Fantasy Football’s New Play Callers Pt. 3: Titans, Jets, Pats

This is part three of a five-part series about teams with a new offensive play caller for the 2023 season. It is to determine whether or not these changes will help, hurt, or not affect a player’s potential fantasy football output. In the first article, we looked at the Texans and Cardinals. The second article covered Bucs, Commanders, and Eagles.

Now that we got the first-time play callers out of the way, we will go into the teams that have brought in experienced new play callers. Five teams fit this mold, but we will save the Chargers and Ravens for next time. We will focus on teams that did not make the playoffs last year; The New York Jets, The New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans. All rankings are from the Fantasy Pros Expert Consensus Rankings.

Tim Kelly: Tennessee Titans

Formerly Passing Game Coordinator: Tennessee Titans

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 Mike Vrabel made many changes to his coaching staff after missing the playoffs last season. One of these changes was deciding to fire Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing. Passing Game Coordinator Tim Kelly was then promoted to Offensive Coordinator. Kelly will call the offensive plays for Tennessee.

Kelly has a good amount of experience calling plays in the NFL. He served as Offensive Coordinator for the Texans from 2019-2021 under Bill O’Brien and David Culley. During the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Kelly was the primary play caller. Concerning success, in 2020, he ran one of the best offenses in the NFL, leading to a career year for Deshaun Watson threw for just short of 5000 yards and 33 TDs. The 2021 season was an organizational disaster that led to a new staff being assembled in Houston.

Assessing Fantasy Value

DeAndre Hopkins WR 34

The Titans needed a dynamic WR that could be an asset running vertical routes over the middle of the field. At least, this was the case until a few days ago when they signed DeAndre Hopkins. The addition of Hopkins, his familiarity with Kelly, and Kelly’s ability to scheme to open up the middle of the field. Hopkins will exceed expectations and surpass his ADP if his health cooperates. WR 34 is a massive steal. 

Treylon Burks WR35, Derrick Henry RB10

Despite only being one spot below Hopkins, this move does not hurt Treylon Burks‘ value much. The offense will be good enough that he will be able to live up to his current ADP. As for Derrick Henry, I wouldn’t let any of this scare you from drafting him, either. While yes, the increased commitment to the passing attack and terribly inexperienced offensive line is a detriment to his value, the new tempo will lead to more plays, and opponents won’t be able to stack the box as much. He should still be a top 10 RB.

Nathaniel Hackett: New York Jets

Formerly Head Coach of the Denver Broncos

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It is a tale of new beginnings in NY as two parties with disastrous finishes to last season look to join forces for a fresh start. Nathaniel Hackett did not even last one season with the Denver Broncos, who were an embarrassment for most of the season. The Jets did not score a touchdown in the season’s final month. Then Offensive Coordinator Mike Lafleur was in over his heading calling plays in the NFL.

Hackett was a successful Offensive Coordinator in Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Green Bay. The latter of which we all know is where he led the best offense in the NFL with newly acquired QB Aaron Rodgers. Hackett also gets some other familiar players he formerly coached in Green Bay, such as Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Billy Turner. Hackett, however, did not call the plays in Green Bay and gave up play calling in Denver mid-way through the season. There might be some learning curve here, but with the Jets’ familiarity and pieces, it could be quick. 

Assessing Fantasy Value

Breece Hall RB11

In Hackett’s history as an OC, he always got the most out of the rushing game. We have seen Aaron Jones‘s success with the Packers; Jacksonville had the best rushing attack in the NFL in 2017 under Hackett and was successful with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller in Buffalo. This bodes very well for Breece Hall, who is expected to be ready for week 1 after coming off ACL surgery. Some are worried about the quick return. That is a matter of opinion, but the Jets seem confident he is ready to return to form. I’m sure he will be Breece Lightning again. Hall looked great in his injury-shortened season and just kept getting better. Hackett’s offense will do wonders for him and catapult him into the top 5 RB.

Garrett Wilson WR10

Garret Wilson is another young star excited to work with a legend under center. The reigning rookie of the year managed to put up over 1000 yards receiving despite having historically bad QB play. To boot, whenever Zach Wilson wasn’t under center, he played even better. Now imagine it’s Rodgers out there with him? A detriment is that Hackett and Rodgers are both slow game management-wise. Rodgers was not in the top 10 in pass attempts in any of his seasons with Hackett. This could hurt his value, but when you consider that one of Rodgers’s biggest criticisms over the years is he locks onto one WR, this may be moot. Wilson is fine at his current ADP and should go higher. Like Hall, don’t be surprised if he finishes top 5 at his position.

Aaron Rodgers QB15 

Rodgers has always been a better real-life player than a fantasy player, but that isn’t to say his currently being ranked behind Geno Smith at QB15 isn’t very much undervaluing him. Under Hackett, Rodgers was QB10, QB4, and QB6. Even last year, in an injury-riddled mess of a season, he was QB13. With his old OC back and some great weapons at his disposal, Rodgers should be, at the very least, a solidified top-12 QB. I love the value here.  

Bill O’Brien: New England Patriots 

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Formerly Offensive Coordinator at the University of Alabama

After a strange approach to who the play caller would be last year, the Patriots took a more stable approach this time. They brought back their former OC, who was most recently working in that same position at the University of Alabama. O’Brien is also the college coach of QB Mac Jones. Jones was a national champion and Heisman finalist under O’Brien. This familiarity shows an effort to maximize whatever they can get from Mac Jones this year.

This move looks like a move away from relying on the run as much as the Patriots did last year. For one, the Patriots never ran RPO, and when they would, they would resort to a little dump off-screen to Rhamondre Stevenson. BOB will open up the passing game more so Mac Jones can cook. O’Brien often uses bunch packages (3 receivers in triangle formations) and has a knack for scheming tight ends to get open in two tight end sets. This bodes well for not only Mac Jones but the pass catchers as well. 

Assessing Fantasy Value

Mac Jones QB28

Mac Jones isn’t even projecting as a backup QB in fantasy leagues this year, so you will have absolutely no problem snagging him in the last round, and that might be a smart move. BOB’s playcalling is tailormade for Jones, as we saw at Bama. Jones is not the most athletic guy; he is possibly one of the least athletic. He did not make it into this league due to athleticism; it was his decision-making. The addition of RPOs, which Jones was incredibly successful with at Bama, will lead to Jones being able to use this strength more. Expanding RPOs with downfield packages instead of screens will allow for this. BOB also used Mac alone in the backfield for a considerable time. If he does this again, the passing attack will be even more high flying.  

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster WR44

The Patriots made a somewhat surprising signing when they let last year’s number 1 receiver reunite with Josh McDaniels in Vegas to sign JuJu Smith-Schuster for the same contract. This was clearly a prioritized move which means BOB could have big plans for him in this new passing attack. Juju has become the ultimate “meh” guy in recent years, being serviceable but not touching his early career numbers. We don’t know or have much of an idea what Juju’s role will be, but he has more upside than it may seem at face value. 

RB Rhamondre Stevenson RB9

This change in play-calling philosophies doesn’t bode well for Stevenson. He is currently ranked ahead of Derrick Henry in PPR at RB9. Unlike Henry, the passing scheme will not benefit Stevenson. He benefited from dump passes and persistent running calls with the QB under center. BOB doesn’t use fullbacks and almost always calls running plays from the gun. Stevenson will still be a big part of the offense. However, anyone hoping he will be their RB1 will be disappointed. 

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