This offseason’s NFL head coach cycle is over. The nine vacant head coach positions are officially filled. This is just the beginning of the offseason madness. Once the head coach dominoes fall, then the free agency buzz begins. When that dust is settling, then the NFL Draft dominates discussions. All of the above are crucial to keep tabs on for the 2022 fantasy football season.
What’s significant about this cycle of NFL head coach hires is that the large majority of them are taking on teams with extremely fluid quarterback situations. Aside from obviously Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville and the Chicago Bears’ investment in Justin Fields, every other team with a new head coach has question marks about the future of their quarterbacks. I am a big believer in building around a head coach rather than a quarterback. So, this batch of new head coaches, to me, is that much more important for the future of these franchises.
So, let’s break down the new NFL head coach hires as they relate to fantasy football! Each leading man will soon begin, if they haven’t already, assembling a coaching staff. We’ll break that down when it’s time, but for now, I’ll be ranking these head coach hires from first to worst based on their current, expected impact specifically for the 2022 fantasy football season.
Ranking New NFL Head Coaches’ Impact on 2022 Fantasy Football
1. Brian Daboll, New York Giants
Brian Daboll is finally taking the leap into the head coaching realm. Following the Bills’ AFC Championship loss, and Josh Allen’s 2020 breakout two seasons ago, he was highly sought after. This head coach hire is a breath of fresh air for New York Giants fans. The team hasn’t had a winning season since 2016. Daboll, working with a familiar face, joining former Bills General Manager, Joe Schoen, should turn things around sooner than later.
Any fantasy football impact Daboll will have starts with quarterback, Daniel Jones. It would be naïve to expect Jones to all of the sudden put up Josh Allen numbers. However, Jones, who like Allen is 6’5″ and roughly 230 pounds, brings a similar skill set to the field, as well. A big plus for Jones is Daboll’s addition of former Chiefs quarterback coach, Mike Kafka, to his Giants coaching staff. Having input from two coaches with ties to Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes is at good as it gets.
What could be key to Jones’ success under Daboll is implementing more designed runs into the Giants’ game plan. In 38 career games, Jones averages 4.5 rushes per game and has 1,000 total career rushing yards. In four seasons with Daboll calling the plays in Buffalo, Allen averaged 105 rushes per regular season totaling 2,325 yards in four seasons.
Beyond Jones, it’s important to unlock Saquon Barkley. It will be the most talented running back Daboll has had to work with. In doing so, Jones’ aforementioned rushing ceiling may be capped. However, getting Saquon going will likely get him back in the RB1 conversation in fantasy football, and likely at a discount in 2022 drafts. Additionally, I expect a major upgrade for the New York pass catchers. If healthy, Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay, and even Evan Engram, will all be mid to late-round draft targets.
Of all of the offseason head coach hires, Brian Daboll is the best combination of prior success lining up with talent on his new roster. I’ll feel even better about this whole thing when the Giants spend at least one of their two top-seven picks on an offensive lineman.
2. Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota Vikings
Kevin O’Connell is not the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings… but he will be. First things first, O’Connell is still wrapping up the 2021 season with Super Bowl LVI as the Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator. As soon as this weekend is over, O’Connell will officially represent the Vikings as their new head coach.
It’s encouraging for fantasy football to have a Sean McVay disciple take over this Vikings offense. Furthermore, it’s a coach that worked under Sean McVay and ran the ninth-highest scoring offense in 2021 with the eighth-most touchdowns. What is notable about this head coach hire is O’Connell’s tie to Kirk Cousins as his quarterbacks coach in 2017 back in Washington. It seems Cousins is a big draw for O’Connell, and reportedly was for many of the head coach prospects interviewing with Minnesota.
With that said, I like Cousins to actually build upon his fantasy football value. He will enter 2022 after back-to-back fantasy football seasons as QB11. Cousins generally goes undrafted in 1QB leagues. Rather than streaming Cousins on a week-by-week basis next season, he may actually be worth a late-round flier. O’Connell’s Rams offense, with newcomer, Matthew Stafford, just tossed the second-most passing touchdowns (41) this season. It’s feasible Cousins could flirt with a similar number having thrown 33 himself in 2021.
That sort of ideology bodes well for Justin Jefferson, Adam Theilen, and all other Vikings pass-catchers. After two fantasy football seasons, Justin Jefferson has yet to rank below WR6. I think he is a good bet to finish in the top-three in 2022, if not number one. O’Connell is no stranger to working with two stud wide receivers, having Cooper Kupp, the 2021 fantasy football MVP, and Odell Beckham, Jr. at his disposal. As for Dalvin Cook, it should be business as usual. The Rams definitely mix in more running backs than the Vikings are known to throughout the season. However, upon Cam Akers return to the field in L.A. for the playoff run, he is receiving bell-cow back treatment. I expect a similar volume for Cook with O’Connell as the head coach in Minnesota.
If Aaron Rodgers does leave Green Bay, the Minnesota Vikings could mess around and win the NFC North in 2022. Their hopes and dreams of achieving a divisional title rest on Kirk Cousins’ shoulders. That said, having a familiar face for Cousins, in Kevin O’Connell as the head coach, is a big deal.
3. Mike McDaniel, Miami Dolphins
Mike McDaniel is a surprise head coach hire as he is plucked away from the Shanahan coaching tree. McDaniel first has ties to Mike Shanahan dating back to 2005 as an intern with the Broncos. More importantly, though, he takes the Dolphins head coaching job after over a decade working with Mike’s son, Kyle Shanahan. McDaniel’s biggest success has been bolstering the San Francisco 49ers run game for four seasons until ultimately taking over as offensive coordinator this past season.
So, as it relates to fantasy football, one should think the Miami Dolphins backfield is going to improve. Well, of course, especially since Miami had the third-fewest rushing yards and second-fewest yards per carry last season across the league. McDaniel, in the last three seasons as both run game and offensive coordinator with the 49ers, contributed to an offense that finished top-five in rushing attempts two of those three seasons. That said, it’s really important that the Dolphins establish a lead back sooner than later. Whoever does fill that role, I will be investing in, especially in dynasty formats. My way-to-early guess is drafting Kenneth Walker III from Michigan State.
As for Tua Tagovailoa, I expect McDaniel’s impact to be a positive one. I do wish we saw more of Trey Lance with McDaniel as the offensive coordinator in San Francisco. He is closer to Tua’s skill set than what we saw with Jimmy Garopollo. Nonetheless, bringing in an offensive-minded head coach is a positive step forward for the third-year quarterback. I also like Mike Gesicki’s 2022 outlook. He, like George Kittle in San Francisco, is more likely to run routes than spend time blocking. He is a good bet to produce top-10 numbers next season. It wouldn’t surprise me if he hangs out in the top-five during the season.
The big winner in Miami with McDaniel as head coach is undoubtedly Jaylen Waddle. In his rookie season, Waddle averaged 15.5 PPR points per game and finished as WR14. He isn’t quite the size of Deebo Samuel, but I really love the idea of McDaniel using him in different roles on this offense. I expect more chunk, big-yardage plays from Waddle next season as opposed to a high reception count on short-yardage plays. He is Miami’s best offensive player and should be on full display with McDaniel as head coach.
4. Josh McDaniels, Las Vegas Raiders
It looked like Josh McDaniels was going to be the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach a few years ago. He ultimately decided to return to the Patriots as their offensive coordinator. For good reason, too. The Patriots have finished in the top-10 in league scoring all but one (2020) of McDaniels’ 14 seasons calling the plays. Now, McDaniels heads to the AFC West to try and keep pace with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert.
The player who will thrive under McDaniels’ head coach regime the most is tight end, Darren Waller. In seven of his 14 seasons as the Patriots’ offensive play caller, a New England tight end averaged at least 10.0 PPR points per game. That’s good enough to land in the top-11 in fantasy football PPR formats. Of course, many of those years were filled with Rob Gronkowski, but also include Martellus Bennett, and even Hunter Henry, from last season. Darren Waller should be treated as a top-three option at tight end, again, for the 2022 fantasy football season.
Having coached Tom Brady, and even finding success with rookie, Mac Jones, I think Derek Carr will be just fine. Even on a seemingly rudderless ship at times, that was the 2021 Las Vegas Raiders, Carr still managed a top-12 finish at his position in fantasy football. His stock can only improve with McDaniels as the head coach. That being said, Josh Jacobs and Hunter Renfrow will likely retain their value. It’s important for this offense to add a big-body receiver on the outside or develop someone currently on the roster, like Bryan Edwards.
5. Doug Pederson, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Super Bowl LII winning head coach, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, is back at the top with the Jags. In five seasons as the Eagles’ head coach, Pederson missed the playoffs just twice; his first and final seasons with the team. The other three seasons, however, Pederson led the Eagles to playoff appearances, four playoff wins, and their first-ever Super Bowl title. Now, he heads to Jacksonville to try and work some magic and get last year’s first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, back on track after a disastrous 2021 season under Urban Meyer.
As far as fantasy football is concerned, Pederson’s impact will undoubtedly boost Lawrence’s value from his rookie year irrelevancy. In his five seasons in Philly, here are the top-three ranked finishes at each position for Eagles players in PPR formatting:
Top #Eagles positional PPR finishes w/ Pederson as HC:
2017 Wentz QB4
2019 Wentz QB10
2018/20 Wentz QB21
2016 D Sproles RB25
2019 M Sanders RB13
2020 M Sanders RB22
2016 J Matthews WR40
2017 Alshon WR17
2018 Alshon WR30
2017 Ertz TE3
2018 Ertz TE2
2019 Ertz TE2 pic.twitter.com/s4gqaRhX8E
— Colin McTamany (@Colin_McT) February 4, 2022
This isn’t to say Dan Arnold or James O’Shaughnessy are going to be top-three tight ends next season. However, if Pederson does implement a heavy dose of run-pass options (RPO) into his offense, it could bode well for the Jags tight ends volume. I expect Trevor to spread the wealth amongst the receivers rather than Laviska Shenault, Marvin Jones, or anyone else to stand out as a fantasy football stud. Furthermore, D.J. Chark could be on the move this offseason. The real winner could be second-year running back, Travis Etienne, who missed his rookie season with a foot injury. His ability as a pass-catcher, on top of his collegiate Clemson chemistry with Lawrence, gives him a boost ahead of the 2022 season. James Robinson will likely still have a role in his third season, but Etienne will surely make a dent in his volume.
To summarize, Pederson is a good head coach hire for the Jaguars franchise. It’s a fresh start for both the team and Pederson. Trevor Lawrence is going to benefit the most of any player in fantasy football down in Jacksonville. His dynasty stock should have risen a bit and the receivers will be interesting late-round fliers.
6. Nathaniel Hackett, Denver Broncos
I am not going to bury the lead here. If Nathaniel Hackett’s acceptance of the Broncos head coaching job is truly a precursor to acquiring Aaron Rodgers, then he will retroactively earn the top spot of these rankings. If, by chance, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams find themselves in the Mile High City in 2022, then Hackett’s hiring is in a tier of its own.
For now, though, it’s important to work with what we have in front of us. Hackett takes on a team that probably has the most volatile quarterback situation of any on this list. I would have to imagine Teddy Bridgewater gets first crack at the starting job. However, it could be an open competition between him and Drew Lock, neither of which excites me.
What does interest me, from a fantasy football perspective, is this backfield. Hackett comes from a Green Bay offense that successfully deployed both Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon in 2021. Dillon definitely worked his way into more playing time as the season went on, but Jones still finished top-10 in PPR scoring at the position. I fully expect Melvin Gordon to stick around in Denver. While that decreases second-year back, Javonte Williams’, value a bit, they both have a shot at RB2 value or better with Hackett as their head coach. If Williams does find himself as the clear-cut lead back upon a Gordon departure, I think he can finish as a top-five running back in 2022 fantasy football.
As for the pass catchers, Cortland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy should get a boost with an offensive-minded head coach. However, if the quarterback play does not improve, their chances at posting WR1 numbers are slimmer than one would hope for. I think Hackett’s impact as a head coach could also improve Noah Fant’s consistency as a top-10 tight end. Fant could come at a discount behind recent risers, like Dawson Knox and Pat Freiermuth. If so, waiting a bit and adding Fant to your 2022 fantasy football roster might be the move. Keep in mind Nathaniel Hackett was the Packers offensive coordinator in 2020 when Robert Tonyan finished as TE3 after a major breakout.
7. Matt Eberflus, Chicago Bears
The sought-after Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator finally gets a head coach gig. Eberflus lands in Chicago after multiple interviews around the league. It’s a good landing spot for Eberflus to improve upon the Bears 2021 defense that had the fourth-most sacks and allowed the sixth-least amount of yards last season.
An even better Bears defense is important for fantasy football. For those that play with a Defense/Special Teams position, Eberflus exits Indy leaving behind the third-best D/ST in fantasy football from last season. Furthermore, the Bears defense is only three years removed from the 2018 season in which they held the top spot at the position in fantasy football. More takeaways and turnovers forced in Chicago should mean more possessions for Justin Fields and the offense.
Fields will finally get a full season as the Bears’ starting quarterback. He needs to average roughly 225 yards per game to break the franchise record for passing yards in a single season (3,838) in Chicago. We’ve seen moments in 2021 from Fields where that is easily achievable. Additionally, the Bears have already hired former Packers passing game coordinator, Luke Getsy, as their offensive coordinator. This is a big deal for Fields’ development to work with a coach who spent the last few seasons with the 2020 (and possibly 2021) NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers. With the expectation that Allen Robinson moves on in free agency, bringing in another weapon for Fields is crucial, alongside Darnell Mooney.
As far as Eberflus’ impact, he comes from the Colts who just supported a fantasy football RB1 season out of Jonathan Taylor. I like running back, David Montgomery’s, expected role as the 2022 lead back. He should have more chances at the end zone in an offense with Fields under center. This head coach hire is likely more important as far as competing in the NFL rather than fantasy football.
8. Lovie Smith, Houston Texans
This head coaching hire seemingly came out of nowhere. Smith, the Texans’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator of last year was hired within 24 hours of reports that he was being considered. This role is nothing new to Lovie as he won Coach of Year in 2005, in his second of nine seasons with the Chicago Bears. Smith then moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he won eight games in two seasons.
The big story in Houston, obviously, is whether or not to expect Deshaun Watson under center next fall. If so, he would be the most talented quarterback Smith has had during any head coaching tenure. Otherwise, it could be Davis Mills who held his own last season. Luckily, it sounds like Pep Hamilton is sticking around as offensive coordinator to further help his development, for now. He deserves plenty of credit for his work with Justin Herbert in Los Angeles, as well as Davis Mills last year in Houston.
For fantasy football purposes, it should be a priority for the Texans to find a lead back. Smith notably coached Matt Forte for the first half of his career out of the Bears’ backfield. Finding a better-suited, dual-threat back is something to watch for with Smith at the helm. Otherwise, Brandin Cooks is really the only other Texans offensive player to get excited about. This team finished the 2021 season dead-last in offensive yardage and 30th in points scored. It can’t get much worse, but it’s hard to imagine it gets much better under Lovie Smith. He is still expected to call the shots on defense, so keep them in mind as a weekly streamer in fantasy football.
9. Dennis Allen, New Orleans Saints
It’s not former Saints’ defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen’s, fault he is at the bottom of these rankings. To be blunt, the New Orleans near-future outlook is bleak. They are currently a league-high $76.1 million over the cap for the 2022 season and Taysom Hill is their healthiest option to open training camp at quarterback. It’s a tough spot to start the 2022 offseason in.
What Dennis Allen does have going for him as head coach is familiarity with this team. The Saints are promoting from within to replace Sean Payton, as expected. As it relates to fantasy football, one would then expect Allen to feed franchise running back, Alvin Kamara. That’s still a possibility, but his status remains up in the air following an arrest for battery in Las Vegas during Pro Bowl weekend. As for receiving options, no Saints wide receiver on the roster topped 700 receiving yards during the 2021 season. If Michael Thomas returns, it would be an understatement to simply call him “an upgrade.”
Dennis Allen’s impact as head coach is going to be hard to gauge as this team faces an uphill battle for success. I expect a lot of moves from the New Orleans front office in the next few months. Given the above, it’s hard to get excited about any Saints player for the 2022 fantasy football season of now. The new head coach has his work cut out for him.