Coaching matters. Four of last season’s nine new NFL head coaches made the playoffs with Brian Daboll, of the New York Giants, winning 2022 Coach of the Year. Additionally, Doug Pederson took the Jacksonville Jaguars to the playoffs after spiraling amidst the Urban Meyer drama the season prior, which landed them the first overall pick for the second time in a row. Furthermore, both of their quarterbacks, Daniel Jones and Trevor Lawrence, had their best professional seasons yet under new leadership, as well.
These are just two of the most recent examples of how a new head coach can positively impact a team and the players they go to battle with week-to-week. On the other side of that coin, though, a head coach can severely hinder their team, evident by the job Nathaniel Hackett did with the Denver Broncos in 2022, causing him to lose said job after just 15 games.
While there is an obvious emphasis on players in fantasy football, again, coaching matters.
That said, let’s take a look at the five newest NFL head coaches. I’m going to rank them specifically based on their impact on the 2023 season as it relates to fantasy football. The NFL offseason is just getting started, but there’s no such thing as getting “too early” of a jump on your league’s competition.
Ranking New NFL Head Coaches’ Impact on 2023 Fantasy Football
1. Sean Payton, Denver Broncos
I’m a big believer in “getting your guy” when you’re on the clock in your fantasy football drafts, especially early on, even if it feels like a bit of a reach. That’s exactly what the Broncos did when they traded draft capital to land Sean Payton as their next head coach.
Payton is the most qualified of the five newest head coaches. His 16-year tenure as the New Orleans Saints’ head coach ended after he stepped away with a 152-89 overall record, including a 9-8 record in the postseason with one Super Bowl title. Payton was not going to return to coaching if he didn’t think the opportunity was worth it. That said, I have no issue with the Broncos getting their guy to be the next head coach.
Payton’s 2023 Fantasy Football Impact:
In 2023, I am all in on a Russell Wilson resurgence as a result of this head coaching hire. I’m first and foremost expecting a large emphasis from Payton on bulking up the offensive line. In 10 seasons as the Seattle Seahawks starter, Wilson was sacked an average of 42.7 times per season. Last year with the Denver Broncos, Wilson was sacked a league-high 55 times.
For comparison, Drew Brees was sacked no more than 37 times in a single season with the Saints under Payton and no more than 20 times in his final four seasons. More protection for Wilson boosts confidence, prevents injuries, and will get this offense humming with the elimination of negative plays.
As for the positional players in this Broncos offense under Payton, Javonte Williams has a powerful running style and the pass-catching ability to play an Alvin Kamara-like role in Denver, but returning from a serious knee injury complicates things. There will have to be some reconfiguration to this backfield beyond Williams, too. The depth chart includes 33-year-old Latavius Murray, Chase Edmonds, and Mike Boone.
As of now, I’m giving Jerry Jeudy the nod as the top option in the passing game. He has better stats than Courtland Sutton despite playing 169 fewer snaps, seeing nine fewer targets, and essentially playing one less game. Lastly, Greg Dulcich has an outside chance to finish as a top-10 tight end in 2023. The Broncos’ new tight end coach, Declan Doyle, is a Saints offensive assistant that had a role in Juwan Johnson playing as a top-eight tight end from Weeks 7 through 17.
2. Shane Steichen, Indianapolis Colts
Shane Steichen is the youngest head coach of the five hired in this cycle. At 37 years old, he takes over in Indianapolis after running the Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles offenses over the last three seasons. He is fresh off of a Super Bowl run in which the Eagles scored 34.6 points per game in the postseason after scoring 29.1 points per game in the regular season.
The elephant in the room in Indy after bringing Steichen aboard is who will be playing quarterback for this team in 2023. Matt Ryan is currently under contract for one more year. The Colts also hold the fourth-overall pick but continue to hint at trading up even higher for a quarterback. That’s a conversation for another day.
Stiechen’s 2023 Fantasy Football Impact:
Regardless of who is under center, hiring Steichen as the head coach is great news for running back Jonathan Taylor. Steichen’s 2020 Chargers offense ranked ninth in rush attempts while his 2021 and 2022 Eagles offenses ranked in the top three both seasons. In his head coach introduction press conference, Steichen claimed the Colts will “throw to score points and we’re gonna run to win.”
Taylor is 24 years old, entering the final year of his rookie contract, and just one season removed from leading the league in rushing. After disappointing fantasy managers through a season of injuries last season, he could be available at a discount in the backend of the first round of drafts.
Michael Pittman is also a big winner with a new head coach. He is the obvious WR1 on the Indy offense. At 6’4″ and 223 pounds, he should continue to flirt with 100 receptions and 1,000 yards, something Keenan Allen, DeVonta Smith, and A.J. Brown have all done in Steichen’s offenses the last three seasons. Depending on who his quarterback is, Pittman should set a career-high of seven or more touchdowns in 2023, as well.
Additionally, the success both DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown had in Steichen’s offense last season gives hope both Pittman and second-year receiver, Alec Pierce, could thrive in 2023. Pierce could be one of the best bangs for your buck come draft season. Again, of course, we need to see who the quarterback is. It can’t be worse than the combination of Matt Ryan, Sam Ehlinger, and Nick Foles from last season.
3. Frank Reich, Carolina Panthers
Frank Reich is getting a second shot as a head coach. After starting last season with a 3-5-1 record, Reich was relieved of his duties in Indianapolis. In 74 games as the Colts head coach, Reich deployed a whopping seven different starting quarterbacks. It’s fair to say Reich’s opportunity to succeed in Indy withered away the minute Andrew Luck retired.
Now, he returns to the Carolina Panthers organization. As the expansion team’s quarterback in 1995, Reich threw the franchise’s first touchdown pass. The story here, though, goes deeper than Frank Reich, specifically, with the staff he is putting together in Carolina.
The @Panthers are going SCORCHED EARTH on NFL experience for their staff. Hired-
DC Ejiro Evero
Senior Off. Assistant Jim Caldwell
Senior Def. Assistant Dom Capers
Asst. HC/RBs Duce Staley
QB Coach Josh McCown
2 Former Head Coaches, 2 Budding HCs and NFL EXPERIENCE IN SPADES.
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) February 14, 2023
All in all, Reich’s staff at this point, including those not shown in the tweet above, boasts an average of 14.8 years of NFL coaching experience, in addition to their time as players. This organization isn’t messing around. With the NFC South seemingly wide open, we could see a major leap forward from this Panthers team. That also means Carolina could be a fantasy football goldmine.
Reich’s 2023 Fantasy Football Impact:
Like most teams with a new head coach, the quarterback is a huge question mark. After plugging and playing guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and P.J. Walker over the last three seasons, I imagine finding a franchise player for their new head coach is a top priority. They currently have the ninth-overall pick in the upcoming draft. The Panthers are also very much in the mix to sign former Raider, Derek Carr.
With Andrew Luck as his quarterback, Reich’s Colts were fifth in points and seventh in yards. Even after Luck’s abrupt retirement, Reich managed to maintain a top-10 scoring offense the following two years with Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz under center.
A competent option under center could finally mean D.J. Moore puts together a rock-solid fantasy football season. Last year, he set a career-high seven touchdowns, but with just 66 receptions and 888 yards. Meanwhile, the three years prior, he logged 1,157 yards or more in each of them, but with just exactly four touchdowns in each, as well.
As far as the running game is concerned, there is plenty of optimism surrounding the duo of D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard. In 11 games following Christian McCaffrey’s departure last season, Foreman logged five games of 113 or more rushing yards. All the while, Hubbard added one such game himself, but five of 63 yards or more. Now, these two get Duce Staley managing the run game. He comes from the Detroit Lions offense who successfully deployed both Jamaal Williams (17 rushing touchdowns!) and D’Andre Swift last season. One of these guys could have weekly RB1 upside with a late-round price tag in 2023 drafts.
4. DeMeco Ryans, Houston Texans
This is my favorite head coach hire of the 2023 cycle. DeMeco Ryans is a former Houston Texans linebacker and a perfect fit to change the direction of this franchise. Ryans is the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator. In the last two seasons, the 49ers ranked fifth and, most recently, first in the least amount of points allowed per game.
Since Bill O’Brien’s tenure as head coach from 2014-2020, the Texans have had three different head coaches. Each of their last two have come and gone after just one season with the team. DeMeco Ryans isn’t going to turn this team around in just one season, but I fully expect him to have success in the next few years. That said, though, 2023 is going to have it’s growing pains, especially for fantasy football.
Ryans’ Fantasy Football Impact:
The Houston Texans’ current roster is uninspiring. Davis Mills is not the answer at quarterback, but luckily the Texans have the second-overall pick. Brandin Cooks, the team’s top receiver, is not interested in being apart of this team’s ongoing rebuild. He is more likely to be traded than released given his current contract.
That leaves whoever’s up next at quarterback with a possible receiving corps of Nico Collins, John Metchie III, Amari Rodgers and Chris Moore, to name a few. It’s hard to fathom investing in the Texans’ 2023 passing game as of now, but just about every piece is a low-risk acquisition that could have big weeks in expected negative game scripts.
As far as the running game goes, we can only hope Dameon Pierce remains the feature back. With questions of if he could handle a full workload as a rookie, Pierce silenced the doubters averaging 4.3 yards per carry with nine games of 69 yards or more, including two of 131 yards or more. He rushed 220 times in 13 games during his rookie season after rushing just 329 total times in 48 games at the University of Florida.
There will undoubtedly be minor tweaks to the backfield with soon-to-be 33-year old Rex Burkhead on an expiring contract. Dare Ogunbowale would be the next man up behind Pierce, but the team saves $1.4 million is he’s released. Bobby Slowik is the new offensive coordinator, also from the 49ers staff, so one would think the Texans take a strong run-first approach, mimicking Kyle Shanahan as best as they can.
5. Jonathan Gannon, Arizona Cardinals
There isn’t going to be much of an impact from hiring Jonathan Gannon as head coach. He’s the former defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl contending Philadelphia Eagles. However, the defensive personnel he had in Philly is far more talented than that in Arizona. In fact, the only Pro Bowler from the 2022 Cardinals team as a whole is safety Budda Baker.
The Arizona Cardinals roster is even less inspiring than the aforementioned Houston Texans. Yes, Kyler Murray is still the quarterback, but he’s recovering from a mid-December torn ACL. Given that $103 million of Murray’s $23o.5 million five-year extension was guaranteed at signing, I see no reason to rush him back. One can only hope the team has someone other than Colt McCoy in mind to tread water until Murray is ready to go.
Gannon’s Fantasy Football Impact:
Gannon is the head coach, but regardless of who the Cardinals hired, I would’ve ranked them last on this list. It’s hard to imagine this team winning four games in 2023. They are my bet to land the top pick in the 2024 draft.
Murray is out for the unforeseeable future, DeAndre Hopkins is reportedly on the trade block, Zach Ertz is recovering from a season-ending knee injury of his own, and James Conner will be 28 entering this season.
Conner is the player I am most interested in for the 2023 fantasy football season. A rib injury is to blame for missed time last season, but he averaged 17.6 touches per game when available. That ranks 14th at the position. However, his 3.53 receptions per game ranks eighth amongst all running backs in 2022, proving he has pass-catching upside. There’s a good chance 2023 is Conner’s last year with Arizona which could lead to a very fantasy-friendly amount of work.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown figures to be the lead receiver if Hopkins is gone, but who his quarterback is, and where Brown is going in drafts, will determine my interest. Without Kyler Murray last season, Brown saw 35 targets in five games, but caught just 18 of them (51%) for 178 total scoreless yards. That’s 7.12 points per game.
Second-year tight end, Trey McBride is a sleeper tight end candidate for 2023. Following Ertz’ injury, McBride averaged five targets per game after just four targets total in two games before. The Cardinals’ 2022 second round pick runs a 4.54 40-yard dash and should see the field plenty. Gannon comes from a team with a similarly sized tight end, Dallas Goedert, that he saw average 5.75 targets per game last season. McBride could be a reception machine depending on who’s under center early on for the Cards.