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May 19, 2023

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Post-draft edition

Ahead of training camp, who is the best team in the NFC?

Eagles NFL
051923HaasonReddick Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers couldn't protect their quarterbacks in the NFC Championship Game, and their offensive line got worse this offseason.

For those of you who are new here, we do a "Hierarchy/Obituary" post every week during the season, in which we kill off teams that have reached the point where they have almost no chance to make the playoffs. We then write their obituary and never speak of them in the Hierarchy again. 

Anyway, it's my hackneyed sell-out spin on the more traditional "power rankings." Got it? Cool. Let's do a post-draft edition.


16) Cardinals (4-13 in 2022): Jonathan Gannon's focus was not 100 percent on how to stop the Kansas City Chiefs' offense and instead was at least partially on the advancement of his personal career. That is an indisputable fact, given that he had communications with the Cardinals in between the Eagles' NFC Championship Game win and the Super Bowl. And yet, this was somehow lost on the Cardinals, who then watched as the Chiefs did whatever they wanted to Gannon's defense, and hired him anyway.

Since then, Gannon has lied about his contact with the Cardinals, he completely made up a story about an interaction he had with Philly media, and he has had awkward interactions with some of his new players.

Lol. Good luck, Arizona.


15) Rams (5-12 in 2022): If you look at a Rams "way too early 53-man roster projection," like this one, you'll see a whole lot of unrecognizable names. I count 16 rookies, broken down by the following positions:

• QB: 1
• RB: 1
• WR: 1
• TE: 1
• OL: 2
• DL: 2
• EDGE: 2
• LB: 1
• CB: 1
• S: 1
• ST: 3

If they do indeed keep 16 rookies, that's over 30 percent of the roster. A lot of those guys are going to have to play in 2023. Keep in mind that the Rams did not have a first-round pick, and they only made three picks on Day 2, so we're talking about a lot of Day 3 or undrafted guys here. 

The Rams are transitioning from a team that traded all their valuable picks for veterans to a team that will be among the most inexperienced in the NFL this season. If you can slow down Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald, what else does this team have?


14) Falcons (7-10 in 2022): As we mentioned in our post-free agency hierarchy, the Falcons have won seven, seven, four, seven, and seven games their last five seasons, and after the year they won four they selected a tight end with the fourth overall pick.

This offseason, they made RG Chris Lindstrom the highest paid OG in the NFL, they gave Jessie Bates a $16 million/year contract when other talented free agent safeties weren't sniffing half of that, and they selected a running back with the eighth overall pick.

They couldn't possibly care less about positional value, and they really don't know what they're doing.

That said, even though I have them 14th in the hierarchy, the NFC South is so bad that it wouldn't surprise me if this team is hosting a playoff game in January.


13) Panthers (7-10 in 2022): Bryce Young was clearly the best quarterback in the 2023 draft, in my opinion, but because the Panthers included D.J. Moore in their trade up to the No. 1 overall pick, their starting receivers in 2023 are projected to be Terrace Marshall, D.J. Chark, and a 33-year-old Adam Thielen. The receivers aside, TE Hayden Hurst and RB Miles Sanders aren't exactly ideal security blankets either.

If I were to power rank the quarterbacks in the NFC South I'd like to have long-term, it would look like this:

  1. Bryce Young

That's it. However, if I were to power rank how the 2023 seasons will go for each NFC South starting quarterback, it might look like this:

  1. Derek Carr
  2. Baker Mayfield
  3. Bryce Young
  4. Desmond Ridder
If Mayfield is brutal and Young plays his ass off (which is certainly possible), don't out me to @OldTakesExposed, please and thank you.


12) Buccaneers (8-9 in 2022): It's easy to see Baker Mayfield slotted in as the Buccaneers' projected starting quarterback and just dismiss them entirely. In fact, look at any sportsbook and you'll find the Bucs unanimously last in the horrid NFC South. But Mayfield was kinda frisky for the Rams last season:

The dramatic music in that video is hilarious, given that the Rams were a 4-8 team playing a 5-7 team, but whatever.

Offensively, the Bucs still have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Russell Gage at wide receiver, and they're getting a lot of guys back from an injury-ravaged season along their offensive line. Defensively, they still have a lot of guys in place from their Super Bowl season. Maybe they're just a "regular bad" team, and not "the worst team in the worst division" bad.


11) Commanders (8-8-1 in 2022): On the surface, the transition from Daniel Snyder to Josh Harris is great news for the Commanders' fan base. With Snyder in place, the Washington franchise was never — and was never going to be — a team to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender. Hell, forget the product on the field. Just going a year without some skin-crawling scandal will be win. It's pretty safe to call Snyder the worst owner in the four major American sports over the last couple of decades, and one of the worst owners ever. Literally any new owner is going to be a major step up from Snyder. 

Having said all that, Josh Harris is an owner that Commanders fans may soon find to be disappointing. There are a number of Sixers fans who already didn't like that Harris owned a rival team in a different sport, and do not approve of him now also soon owning the Commanders. From a fan perspective, it's just kinda icky. But in terms of actual competitive advantages, I do think it's fair for fans of professional organizations to want the owner of the team they root for to have a sole focus on the team they root for. The Sixers dodged the luxury tax this year, which is hard for some fans to swallow when the owner is buying another franchise for $6 billion. It feels a lot like Harris is buying up franchises because, "WEEEEEEE, owning sports teams is fun!" Or, worse, "I couldn't possibly spend all my wealth in this lifetime, but what the hell let's add some more to the pile, yaaaaaay!"

A common sentiment (like here and here) that I have seen from Commanders fans in the wake of the Sixers' excruciatingly familiar end to their 2022-2023 season is that Harris is not content to just make it to the second round of the playoffs, as evidenced by the team's firing of Doc Rivers. Which, I mean, lol. Firing a mediocre coach is the easiest way to create the perception of change while being content to run it back with the same losing players, win 50-55 regular season games again, pack the seats, make a ton of money, and lose in the second round again.


10) Vikings (13-4 in 2022): The bottom 10 in DVOA in 2022:

Rank Team 2022 record 
23 Titans 7-10 
24 Rams 5-12 
25 Broncos 5-12 
26 Raiders 6-11 
27 Vikings 13-4 
28 Panthers 7-10 
29 Cardinals 4-13 
30 Bears 3-14 
31 Texans 3-13-1 
32 Colts 4-12-1 

It's funny that the Giants paid Daniel Jones $40 million per year because the Giants beat this team in the playoffs.


9) Giants (9-7-1 in 2022): Speaking of Jones, he was a turnover machine the first couple years of his career, but has protected the ball far better over the last two. He even had the lowest INT percentage in the NFL this season, at 1.1 percent. However, his improved ball security came at a cost.

According to the NFL’s NextGen stats, Jones was the most conservative quarterback in the NFL in “intended average air yards,” at 6.3 yards through the air per throw, and “air yards to the sticks.” On average his passes landed 2.8 yards short of the sticks. The Giants' offense didn’t hit big plays in the passing game in 2022. They had 28 pass plays of 20+ yards, fewest in the NFL. For comparative purposes, the Eagles had 63. The league average was 49.

In the Giants' aforementioned win over the Vikings in the playoffs, many felt that Jones had his best game of the season, as he completed 24 of 35 passes for 301 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs, for a QB rating of 114.1. In that game, he didn't attempt a single pass more than 20 yards down the field, and he only attempted four passes more than 10 yards down the field.


This offseason, the Giants were well aware that they needed to get faster on offense, so they traded for Darren Waller, signed Parris Campbell in free agency, and traded up for Jalin Hyatt in the draft. Brian Daboll is not going to be content with a dink and dunk offense, and Jones is going to have to push the ball down the field more frequently.

It's going to be funny when people are puzzled by Jones' uptick in INTs when the front office seemingly gave him better weapons to work with.


8) Bears (3-14 in 2022): The Bears could be this year's Lions, in that they're a team on the upswing with a fun offense to watch and a horrid defense. They'll probably be in a lot of entertaining games this season, but have no real chance of competing for a Super Bowl. This is a perfect Thursday Night Football team.


7) Packers (8-9 in 2022): I had the Packers fourth in our post-free agency hierarchy on the premise that I really liked what I saw out of Jordan Love in limited action last season. However, after seeing the deal he accepted from the Packers earlier this month, Love doesn't seem to believe in himself, so why should I?

I'll explain. This offseason, the Packers were facing a decision on whether or not to exercise Love's fifth-year option (for next season), which would have cost a little over $20 million (fully guaranteed) in 2024. That felt like a no-brainer, given that they have been grooming Love the last three years under Aaron Rodgers, who, you know, they traded to the Jets. Instead, they got Love to agree to take just $13.5 million in guaranteed money for a one-year extension to essentially replace the fifth-year option.

The Giants were in a similar situation with Daniel Jones last offseason. They declined to pick up Jones' fifth-year option in 2023, and as a result, they were left with three choices this offseason:

  1. Franchise tag him for $32.4 million
  2. Sign him to a long-term contract
  3. Let him walk in free agency

They chose option No. 2, signing Jones to a four-year deal worth $160 (!) million.

If I'm Jordan Love and I believe in my abilities at all, I'd be thrilled if the Packers declined my fifth-year option and my bar for play to earn a $40 million/year deal next offseason is... freaking Daniel Jones?!? To take a guaranteed one-year figure of $13.5 million instead is just... 🤯. He's basically betting against himself.


6) Saints (7-10 in 2022): The Saints being in the sixth spot in our hierarchy shows just how bad the NFC is this season. If this team played in the AFC, I'd have them at like 13th. I didn't put a lot of time into this, but...

  1. Chiefs
  2. Bengals
  3. Bills
  4. Dolphins
  5. Jaguars
  6. Jets
  7. Ravens
  8. Steelers
  9. Chargers
  10. Patriots
  11. Browns
  12. Broncos
  13. Saints
In the NFC South though, they're favorites to win their hideous division.


5) Seahawks (9-8 in 2022): The NFC West divisional odds, via BetMGM:

• 49ers: -175
• Seahawks: +275
• Rams: +550
• Cardinals: +2500

I kinda love the Seahawks at +275. They have a better quarterback than whoever the 49ers will be rolling out, and in my opinion have one of the best sets of skill position players in the NFL, particularly at wide receiver:

RB: Kenneth Walker and Zach Charbonnet
WR: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba
TE: Noah Fant

Along their offensive line last year they drafted Charles Cross ninth overall and Abraham Lucas in the third round, and both guys started from Day 1. They got thrown to the wolves, survived their rookie seasons, and should be much better in 2023.

Defensively, they got contributions from rookies like Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant, and they added one of my favorite players in the draft in Devon Witherspoon. Along their front seven, the Seahawks don't really have any super recognizable players aside from Bobby Wagner, but they have a bunch of productive, under-the-radar guys like Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor, who each had 9.5 sacks in 2022.

If their young players continue to get better, I could be talked into this Seattle roster being better than San Francisco's.


4) Lions (9-8 in 2022): Annoyed by criticisms of selecting Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs at 12th overall and Iowa LB Jack Campbell 18th overall, Lions GM Brad Holmes was basically like, "Shut up, peons, you don't know what we know."

Holmes' quote, summarized:

If the Lions didn't feel comfortable with Jalen Carter because of his personality or Tyree Wilson because of his injury concerns, I can certainly understand that. By all means, go draft a different player instead. But a running back at 12 and an off-ball linebacker who specializes in stopping the run at 18 is 1970s roster building.

The Lions' questionable draft decisions aside, it's interesting that the NFL has them playing in the season kickoff game against the Chiefs Week 1. The league certainly thinks Detroit is on the upswing. That'll be a fun game, and the Lions should be a fun team to watch this season.


3) 49ers (13-4 in 2022): It is widely accepted that the 49ers have question marks at quarterback, but otherwise have a stellar roster. And certainly, they have very good skill position players, a star-studded defensive line, an outstanding MIKE linebacker, and a professional secondary. On Sunday, we published a 2024 mock draft roundup, and about half of those mocks had the 49ers playing in the Super Bowl based on their draft position. 

Am I crazy for not seeing how that team is better than the Eagles, much less the Cowboys? The Niners added Javon Hargrave this offseason, which is great. However, in addition to losing defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to the Texans, they also lost a slew of free agents:

  1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo
  2. RT Mike McGlinchey
  3. DE Samson Ebukam
  4. DE Charles Omenihu
  5. S Jimmie Ward
  6. CB Emmanuel Moseley
  7. LB Azeez Al-Shaair
  8. iOL Daniel Brunskill
  9. DT Hassan Ridgeway

The loss of McGlinchey is particularly concerning, even if he wasn't exactly a star player. The Niners' offensive line is a far bigger concern than whatever concerns the Eagles have at, saaayyy, linebacker or safety. If the season started today, the San Francisco offensive line would look like this:

Trent Williams Aaron Banks Jake Brendel Spencer Burford Colton McKivitz 

Trent Williams remains a great player, but the sum of the rest of parts of this line is bad.

The thing that the 49ers really have going for them this season that the Eagles and Cowboys do not is that they play in a division with the Cardinals and Rams, who are good for four easy wins.


2) Cowboys (12-5 in 2022): From the time he entered the NFL in 2016 through until 2021 (with a little blip to begin 2018 before they traded for Amari Cooper at the deadline), Dak Prescott has always had a great supporting cast around him on offense. In 2022, the wide receivers as a whole weren't really scary anymore, the offensive line had concerns galore, and Ezekiel Elliott's play was deep in decline. It was easily the worst supporting offensive cast Prescott had as a professional quarterback, and sure enough, he had in my opinion his worst season as a pro, tying for the league lead in INTs.

With Elliott (probably) gone, the Cowboys will finally stop trying to run their offense through a washed player, and the addition of Brandin Cooks on the outside should be a big help. The Cowboys already have one of the best defenses in the NFL. If Dak can rebound from a bad 2022 season, the Cowboys are the biggest threats to the Eagles in the NFC, and really I don't think it's that close.


1) Eagles (14-3 in 2022): As regular readers of mine know, each year around the end of June I publish 10 reasons each team in the NFC East could be a dumpster fire in the upcoming season. I've already started to look ahead to that series, and I'm not sure how I'm getting to 10 reasons with the Eagles this year. Some of those 10 reasons are really going to be reaches.

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