Five Under the Radar Changes That Will Impact Fantasy Football in 2022

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Change is the norm in the NFL. We see the coaching carousel spin every offseason as detailed in early March. This year it led to ten teams with new coaches headed into the season. We also typically see a few superstar players change teams, though it’s impossible to find an offseason with more blockbuster moves than we just saw.

I recently wrote an article on offenses you can trust for fantasy football in 2022. It focused on teams with stable rosters and coaching that you can comfortably predict headed into the season. This article is going to be completely different. I’ll take a look at how a team’s offseason moves could change their offenses, and what it could mean for fantasy football.

But I won’t be focusing on the obvious. Of course, Russell Wilson heading to Denver will clearly impact Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. You’ve probably heard ad nauseam how Tyreek Hill and new coach Mike McDaniel could upgrade Tua Tagovailoa in his third season. Moving on from arguably the worst head coach in NFL history should be an upgrade for the Jacksonville offense. Did you know Derek Carr and Davante Adams played together in college?

Instead, I’ll be looking at some less talked about changes that seem to be going under the radar but could have a significant impact on fantasy football. It could be a head coaching change, coordinator change, or player change, but none of the teams below were completely overhauled. Still, their offenses could look quite different and provide new fantasy value in 2022.

Let’s dive in. 

For more on off-season coaching changes and its impact, check out the Ultimate Draft Kit.

New York Giants

The 2021 Offense

Last season the Giants finished 31st in scoring for the second consecutive year. They also ranked 31st in yards and yards/play. They did pass above league average in neutral game situations and run plays at a slightly quicker than league average pace, but they were woefully inefficient. The offense was also riddled with injuries as Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, and Kadarius Toney all missed multiple games with injuries.

What’s New in 2022

The on-field personnel hasn’t changed, at least among the offensive skill position players. The coaching personnel, however, has been completely overhauled. The new head coach, Brian Daboll, is credited as the architect of Buffalo’s high-powered offense in recent years. Last season the Bills scored the third-most points in the NFL and passed at the second-highest neutral game rate in the league (64%). 

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What it Could Mean for Fantasy Football

If Daboll can improve New York’s offense to even a league-average output, the fantasy ceiling goes up for all of the team’s offensive weapons. In the two seasons before former head coach Joe Judge got to town, Saquon Barkley was a top-ten fantasy running back in a middle-of-the-pack offense. In 2019 Kenny Golladay was the WR6 overall on a Detroit team that ranked 15th in scoring. If the Giants get to this range in scoring, there will be fantasy value on their roster.

Daboll also often gets credit for Josh Allen’s career turnaround and ascension to becoming the consensus QB1 in fantasy football. Expecting the same thing from Daniel Jones would be ridiculous (Daboll said so himself), but expecting noticeable improvement is fair. Given his new coach and talented offensive weapons, Jones makes an intriguing late-round quarterback target with upside.

New England Patriots

The 2021 Offense

A year ago, we wondered how long Cam Newton could hold off Mac Jones as the starting quarterback in New England. As it turned out, Newton was cut, and the rookie was handed the keys to the offense for the entire season. That led to the Patriots logging the league’s lowest neutral pass rate (49%). They also ran no-huddle just 1% of the time and played at the fifth-lowest rate (30.2 seconds/play). Despite the slow-paced offense, New England scored the sixth-most points in the NFL (462).  

What’s New in 2022

Long-time New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels moved on to become the head coach in Las Vegas, and the Patriots have not officially replaced his role. It’s odd for a team to head into a season without a formal offensive coordinator, but it’s hard to question Bill Belichik’s tactics. While there may not be an official OC, former head coaches Matt Patricia and Joe Judge are back on the New England staff. The official team website lists Patricia as “senior football advisor” and Judge as “Offensive Assistant”. Belichick, Patricia, and Judge have all been rumored as play-callers for New England this upcoming season.

What it Could Mean for Fantasy Football

We don’t really know who will be calling plays for the Patriots, but there’s a good chance they pick up the pace compared to 2021. After an objectively successful rookie season, they may loosen the reins and let Mac Jones air it out closer to the league average rate. This isn’t likely to give Jones himself league-winning upside, but it makes all of the pass-catchers in New England more intriguing. 

Jakobi Meyers has led the Patriots in target share for two consecutive seasons and finished as the WR33 overall last season, despite scoring just two touchdowns. He stands to benefit the most from an increase in passing volume and touchdowns. It could vault him into the top-30 fantasy wideouts, and he’s currently being drafted as WR61.

DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, and maybe even Jonnu Smith become intriguing late-round dart throws if you believe whoever calls the plays in New England cranks up the passing rate in 2022. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2021 Offense

The Steelers were far from efficient on offense last season. They ran the ninth most plays in the league (1,113) but tied for the fourth-fewest yards/play (4.8). They were a pass-heavy team, throwing at the sixth-highest neutral game rate, but only mustered a sixth-lowest 5.4 net yards/pass attempt. They were even less efficient on the ground, rushing for a fourth-lowest 3.9 yards/attempt.

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What’s New in 2022

The Steelers coaching staff from 2021 remains mostly intact, but there will be a big absence on the field in 2022. Specifically, Big Ben Roethlisberger has decided to retire after 17 seasons in Pittsburgh. The Steelers brought in free agent Mitchell Trubisky and drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft to compete for the job of following in Big Ben’s footsteps. They also drafted rookie wideout Geroge Pickens in the second round.

Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What it Could Mean for Fantasy Football

There’s a great case to be made for Roethlisberger being inducted to the Hall of Fame, but it won’t be based on his 2021 season. He spent the season getting the ball out short and quick. His average depth of target (aDOT) was just 7.1 yards, the second-lowest in the entire NFL, while his average time to throw of 2.26 seconds was the fastest in the league. He sure didn’t rack up any fantasy points with his legs. He was credited with just three scrambles on the season, the fewest in the league for any quarterback with at least 50 dropbacks. At the season’s end, he had totaled just five rushing yards on 20 attempts, by far the fewest among starting quarterbacks in the league. 

Whether it’s Trubisky or Pickett calling the signals, the offense will look significantly different. Either will push the ball downfield more than Roethlisberger did in his final season. Trubisky has a career aDOT of 8.6 yards, while Pickett’s aDOT in his final collegiate season was even deeper at 9.7 yards. Deeper targets could benefit big-play wideout Chase Claypool from a fantasy perspective, while simultaneously hurting Diontae Johnson‘s fantasy value. The table below shows how different the top two Steeler wideouts have produced over the last two seasons and why a new stronger-armed quarterback could be in Claypool’s favor.

Targets aDOT Receptions Yards Yards/rec
Diontae Johnson 313 8.9 195 2,084 10.7
Chase Claypool 214 12.8 121 1,733 14.3

Part of throwing it deep is hanging on to the ball long enough for the wideouts to get downfield. Pittsburgh’s offensive line may still be one of the worst in football, but at least Trubisky and Pickett have the mobility to extend plays. Trubisky averaged 26.5 scrambles/year during his time in Chicago, and, as noted in his 2022 NFL Draft profile, Pickett is fantastic on the move. Beyond just scrambling and extending plays, offensive coordinator Matt Canada will be able to employ bootlegs and RPOs in their offense for 2022.

Minnesota Vikings

The 2021 Offense

The Vikings ranked near the middle of NFL offenses by most metrics in 2021. They scored the 14th most points in the league, gained the 13th most yards/play, and passed at the 10th highest rate in neutral game situations. Despite their reputation as a run-first team, they ranked just 16th in rush attempts (449) and 11th in pass attempts (604). It wasn’t enough to earn the Vikings a playoff bid, and they parted ways with head coach Mike Zimmer and the majority of his staff at the end of the season.

What’s New in 2022

Former Washington and, more recently, Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell was hired as Minnesota’s new head coach, in contrast to the defensive-minded Zimmer. O’Connell is the latest Sean McVay disciple to get a head coaching gig, and he has a history with Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins. The two worked together in 2017 when O’Connell was the quarterbacks coach during Cousins’ last season in Washington.

Not much has changed for the Vikings’ offense on the field. They didn’t add any significant weapons via free agency or the draft, though they do get back tight end Irv Smith Jr., who missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury.

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What it Could Mean for Fantasy Football

Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook are getting hyped, rightfully so, as two players that could benefit from O’Connell’s new offense, but they are already first-round picks in fantasy drafts. K.J. Osborn, on the other hand, is currently going off the board in the 16th round. Osborn finished as the WR38 last season while seeing 82 targets and playing on 68% of the offensive snaps.

Osborne, however, should be in line for an increased role in 2022. Last season Minnesota ran three wide receiver sets just 47% of the time, the fifth-lowest rate in the league. In contrast, the Rams trotted out three receivers more than any other team in the league at 86%. Osborne projects to get more snaps, routes, targets, and most importantly, fantasy points this season. He could be an absolute steal in the late rounds of fantasy drats.

Chicago Bears

The 2021 Offense

The Bears drafted Justin Fields, a quarterback known for his speed, with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Then Matt Nagy designed an offense for Andy Dalton, a 33-year-old quarterback that has never eclipsed 200 rushing yards in a season. Dalton started the season, but both quarterbacks played, struggled to stay healthy, and neither thrived. Shown below are their season-long stats. 

Games Attempts Completions Completion % Passing Yards Yards/Attempt Passing TDs Rush Yards Rushing TDs Fumbles Fantasy Points
Andy Dalton 8 236 149 63.1 1,515 6.4 8 76 0 1 84.2
Justin Fields 12 270 159 58.9 1,870 6.9 7 420 2 12 126.8

The end result was one of the worst offenses in the league. The Bears finished in the bottom ten in total points, yards, and yards/play. 

What’s New in 2022

Chicago completely overhauled their front office and coaching staff after the abysmal 2021 season. They hired former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as head coach and brought in former Packers assistant Luke Getsy to run the offense. As far as players are concerned, the departure of Allen Robinson was the only major move.

What it Could Mean for Fantasy Football

By bringing in a defensive-minded head coach and neglecting to spend any capital on pass-catchers, you’d expect the Bears to deploy a run-heavy offense. That may not be much different, considering they were eleventh in total rushes and eighth in neutral game rush rate last season. How they deploy those rush attempts, however, may be where we see the change.

Luke Getsy spent most of his coaching career as part of Green Bay’s offensive staff, where the Packers are known for using a backfield by committee approach. Last season Aaron Jones saw 52% of the offensive snaps in Green Bay, and A.J. Dillon saw 43%. That was actually an increase for Jones, who saw 46% of the offensive snaps over his first four seasons while sharing a backfield with Jamaal Williams, who saw 42% over that same span. This is a sharp contrast to the 73% snap share David Montgomery has seen over the last two seasons. Khalil Herbert is the top candidate to take a chunk of that rush share away, simultaneously making him fantasy relevant and lowering the ceiling for Montgomery.

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Neutral pace stats via Rotoviz
Personel grouping stats via Sharp Football Analysis
aDOT and scramble stats via Pro Football Focus

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