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Coaching Matters: 2021 Houston Texans Coaching Staff Preview

After every NFL season, NFL teams take the time to evaluate not only the players but also the coaching staff and front office as well. While many teams choose to retain the same head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator, a few other teams opt to go in a new direction with their coaching staff.

One team that made some major changes to their coaching staff was the Houston Texans. While offensive coordinator Tim Kelly will remain in the same role for 2021, the Texans hired David Culley to be the new head coach and brought in former NFL head coach Lovie Smith to be the new defensive coordinator.

This article will look at the potential impact this coaching staff will have on the players and try to pinpoint the Texans players' fantasy values in it.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!


The Baseline

To get a better understanding of the value the Texans coaches help bring to this team, we can look at the NFL league averages in each of the past two years in a variety of statistical categories and then compare them to the averages achieved by the Texans' coaches. Here are 'The Baseline' NFL league averages over the past couple of years:

QB Impact

Year Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 League Average
34.87 251.78 1.56 3.56 15.04 0.16
2020 League Average 35.19 254.88 1.70 4.19 18.43 0.25

RB Impact

Year RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds. RB Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
21.77 92.96 0.68 5.10 6.64 40 0.19
2020 League Average
21.68 95.13 0.75 4.71 6.14 34.94 0.18

WR Impact

Year WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
12.05 19.59 158.39 0.95
2020 League Average
13.24 20.21 166.67 1.04

TE Impact

Year TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
4.70 6.88 50.99 0.38
2020 League Average
4.76 7.03 51.29 0.45

Defense Impact

Year Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play
Turnovers Forced
22.8 235 112.9 63.5 5.5 1.4
24.8 240.2 118.9 64.3 5.6 1.3


Previous Coaching Staff

In order to get an understanding of how the Houston Texans fantasy players may be impacted this year, we also need to look at some of the key members of the Houston Texans previous coaching staff: former head coach Bill O'Brien, former interim head coach Romeo Crennel, and former defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver. By doing this, we will have a better understanding of where the new regime is starting from and where the primary changes will occur.

Former Head Coach Bill O'Brien

QB Impact

Year Games Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 Texans 16 33.38 255.19 1.69 5.44 28.25 0.5
2020 Texans 4 32 273 1.5 4.25 14.5 0.25
O'Brien's Career Averages (OC/HC) 116 34.41 251.71 1.66 3.87 16.57 0.22

RB Impact

Year Games RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds.
RB Rec. TDs
2019 Texans 16 21.38 95.63 0.5 3.44 4.94 28.81 0.19
2020 Texans 4 15.5 59 0.5 3 4.75 30.25 0
O'Brien's Career Averages (OC/HC) 116 24.55 99.27 0.5 3.66 5.05 29.79 0.17

WR Impact

Year Games WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 Texans 16 14.25 20.75 178.06 0.88
2020 Texans 4 12.75 19.5 183.5 1
O'Brien's Career Averages (OC/HC) 116 12.81 21.16 165.55 0.97

TE Impact

Year Games TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 Texans 16 4.44 6.63 47.94 0.56
2020 Texans 4 5 6.25 57.75 0.5
O'Brien's Career Averages (OC/HC) 116 4.84 7.51 55.76 0.47


Former Interim Head Coach Romeo Crennel

Year Games Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play Turnovers Forced
2019 Texans 16 24.06 267.25 121.06 63.75 6.09 1.38
2020 Texans 12 28.17 271.5 153.08 66.25 6.41 0.75
Crennel's Career Averages (DC/HC) 284 21.13 218.19 121.69 64.06 5.31 1.66


Former Defensive Coordinator Anthony Weaver

Year Games Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play
Turnovers Forced
2020 Texans 16 29 256.5 160.25 66.75 6.24 0.56
Weaver's Career Averages (DC/HC)
16 29 256.5 160.25 66.75 6.24 0.56


2021 Offense

2021 Head Coach: David Culley

The Houston Texans surprised many fans by going with the 65-year-old David Culley as the next head coach of the franchise over coaching candidates like Eric Bieniemy, Brian Daboll, or Matt Eberflus. Culley has been coaching a long time in various roles, but this will be his first time as a head coach at any level. While he's expected to leave the offensive play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, let's take a look at what Culley's offense was like the only time he was an offensive coordinator - all the way back in 1989 and 1990 for the Texas El-Paso Miners (college football).

QB Impact

Year Games Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
1989 Miners 12 35.42 249.08 1.33 10* -12* 0.42
1990 Miners 11 32.82 211.55 0.91 10.27* -5.91* 0
Culley's Career Averages (College OC) 23 34.17 231.13 1.13 10.13* -9.09* 0.22

*College rushing statistics include sacks, which influence QB rushing statistics

RB Impact

Year Games RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds.
RB Rec. TDs
1989 Miners 12 26.08 113.17 0.75 6.25 NA 68.08 0.17
1990 Miners 11 23.27 94.09 0.45 3.45 NA 28.36 0
Culley's Career Averages (College OC) 23 24.74 104.04 0.61 4.91 NA 49.09 0.09

WR Impact

Year Games WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
1989 Miners 12 10.5 NA 160.92 1.17
1990 Miners 11 13.18 NA 181.73 0.82
Culley's Career Averages (College OC) 23 11.78 NA 170.87 1

TE Impact

Year Games TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
1989 Miners 12 1.42 NA 14.08 0
1990 Miners 11 0.18 NA 0.36 0.09
Culley's Career Averages (College OC) 23 0.83 NA 7.52 0.04

David Culley Takeaways & Expectations

While it was over 30 years ago and at the college level, there are a couple of things we notice when looking at David Culley's profile. Firstly, we can see that Culley utilized his running backs pretty frequently both on the ground and through the air. If he sticks to his previous history, we can expect the running back trio of Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, and Mark Ingram II to get a good amount of work.

Secondly, we see that Culley barely utilized the tight end position in his time as the offensive coordinator with the Texas El-Paso Miners, strongly preferring to throw to his wide receivers or running backs. Based on the Texans roster it would make a lot of sense for them to follow a similar usage plan, but to truly get a good idea of how the Texans plan on utilizing each position we should look at Tim Kelly's coaching history as an offensive coordinator - since Kelly will be the one calling the plays.

2021 Offensive Coordinator: Tim Kelly

QB Impact

Year Games Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 Texans 16 33.38 255.19 1.69 5.44 28.25 0.5
2020 Texans 16 34.13 302.69 2.06 5.63 27.75 0.19
Kelly's Career Averages (OC/HC) 32 33.75 278.94 1.88 5.53 28 0.34

RB Impact

Year Games RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds.
RB Rec. TDs
2019 Texans 16 21.38 95.63 0.5 3.44 4.94 28.81 0.19
2020 Texans 16 15.75 63.63 0.44 4.25 5.56 36.94 0.25
Kelly's Career Averages (OC/HC) 32 18.56 79.63 0.47 3.84 5.25 32.88 0.22

WR Impact

Year Games WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 Texans 16 14.25 20.75 178.06 0.88
2020 Texans 16 14.94 20.94 207.38 1.38
Kelly's Career Averages (OC/HC) 32 14.59 20.84 192.72 1.13

TE Impact

Year Games TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 Texans 16 4.44 6.63 47.94 0.56
2020 Texans 16 4.69 6.25 57.06 0.44
Kelly's Career Averages (OC/HC) 32 4.56 6.44 52.5 0.5

Tim Kelly Takeaways & Expectations

Tim Kelly has spent the last two seasons as the Houston Texans offensive coordinator, largely working with former Texans head coach Bill O'Brien's playbook. The Texans were impressed with Kelly's work so much over these past couple of seasons that they decided he was the one coordinator that would remain on the coaching staff in 2021.

Tim Kelly has gotten some great production out of the quarterback position despite attempting fewer passes than the average team, with the offense averaging 302.69 passing yards and 2.06 passing touchdowns per game during the 2020 NFL season. But given the uncertainty around star quarterback Deshaun Watson's availability next season, Tim Kelly may have a tougher time getting the same passing efficiency out of a quarterback like Tyrod Taylor.

It's also important to pay attention to the amount of rushing work a quarterback receives since it can be a cheat code in the fantasy football world. Tim Kelly has worked with a strong rushing quarterback in Deshaun Watson the last two years and it has led to Kelly's QB room averaging 5.53 carries, 28 rushing yards, and 0.34 rushing touchdowns per game.

Even if Deshaun Watson ends up missing time this season, Kelly will let Tyrod Taylor run the ball at a similar rate since Tyrod has been effective as a runner as well - averaging 6.43 carries, 35.8 rushing yards, and 0.32 rushing touchdowns per game during his three years in Buffalo as the starting quarterback (2015-2017). From a fantasy perspective, if Watson plays all 17 games he should be a strong QB1 in Kelly's system. If Watson misses time, the team's offensive production will drop off a lot, but Kelly's system should put Tyrod Taylor in the streaming mix each week.

Examining Tim Kelly's running back room, it's been a little disappointing. Over the course of his 32 game career, his running backs have averaged just 0.47 rushing touchdowns per game, one of the lowest marks among active NFL play-callers. In addition, his running back room has averaged just 18.56 carries per game, which is also near the bottom among active NFL play-callers.

So Tim Kelly's running back room doesn't get a ton of carries. But for fantasy purposes, that's fine as long as he primarily takes a bell-cow approach in featuring one back.

Kelly has tended to utilize one of his backs more than the others with his lead back on the season receiving over 58% of the season running back carries in both of his years as an offensive coordinator. So it is possible for one of his backs to be fantasy relevant at the very least.

The final aspect we should look at is Kelly's historical usage of running backs in the passing game. Kelly has been below average in providing opportunities for his running backs in the passing game thus far in his career, with the group receiving just 4.94 targets in 2019 and 5.56 targets in 2020. A lack of usage in the passing game lowers the ceiling of the Texans running backs, particularly in PPR formats.

Overall, from a fantasy perspective, the ceiling of a Tim Kelly running back is a middle of the pack RB2 with a much lower floor if he opts to take a committee approach - keep this in mind when drafting David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, or Mark Ingram in your 2021 fantasy league.

While there are a lot of questions about who will be throwing to the Texans wide receivers in 2021, the one thing we can be more certain on is how many targets Tim Kelly has historically provided his receivers. Tim Kelly's wide receiver room has been slightly above average in targets per game in his first two years as an offensive coordinator, with 20.75 targets per game in 2019 and 20.94 targets per game in 2020.

Based on Kelly's usage of wide receivers thus far, you should still feel comfortable investing in the team's number one wide receiver Brandin Cooks even if Tyrod Taylor is the starter. And if Deshaun Watson is the starter, there should be room for another quality fantasy wide receiver on the team in Kelly's system.

Finally looking at the tight end position, the number of targets was about the same both years that Tim Kelly was the offensive coordinator with 6.63 targets per game in 2019 and 6.25 targets per game in 2020. This was slightly below the league averages of 6.88 targets (2019) and 7.03 targets (2020) in both years.

These below-average usage totals are unlikely to change in 2021 given the Houston Texans current roster. From a fantasy perspective, do not expect Jordan AkinsRyan Izzo, or Brevin Jordan to be anything more than streamers in Kelly's offense.

Fantasy Relevant Players: Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor, Davis Mills, Nico Collins, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram II, Buddy Howell, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Keke Coutee, Andre Roberts, Ryan Izzo, Brevin Jordan, and Jordan Akins


2021 Defense

2021 Defensive Coordinator: Lovie Smith

Year Games Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play Turnovers Forced
2014 Buccaneers 16 25.63 255.25 113.69 66.69 5.53 1.56
2015 Buccaneers 16 26.06 240 100.38 65.31 5.21 1.44
Smith's Career Averages (DC/HC) 224 20.37 217.21 107 63.85 5.08 2.07

Lovie Smith is a very experienced defensive mind, spending time in the NFL as the St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator (2001-2003), Chicago Bears head coach (2004-2012), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach (2014-2015). Having said that, he's been out of the NFL for over five years and struggled during his time as the head coach at the University of Illinois, finishing with a 17-39 record.

In addition, his defense in the last couple of years in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave up a lot of points, so there's a strong possibility that the game has passed him by. Given the Houston Texans have lost some key playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as well such as J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans D/ST are not a great draft target in fantasy football leagues.


Other Notable Assistants

Special Teams Coordinator: Frank Ross - Frank Ross is a former Indianapolis Colts assistant special teams coach (2018-2020).

QB Coach: Pep Hamilton - Pep Hamilton was a huge get for the Texans, spending 2020 as the Los Angeles Chargers quarterbacks coach and helping develop Justin Herbert. He was also the head coach of the DC Defenders in the XFL and spent three years as the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator from 2013-2015.

RB Coach: Danny Barrett - Danny Barrett has been with the Houston Texans since 2018 as a running backs coach. He is a former CFL (Canadian Football League) quarterback and has also spent time with the Miami Dolphins as a running backs coach (2016-2017).

WR Coach: Robert Prince - Robert Prince is new to the Houston Texans, but brings a ton of experience to the table. Some of his previous roles include being the Seattle Seahawks wide receivers coach (2009), Boise State's offensive coordinator (2012-2013), and the Detroit Lions wide receivers coach (2014-2020).

TE Coach: Andy Bischoff - This will be Andy Bischoff's first year with the Houston Texans. Previously he spent six years in Baltimore, with the last three of those years as an assistant tight ends coach.

OL Coach: James Campen - James Campen will be spending his first year with the Houston Texans as the offensive line coach. He was previously the Green Bay Packers offensive line coach from 2007-2018, the Cleveland Browns offensive line coach in 2019, and the Los Angeles Chargers offensive line coach in 2020.

DL Coach: Bobby King - The 2021 season will be Bobby King's 12th overall year coaching in the NFL. He's been with the Texans for a few seasons, but this year he will be shifting from coaching inside linebackers to coaching the defensive line.

LB Coach: Miles Smith - Miles Smith is defensive coordinator Lovie Smith's son. He previously spent three seasons on his father's coaching staff at the University of Illinois.

DB Coach: Dino Vasso - Dino Vasso began his coaching career in 2011 at Temple as an offensive intern. Since then he's spent time as a graduate assistant at Missouri, a coaching assistant on the Kansas City Chiefs (2013-2015), a defensive quality control/assistant secondary coach with the Philadelphia Eagles (2016-2019), and as an assistant coordinator of defense (2020). This will be his first year with the Texans.

Safeties Coach: Greg Jackson - Greg Jackson is a former NFL safety who played for the New York Giants (1989-1993), Philadelphia Eagles (1994-1995), New Orleans Saints (1996), and San Diego Chargers (1997-2000). He was previously the safeties coach with the Dallas Cowboys from 2016-2019.

Follow Eli Grabanski on Twitter: @3li_handles

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2024 Fantasy Football Dynasty Rookie Rankings For Superflex Leagues: 30-21

Now that we’re coming off our rookie fever, it’s time to see where the newest NFL players stack up against the veterans. That’s right, we’re talking rookies and dynasty rankings. My name is Ellis Johnson and this is my sixth year writing NFL content with RotoBaller. I also contribute to FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings and... Read More

Jermaine Burton - Fantasy Football Rankings, College FB, WR, NFL Draft Sleepers

Fantasy Football Rookie Spotlight: Jermaine Burton

With the 80th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Alabama wide receiver Jermaine Burton. The surplus of receivers drafted early created a demand for the position, and the Bengals got their guy in Round 3. Burton was the 13th wide receiver taken off the board -- drafted ahead of guys... Read More

Who Is Our Favorite RB Sleeper? 2024 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings Analysis

We working fantasy football angles around the clock at RotoBaller! As early best ball drafts are already getting underway, we're putting together our first-look rankings for 2024 fantasy football. RotoBaller's David Rispoli dives into our new Running Back rankings for 2024. Our RB1 isn't a huge surprise, but there are some sleepers as we work... Read More

Rhamondre Stevenson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Fantasy Football Running Back Winners From the 2024 NFL Offseason

The NFL Draft and free agency are officially complete. With these big transactional periods in the rearview window, fantasy managers can now officially look back and see who has been the biggest winner of the offseason. For this series, I’ll review each fantasy-relevant positional group and identify the biggest winners and why they’re winners. The... Read More

Malik Nabers - Fantasy Football Rankings, Rookie, College FB, WR, NFL Draft Sleepers

Fantasy Football Rookie Spotlight: Jamari Thrash

Draft capital matters for fantasy football players, but more so early in drafts with a 0.576 correlation for top-10 picks and fantasy points per game for wide receivers over the past five seasons. For context, the correlation plummets to 0.004 for picks 11-32, with a slightly better correlation (0.131) to PPR/G for Rounds 5-7 at... Read More

Kyler Murray - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Fantasy Football Bounce-Back Candidates You Must Have in 2024 - Fantasy Football Sleepers

The term "sleeper" gets thrown around a lot these days in fantasy circles. Aside from being a popular fantasy gaming app, a sleeper in fantasy football is a player currently undervalued at their draft price -- particularly with the expectation they will vastly outplay their ADP. While these targets are typically a late-round choice, sleepers... Read More