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May 23, 2022

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Post-draft edition

Eagles NFL
051822JalenHurts Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles have surrounded Jalen Hurts with plenty of talent.

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) Bears (6-11 in 2021): While recording a podcast episode during which we went through the Eagles' schedule, we got to the Bears, and if I'm being perfectly honest, I had no idea who was even on their offense. I knew they had Justin Fields at quarterback, Darnell Mooney at receiver, and David Montgomery at running back. Otherwise... 🤷‍♂️.

Before you look below, try to think of how many Bears offensive starters you can name.

(Jeopardy music playing)...

Done? Alright, here's their starting lineup, per Ourlads and PFF:

QB Justin Fields 
RB David Montgomery 
WR Darnell Mooney 
WR Equanimeous St. Brown 
WR Byron Pringle 
TE Cole Kmet 
LT Larry Borom 
LG Cody Whitehair 
Lucas Patrick 
RG Sam Mustipher 
RT Teven Jenkins 

If you got Larry Borom and Sam Mustipher and you're not a Bears fan, you're probably not getting outside enough.

Anyway, I don't know yet what I think of Fields as a potential "face of the franchise" type of quarterback, but holy hell, at least give the kid a fighting chance.


15) Falcons (7-10 in 2021): If you read enough Eagles content, you've surely seen that they had the second-fewest sacks in the NFL last season, with 29. You know who had the fewest? The Falcons, who had 11 fewer than the Eagles, with 18 (!). T.J. Watt and Robert Quinn had more sacks on their own. And three of Atlanta's four leaders in sacks aren't even on the team anymore. 

On obvious passing downs, the way their defense is currently constructed, their front four is probably Lorenzo Carter, Grady Jarrett, Ta'Quon Graham (?), and rookie Arnold Ebiketie. That quartet had 6 combined (NFL) sacks in 2021.

I think it's easy to look at the Falcons and dismiss them because their quarterback is Marcus Mariota. And that's fine, too! But their pass rush is an even bigger problem, somehow.


14) Panthers (5-12 in 2021): Is Sam Darnold still the quarterback? Yes? Cool. Next.


13) Giants (4-13 in 2021): By the time the 2021 season ended, the Giants were arguably the worst team in the NFL. And really, I can't believe I have them this high in the rankings, but that speaks more to the high number of absolutely dreadful teams in the NFC, as opposed to some sort of noteworthy improvement by the Giants.

I mean, we have the Lions, a team that picked second in the 2021 NFL Draft, ranked 11th in the hierarchy, and they didn't really even do anything that special to improve their team.


12) Seahawks (7-10 in 2021): Remember a few months ago when we were debating whether or not the Eagles should trade for quarterbacks like Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson? At the time, I had watched Wilson's first five games of the 2021 season, before he suffered a gross injury to the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand. 

In those five games, he was 90 of 125 (72%) for 1,196 yards (9.6 YPA), 10 TDs, 1 INT, for a QB rating of 125.3 QB rating. He looked every bit like the elite quarterback he has been over the course of his career, if not better. 

Post-injury, he was bad for a couple games after he attempted to come back too soon, but eventually started playing at a high level again to close the season.

Seahawks fans have gotten used to stellar and consistent quarterback play over the last decade, as Wilson hadn't missed a game in his entire career until 2021. They got their first taste in a long time of what it's like to watch a non-elite quarterback lead their team, when Geno Smith had to start three games.

I'm curious if those dorks who wear "12" jerseys to Seahawks games keep showing up to watch Drew Lock throw interceptions with the team eliminated from playoff contention by Week 14.


11) Lions (3-13-1 in 2021): Listen to anyone talk about the Lions and you'd think they're some sort of up-and-coming team. Dan Campbell has gone from a punchline to an embraceable figure, and Detroit has good vibes surrounding them for the first time in a long time.

The Lions will be improved in 2021. They'll win more games than they did in 2021. They have a good offensive line, and a young defense that should improve as the season progresses. 

But for now, Jared Goff is still the starting quarterback and he doesn't have much in the way of threatening wide receivers to throw to, at least until Jameson Williams is ready to play. They're on the right track on what remains a long building process, but they're still highly likely to be a double-digit loss team.


10) Saints (9-8 in 2021): With the 11th pick of the 2022 NFL Draft the Saints selected Ohio State receiver Chris Olave. Let's document how that pick came to be.

• On April 4, as you're all well aware, the Saints and Eagles agreed to swap of draft picks, as follows:

Eagles get Saints get 
18th overall pick, 2022 16th overall pick, 2022 
Third-round pick (101st overall), 2022 19th overall pick, 2022 
Seventh-round pick (237th overall), 2022 Sixth-round pick (194th overall), 2022 
2023 first-round pick  
2024 second-round pick  

The Saints essentially traded a 1, a 2 and a 3 for the 16th overall pick in a draft that many would argue had a substantial dropoff in talent at around pick 14. They also moved back a spot from pick No. 18 to pick No. 19, which is the value of a fifth-round pick, according to the trade value chart.

They then made a trade up to pick No. 11 with the Commanders, as follows:

 Commanders got:Saints got 
16th overall pick 11th overall pick 
Third-round pick (98th overall)  
Fourth-round pick (120th overall)  

So all told, the Saints used the following resources to select Olave:

  1. A first-round pick in 2023
  2. A second-round pick in 2024
  3. A third-round pick in 2022
  4. Another third-round pick in 2022
  5. A fourth-round pick in 2022
  6. The equivalent of a fifth-round pick

In fairness, they did move up from pick No. 237 to pick No. 194. 🎉

The Saints are delusional about their chances of competing for a Super Bowl in 2022.


9) Commanders (7-10 in 2021): This is a fun watch. It's "All of Carson Wentz’s left-handed pass attempts with the Colts." You have to click "Watch on YouTube" because the NFL doesn't allow video embeds for some dumbass reason.

1/4, 2 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT (1 pick-six), 0.0 passer rating.


8) Vikings (8-9 in 2021): In March, Kirk Cousins signed a one-year, fully guaranteed, $35 million extension that runs through 2023, that also includes a no-trade clause (LOL!), thus ensuring mediocrity in Minnesota for the next two seasons.


7) Cardinals (11-6 in 2021): In case you haven't been following the Cardinals' offseason, it's been turbulent. 

In March, Kyler Murray's agent reportedly submitted a contract extension proposal to the Cardinals, did not immediately receive a counter offer from them, and then pulled the offer off the table. A video recap from Tom Pelissero of NFL Network: 

As Pelissero notes, a cluster of quarterbacks scored lucrative contract extensions this offseason, including Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford, and Derek Carr.

It seems Murray took notice, and he wanted to join the $40 million per year club ASAP. According to Pelissero, he was willing to exercise the only real leverage he had if he didn't get what he wanted, which was to hold out.

Unfortunately, Murray's situation was not like any of those aforementioned quarterbacks' situations. Murray just completed his third season in the NFL, and while he is now eligible for a new contract extension, he is under contract for his fourth year, and if the Cardinals exercise their fifth-year option on him, his fifth (duh). They would also then have the franchise tag at their disposal in year six.

It would be out of the ordinary for a quarterback on his rookie contract to get a new deal as early as March or April of the offseason in between a quarterback's third and fourth seasons, as he was previously demanding. A look at four recent comparable situations:

QB Year drafted Re-signed 
Josh Allen, Bills 2018 August, 2021 
Lamar Jackson, Ravens 2018 Still on rookie contract 
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs 2017 July, 2020 
Deshaun Watson, Texans 2017 September, 2020 

All four of those quarterbacks are better than Murray, and the soonest that any of them got a new deal was Mahomes, who signed in July of the offseason after his third season. Hell, Lamar Jackson still hasn't gotten a deal done yet, and he's heading into his fifth season. If you want to go back another year, you have Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, who both received contract extensions after their third seasons in the NFL, and their teams eventually regretted it.

This squabble between Murray and the Cardinals wasn't new. In February, Murray scrubbed his Instagram account of all photos related to the Cardinals. Shortly thereafter, a report surfaced from Chris Mortensen of ESPN in which Murray was "described as self-centered, immature and a finger pointer."

And then soon after that, Murray's agent put out a long, rambling, all caps statement in which he basically said that the Cardinals sucked before Murray got there, and that Murray is responsible for any success the team has had since his arrival. It also hints at some sort of ultimatum. Don't actually attempt to read this unless you want a headache.

Murray's camp has since calmed down a bit, and Murray himself has made several statements that he wants to be a Cardinal. But ultimately, if a deal doesn't get done before training camp, it'll be interesting to see if Murray shows up.

Oh, and in addition to Murray's camp crying about his contract situation, DeAndre Hopkins got pinched for PEDs, and he is now serving a six-game suspension 

If the Lions are the "good vibes" team, this is the "bad vibes" team. 


6) Eagles (9-8 in 2021): The Eagles might have the best offensive line in the NFL. They have the best receiving group that they've had in a very long time. They had the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL last season. The defense appears to be upgraded at all three levels.

They are better on paper than Dallas on offense. They are also better on paper than Dallas on defense. Therefore, they are better on paper than Dallas overall.

So why are they behind Dallas here? Well, let's be real. Dallas has had their number ever since the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Let's see it on the field first.


5) Cowboys (12-5 in 2021): The Cowboys were the No. 1 team in 2021 in DVOA (6th ranked offense, 2nd ranked defense, and 6th ranked special teams), but their season ended quickly in the playoffs, as it typically does.

They still indisputably have the best quarterback in the NFC East, but they objectively got worse this offseason when they lost edge rusher Randy Gregory, RT La'el Collins, LG Connor Williams, and WR Cedrick Wilson in free agency, and when they took 10 cents on the dollar when they traded WR Amari Cooper.

The strengths of their offense were their offensive line and their receiving corps, both of which were among the best in the NFL. Now? Not so much.

The offensive line is comprised of Zack Martin (still great), a hobbled Tyron Smith, and a bunch of question marks. The wide receiving corps lost some serious juice with the departure of Cooper, and Wilson was an ascending player.

Ezekiel Elliott is aging (in running back years), and Prescott has stalled out as a borderline top 10 quarterback who has failed to make that next big leap.

Meanwhile, the defense led the NFL with 34 takeaways in 2021. Here's a recent list of teams that had at least 30 takeaways in one season, and how many takeaways they had the following season: 

 Year, teamTakeaways Takeaways the next year +/- 
2019 Steelers 38 27 -11 
2019 Patriots 36 22 -14 
2019 Seahawks 32 22 -10 
2019 Vikings 31 22 -9 
2018 Bears 36 19 -17 
2018 Browns 31 20 -11 
2018 Rams 30 24 -6 
2017 Ravens 34 17 -17 
2017 Jaguars 33 17 -16 
2017 Lions 32 14 -18 
2017 Eagles 31 17 -14 
2016 Chiefs 33 26 -7 
2016 Raiders 30 14 -16 

On average, those teams had 12.8 fewer turnovers the next season. So, you know, expect some regression there as well.


4) 49ers (10-7 in 2021): ESPN's 2022 "Football Power Index," friends.

I guess I get that Trey Lance is an unknown and all, but when your model says that the Giants and Lions are better than the 49ers, maybe tinker with the model a little while longer.


3) Packers (13-4 in 2021): The Packers last won a Super Bowl during the 2010 season. Since then, they have won 118 games, most in the NFC by a decent margin.

 TeamRecord since Packers' last Super Bowl win 
Packers 118-57-2 
Seahawks 112-64-1 
Saints 110-67 
Cowboys 98-79 
Vikings 90-85-2 
Eagles 90-86-1 
49ers 90-86-1 
Cardinals 89-86-2 
Rams 88-88-1 
Falcons 87-90 
Panthers 86-90-1 
Bears 79-98 
Lions 74-101-2 
Buccaneers 73-104 
Washington 70-106-1 
Giants 70-107 

Compiling a 118-57-2 (0.672) record over 11 seasons is really impressive, but the Packers haven't been back to the Super Bowl during that span.

Also, lol Giants and Commanders.


2) Buccaneers (13-4 in 2021): The Bucs are still pretty loaded. The Rams are the champs, and so for now it would be stupid for any other team to occupy the top spot in the hierarchy, but the Bucs are probably my favorites right now to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.


1) Rams (12-5 in 2021, 🏆): The Rams' 2022 opponents had a combined record of 164-125 (0.567) last season, which gives them the hardest schedule in the NFL. Or if you prefer your strength of schedule analytics to be based off of Vegas win-loss projections, it's the second-hardest schedule in the NFL, and still the hardest schedule in the NFC.  

A Rams repeat won't be easy.

Happy 1000.

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