportunities for his receivers. On the positive side, Prescott aggressively threw the ball downfield much more than Herbert, which was the top complaint of Lombardi’s horizontal attack. Dak’s average depth of target never dipped below 7.7 yards in his four seasons with Moore calling plays, and he averaged 8.4 yards overall. Meanwhile, Herbert has yet to top an aDOT of 7.6 yards in his first three seasons with an average of 7.1 yards. Moore could help to unlock Herbert as a downfield passer, which would open more ceiling performances from the talented fourth-year passer.

Russell Wilson (Den) — Russ can’t possibly play worse than he did in his first season with the Broncos, and he also can’t receive worse playcalling than he did from Nathaniel Hackett last season. The Broncos were expected to be one of the league’s best offenses after acquiring Wilson from the Seahawks, but they instead finished dead last in PPG (16.9), third-down percentage (29.1%), and red-zone drives (36). Russ finished with career worsts in TD rate (3.3%), completion percentage (60.5%), and QB rating (84.4), and it took until Week 17 for him to throw for more TDs than bathrooms (12) in his $25 million Colorado mansion. Wilson quietly picked up his play at the end of 2022 with a pair of three passing touchdown games while averaging 7.9 YPA in his final five games.

Wilson now has one of the NFL’s most respected offensive minds calling plays for the Broncos in Sean Payton, which should breathe new life into this offense and their declining 34-year-old quarterback. Payton has plenty of experience setting the pocket and getting his quarterback on the move to create throwing windows for shorter quarterbacks, having worked with Drew Brees for 15 years. That’s one of the few similarities between the two quarterbacks, though. Wilson has a long history of holding onto the ball to throw downfield while absorbing way too many, averaging 43.8 sacks taken per season. That includes a league-high 55 sacks in his first year with the Broncos. Brees never took more than 37 sacks in any season while averaging 28.0 sacks taken per season under Payton. Wilson is unlikely to dramatically improve at getting rid of the rock quicker as Brees did for so many years under Payton, but any improvement in that area would help Russ and a receiver like Jerry Jeudy in 2023.

Indianapolis Colts QB (Ind) — The Colts very likely don’t have their next starting quarterback on their current roster, but whoever it is will be in good hands with Shane Steichen taking over the offense. Steichen, along with Brian Johnson, helped to develop Jalen Hurts into the MVP runner-up and the star of Super Bowl LVII over the last two years. He also previously worked with Justin Herbert (2020) and Philip Rivers (2016-19) during his time with the Chargers. Herbert set rookie passing records for passing TDs (31) and completions (396) with Steichen as his OC, and Rivers averaged 7.9 YPA and 29.0 passing TDs per season in his mid to late 30s with Steichen serving as his QB coach. In Philadelphia, he took over playcalling duties in the second half of 2021 through Super Bowl LVII, and the Eagles finished third in PPG (28.1) and third in YPG (389.1) in 2022. Steichen earned a reputation as an aggressive playcaller with the Eagles who wasn’t afraid to attack downfield with vertical concepts — Hurts finished with the third-most TD passes on downfield passes with 11 in 2022. Steichen comes from the school of Norv Turner, having played quarterback with Scott Turner at UNLV before cutting his teeth under Norv with the Chargers. Steichen also showed he can adapt his offense to a mobile quarterback if the Colts go that route this off-season, with the Eagles posting the most rushing yards (5224) over the last two seasons.

Mac Jones (NE) — Bill O’Brien has an offensive coaching background, which is an upgrade over New England’s playcalling situation last year. Bill Belichick opted to hand his offense to a pair of veteran non-offensive assistants in Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, who combined for a 23-52-1 record (.306) as head coaches away from Belichick’s nest. The Patricia/Judge experiment went even worse than imagined with the Patriots’ offense regressing across the board without Josh McDaniels, including averaging the seventh-fewest YPG (314.6) and ranking dead last in red-zone efficiency (42.2%). Jones saw his TD rate (4.2% to 3.4%), YPA (7.3 to 6.8), and QB rating (92.5 to 84.8) plummet as a sophomore under their tutelage. Jones lost a year of development, but he’ll receive competent coaching from O’Brien, who won’t be afraid to coach him hard.

O’Brien’s 2011 Patriots finished second in YPG (428.0) and third in PPG (32.1), but the 2023 Patriots won’t have Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, or Wes Welker walking through the door. New England’s two-TE offense with Gronk and Aaron Hernandez took off under O’Brien, and he’ll look to get Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith going after a mostly disappointing first two seasons in New England. O’Brien eventually took New England’s offense to Houston in 2014 and adapted it to Deshaun Watson’s rushing ability in his final years in Houston. He also used more spread and RPO concepts in the last two years at Alabama, which was a similar offense to the one Jones ran with the Crimson Tide under Steve Sarkisian in 2020. Mac is unlikely to be a fantasy stud since he brings nothing to the table as a runner, but he has the chance to get back on the streaming radar with the help of O’Brien.

Running Backs

Javonte Williams (Den) — Javonte is coming off a devastating knee in early October that featured ACL and LCL tears, which means he could be looking at a lengthy rehab. J.K. Dobbins suffered ACL and LCL tears during the 2021 preseason and needed nearly 13 months to return to action. Dobbins also suffered a meniscus tear to complicate his recovery a bit more but, either way, Javonte is a candidate to miss time early in the 2023 season if his rehab follows a similar trajectory. Williams will at least be in a position to succeed when he’s eventually able to play with Sean Payton taking control of Denver’s offense. His running backs have a long history of being top-flight fantasy options starting with Deuce McAllister in 2006 and continuing throughout his tenure with Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Mark Ingram putting up healthy production, among other RBs under his watch.

Payton most recently helped Alvin Kamara to become a fantasy stud, with Saints RBs finishing with the most FPG in 2017 (38.3), 2018 (33.4), and 2020 (34.0). Drew Brees certainly did his part through the years, but Payton heavily involved his RBs in the passing game. Javonte certainly has the ability as a receiver, averaging 2.8 catches per game on just 15.8 routes per game to open his career. Payton has already made it known that the offense isn’t going to be all on Wilson’s shoulders, “The pressure is on us to put a good run game together and reduce the degree of difficulty on [Wilson’s] position.” Javonte’s ADP will be fascinating this year with a grueling recovery ahead of him, but his talent isn’t in question, and he’ll play in an ideal scheme for RB production when healthy.

Dameon Pierce (Hou) — Pierce turned out to be a fourth-round revelation, finishing as the RB21 with 13.0 FPG and 1100+ scrimmage yards in 13 games before an ankle injury ended his rookie campaign. He appears to be primed for a potentially better second season, with the Texans adding one of the minds behind San Francisco’s offense from the last four seasons. There are some slight concerns for Pierce, though, since new OC Bobby Slowik has never called plays at any level, and he’ll most likely be doing it with a rookie quarterback leading the offense. Pierce may have also played well above expectations, but there has to be some concern that the new coaching staff views his role differently, and they invest more into the backfield since the franchise has just a fourth-round tied up into Pierce.

On the positive side, Slowik should continue to emphasize pounding the rock as the Texans did under Lovie Smith, and he’ll bring San Francisco’s zone-blocking system to Houston that he learned from Kyle Shanahan and Mike McDaniel. The 49ers ranked fifth in rushing yards (8720), fourth in carries (1938), and third in rushing TDs (84) over the last four seasons during Slowik’s time as an offensive assistant. The 49ers have also been at the top of the league in 21 personnel during that span, which means Pierce will get more personal protection from a fullback after Troy Hairston owned just a 17% snap share last season. I’ll be closely following Houston’s moves at running back this off-season to see how much confidence the new coaching staff has in Pierce as the team’s lead runner. It will be wheels up for him in the early rounds in fantasy drafts if the Texans don’t bring in much competition at the position.

D’Onta Foreman (Car) — I should first note that Foreman is an unrestricted free agent so this writeup may not apply to him in a month’s time, but whoever is Carolina’s lead runner next runner should be prepared for a heavy workload. Frank Reich leaned heavily into his lead runners during his four-plus seasons as head coach in Indianapolis. Jonathan Taylor averaged 17.6 carries per game in 2020-21, and Marlon Mack averaged 17.0 carries per game before him in 2018-19. The Colts finished fifth in carries (29.4) and run rate (47.4%) in 2021, 10th in carries (28.8) and ninth in run rate (44.1%) in 2020, and fourth in carries (29.4) and fifth in run rate (46.4) in 2019. Reich is seemingly back to where he left off in Indianapolis with a strong offensive line and question marks at quarterback. RG Austin Corbett tore his ACL in the season finale, but the Panthers still have an ascending offensive line, which will be led by 2022 No. 6 overall pick Ikem Ekwonu in the future. Foreman expressed plenty of interest in remaining with the Panthers after racking up career-highs in carries (203), rushing yards (914), and touchdowns (5), and he could be set up for plenty of volume if they reunite for 2023.

Receivers

Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely (Bal) — The Ravens' offense, specifically their passing attack, moved in the wrong direction in their final season with Greg Roman calling plays — Baltimore averaged the fifth-fewest passing YPG (178.8) and eight-fewest YPA (6.6). HC John Harbaugh and company conducted a wide-ranging search for Roman’s replacement before settling on 57-year-old Todd Monken to be the team’s new playcaller. Monken is expected to better blend Baltimore’s running game with more of a downfield aerial attack, and he previously ran a vertical passing attack in two different stints under Dirk Koetter. Monken was considered more of a pass-happy playcaller until he transformed Georgia from a run-heavy offense into one of college football’s most complete and balanced offenses over the course of the last three seasons. He notably ran heavy two-TE sets with the Bulldogs featuring future NFL studs in Brock Bowers, a future early first-round pick in 2024, and Darnell Washington, a future Day 2 pick this spring. Andrews, a 2022 second-round fantasy pick, is coming off a frustrating season in which he averaged career lows in YPR (11.6) and aDOT (10.1) with Baltimore’s offense failing into disrepair. Likely could also see his role increase in his second season after averaging a 40% snap share and 16.8 routes per game as a rookie. The Ravens should aggressively address their league worst receiving corps during the off-season, but Monken is already in the lab coming up with ways to get his athletic TEs better involved in 2023. (Check out Lamar Jackson’s blurb below for more background on Monken)

DOWNGRADES

Players that I’m more pessimistic about for the 2023 fantasy season because of an offensive playcalling change.

Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott (Dal) — HC Mike McCarthy made OC Kellen Moore the scapegoat after losses to the 49ers in back-to-back postseasons, which is bad news for Prescott and the rest of the offense in 2023. McCarthy will follow Moore out the door at the end of this season unless he can get the Cowboys over their Divisional Round hump. McCarthy inherited Moore and his offense from the Jason Garrett era, and he clearly wanted the chance to run his own show after giving Moore three seasons as OC. McCarthy’s offenses finished in the top 10 in both yards and points per game eight different times in his 13 seasons in Green Bay (2006-18), but they did it just once in his final four years with the Packers. McCarthy will take over playcalling duties with Brian Schottenheimer as his top lieutenant (feel the excitement!), and it’s unlikely they’ll match the success Moore had as offensive coordinator in 2019-22.

Patrick Mahomes and the high-flying Chiefs offense had the only offense better than Dallas’ during Moore’s four-season tenure. The Cowboys ranked second to Kansas City in offensive PPG (26.02) and YPG (391.0) during that span. What makes the feat even more impressive is the fact that the likes of Andy Dalton (9 starts), Cooper Rush (6), Ben DiNucci (1), and Garrett Gilbert (1) started a full season (17-of-66 games) in that span with Dak missing action for leg and thumb injuries. The Cowboys may have plateaued in the playoffs with Moore working with Dak as his backup and then as his coach since 2016, but McCarthy is going to be hard-pressed to take this offense to new heights in his first chance as Dallas’ playcaller. It’s yet to be seen just how different Dallas' offense will look, but it wouldn't be surprising if they get out of the gates slow in 2023 with Dak running a different scheme for the first time in his eighth season.

Kyler Murray (Ari) — Murray’s recovery from ACL surgery is the most important development for the future of the Cardinals. The organization appears to already be eyeing 2024 as their return to postseason contention, with Kyler a candidate to miss the early part of next season as he rehabs his injury. The Cardinals are currently tied with the Colts for the third-longest Super Bowl odds at +18000, ahead of only the Texans. Owner Michael Bidwill is using next season as a chance to go into reset mode with an extremely young and green coaching staff led by 40-year-old Jonathan Gannon. The first-time HC hired 35-year-old Drew Petzing to be his offensive coordinator despite having no previous experience as a playcaller. Gannon at least comes from a forward-thinking organization like the Eagles, but Petzing is in a bit of an awkward spot as a new playcaller who is working for a young defensive-minded HC. Petzing coaxed a career year out of Jacoby Brissett in his first season as QB coach, but he failed to find the same success with Deshaun Watson in his return to football, who managed the worst stretch of play in his five-season career. Time will tell if the Cardinals made a sharp move hiring Gannon and company, but at the very least, the Cardinals should be expected to take their lumps in 2023.

Running Back

Austin Ekeler (LAC) — Ekeler was by far the biggest beneficiary of former OC Joe Lombardi’s horizontal passing attack, finishing as the RB1 (22.1 FPG) in 2022 and the RB2 (21.7) in 2021 under Lombardi’s watch. He posted a staggering 107 receptions on 128 targets last season to easily pace all NFL RBs — Christian McCaffrey was the next closest at 85 receptions and 108 targets. It was the second-most catches by a RB in a season all-time behind only CMC’s 116 catches in 2019. Ekeler also finished with the second-most RB catches (70) and tied for the most targets (94) in his first season under Staley in 2021. Ekeler is still going to be heavily involved in Los Angeles’ updated passing game, but new OC Kellen Moore will want to push the ball more downfield than Lombardi did. Cowboys RBs combined for the ninth-fewest targets at the position last season with 85, which equated to a 15.2% share. They also never finished with more than the 10th-most targets at the position in Moore’s four seasons despite the fact that Dallas ranked inside the top eight in plays run in each of Moore’s four seasons. Ekeler was already a prime regression candidate thanks to his 38 touchdowns in the last two seasons, and his 17.9% target share from 2022 should also take a step back.

WATCH LIST

Players whom we’re not ready to upgrade or downgrade for the 2023 season, but their situations demand monitoring based on an offensive playcalling change.

Quarterbacks

Ryan Tannehill (Ten) — The Titans hired Ran Carthon to take over general manager duties from Jon Robinson, but HC Mike Vrabel is calling the shots, at least with his coaching staff. He promoted Tim Kelly to replace fired OC Todd Downing despite the Titans averaging the third-fewest passing YPG (171.4) with Kelly serving as the team’s passing game coordinator. To be fair, Tennessee finished with the third-fewest passing attempts (456) and 13th in YPA (7.1) with A.J. Brown shipped out of town. Derrick Henry once again dominated the offense, with the Titans running at the sixth-highest rate (49.1%). Kelly’s promotion is a sign that the Titans are open to running it back with Tannehill one last time even with the Titans able to get out from under his contract this off-season. Vrabel noted that Tannehill has been at the team facility this off-season and he spoke to him about the decision to hire Kelly.

The 36-year-old OC was groomed under Bill O’Brien, first at Penn State and continuing with the Texans. Deshaun Watson was at the height of his powers with Kelly calling plays in 2020, leading the NFL in passing yards (4823), YPA (8.9), and YPC (12.6). Davis Mills then averaged 7.4 YPA and 251.6 passing yards per game with nine TDs and two INTs in his final five starts of his rookie season under Kelly despite his league-worst personnel. Both Watson and Mills took multiple steps backward in 2022 in their first seasons without Kelly guiding them. It’s no secret the Titans are going to ride Henry until his wheels fall off, and Tannehill needs more at receiver than Treylon Burks and Chig Okonkwo if he wants to climb back into fantasy relevance.

Lamar Jackson (Bal) — Lamar’s contract saga is dragging into its third off-season, and it’s yet to be seen if he’ll be leading the Ravens' offense in 2023. He’ll most likely be commanding the Ravens and the offense should start to catch up with the times after the passing attack devolved into one of the league’s worst last season. The Ravens conducted a massive offensive coordinator search with 14 different candidates interviewed, and HC John Harbaugh seemed to be targeting a new playcaller with more of a passing game background. Greg Roman ran the show for the last four seasons and the Ravens finished in the top three in rushing YPG every year during that span while ranking in the bottom six in passing YPG in three of four seasons.

Harbaugh turned to a man with 34 years of offensive coaching experience in Todd Monken, who is an Air Raid guy at heart but has shown flexibility to adapt to his personnel, including most recently at Georgia. The Bulldogs won back-to-back CFP National Championships, with Georgia’s offense nearly catching up to its elite defense. The Bulldogs' passing attack also nearly caught up to its already elite rushing attack over the course of Monken’s three seasons, and Georgia finished fifth in PPG (41.1) and YPG (501.1) in his final year. Monken’s last two forays into NFL playcalling saw Nick Chubb finish second in rushing yards (1494) for the Browns in 2019, which came a year after Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick combined for the league’s most passing yards (5358) for the Buccaneers in 2018. Jackson is likely to have fewer designed runs with Monken leading the offense, but he could open up the downfield passing attack, especially if they get some reinforcements at receiver.

Running Backs

Breece Hall (NYJ) — Hackett is in a position to ruin the momentum of our favorite second-year RB for the second straight year. Hall should be a good fit for Hackett’s offense, which should be relatively similar to Mike LaFleur's system with his background in West Coast offenses and his heavy use of outside-zone running schemes. He used the clearly superior Javonte Williams in a committee with the declining Melvin Gordon to open the 2022 season before Williams tore the ACL and LCL in his right knee in early October. Breece suffered his own ACL tear against the Broncos in Week 7 last season, which makes him a candidate to miss time early in the 2023 season. Hackett’s committee approach with Javonte last season was even more bizarre because he’d previously been willing to lean into his top backs as an offensive coordinator.

Hackett previously worked in RB-friendly offenses to start his NFL coaching career, including with Aaron Jones in 2019-21 and with Leonard Fournette in 2017-18. Lenny averaged 19.1 carries and 70.4 rushing yards per game with 14 rushing TDs in 21 games with Hackett calling the shots, and the 2017 Jaguars finished with the league’s highest run rate (48%). Hackett also involved his backs in the passing game at well above the league average in 2017-22. Jones averaged 3.3 catches and 27.1 receiving yards per game, with 11 receiving TDs in 45 contests in 2019-21. Breece showed he’s an absolute stud in just seven games as a rookie, totaling 80/463/4 rushing and 19/218/1 receiving on only 233 snaps. Hackett hopefully learned a lesson or two from his miserable tenure with the Broncos, including featuring a back like Hall as much as possible.

Rachaad White (TB) — Tampa Bay’s running backs are going to take a step back as receivers next season with Tom Brady finally retiring this off-season. Buccaneers RBs finished with the second-most targets (147) behind only Austin Ekeler and the Chargers RBs last season. White is going to lose value in the passing game but the hope is that new OC Dave Canales will bring a more balanced offensive attack to Tampa Bay. His primary background is in the passing game and his biggest claim to fame is helping to revive Geno Smith’s career as his quarterback coach last season. However, Canales has 14 years of coach experience under Pete Carroll, whose offenses are typically among the league’s more balanced units while occasionally skewing toward being one of the league’s more run-heavy units. Seattle ranked in the top 10 in YPC in each of the last five seasons while the Buccaneers finished with by far the league’s fewest YPC (3.4) and rushing YPG (75.6) in 2022. Todd Bowles is a defensive-minded HC who is likely still having nightmares about Brady’s single-season record of 733 pass attempts. Bowles ideally wants to lean more into the run game after last year’s offensive debacle, and there’s a chance White has this backfield to himself if the cap-strapped Buccaneers part ways with Leonard Fournette.

Receivers

Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson (Was) — Eric Bieniemy didn’t get his chance at a head coaching job once again with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid getting most of the credit for Kansas City’s second Super Bowl run in four years. Bieniemy didn’t call plays, which certainly hindered his ability to land one of the five available jobs, but that didn’t stop previous Reid OCs Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson in the last decade. Either way, Bieniemy decided to leave Reid’s nest this off-season for one of the riskiest offensive coordinator positions in the league, joining a Washington organization that’s in constant turmoil. Ron Rivera is another one of Reid’s friends and disciples — he coached LBs for him from 1999-2003 with the Eagles. He tabbed Bieniemy to call plays in a make-or-break season in his fourth year with a Commanders’ franchise that’s finally inching closer to an ownership change. A new owner will no doubt want to hire his own coaches and executives if Washington is coming off another losing season in 2023. The Commanders appear set to give 2022 fifth-round pick Sam Howell a chance to be the starting quarterback after just 19 attempts as a rookie. He became the team’s eighth different starter in Scott Turner’s three seasons as OC with his pro debut in last season’s finale.

Bieniemy couldn’t have picked a higher degree of difficulty for his first NFL playcalling gig. It doesn’t help that Rivera is considered one of the more conservative coaches with his run-first mentality. Bieniemy is a running back at heart — he’s still Colorado’s all-time leading rusher — but he’s worked for the last decade in Kansas City’s highly successful pass-happy offensive attack. KC finished 24th in carries per game (24.7) last season despite finishing fourth in scoring margin per game (+7.5) while the Commanders finished fourth in rushing attempts per game (31.6) despite finishing 22nd in scoring margin per game (-1.3). Bieniemy will need to push Rivera out of his comfort zone to play to the strengths of Washington’s offense with studs McLaurin and Dotson at receiver. The Chiefs moved toward more of a short-area passing attack the last two seasons, and accessing more high-percentage throws would be a great way to get his young quarterback more comfortable as a first-time starter. The Commanders’ OC gig clearly has a lot going against it, but it also presents considerable upside if Bieniemy can find some success, and McLaurin and Dotson will play big roles if he’s able to turn around this offense.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at a 60% clip or better in each of the last two seasons and he owned the last undefeated team out of 3000 entries in Scott Fish Bowl 12.