Jared Goff Picked First in 2022 Joe Thomas Draft
NFL Week 18 - It's time once again, boys and girls—time for the annual Joe Thomas Draft! My favorite time of the year, by far.
We hold the Joe Thomas draft every year in memory of Thomas' long, fruitless career. One of the best to ever play the game toiling away in the Factory of Sadness in Cleveland, Thomas never got to play a single postseason snap, because the Browns were a disaster. And he's not alone—every year, over half the league's teams have to stay home in January. This deprives us of superstars whom we would like—no, damn it, whom we deserve—to see on the grandest stages of them all. The Joe Thomas Draft allows us to imagine a landscape in which the league's best players don't spend a decade at the top of their game missing the playoffs on teams at the bottom of the standings.
It's also lets us take a look at the weaknesses each playoff team has as we enter the playoffs—the spots where they can be attacked, the spots where injuries have left them at a disadvantage, the spots where they are getting by on bailing wire and hope. It's too late past the trade deadline to do anything, but hey, with the Joe Thomas Draft in effect, teams could rent a solution for a month! It's the best of all what-if scenarios, if you ask me.
The Joe Thomas Draft allows each of the 14 playoff teams to draft players from the 18 squads which ended up not reaching the postseason; the sixth and seventh seeds each get an extra pick at the end to give them the biggest boost. Of course, to do that, we need to predict who actually will be those seventh seeds, which remains very much up in the air as this is written.
Lacking a crystal ball, we shall make do with what we think are the most likely scenarios. In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers have a win-and-in scenario over the Lions; our odds give them a 55.0% chance of earning the final wild-card slot, and so they're our choice. The AFC is a little trickier. We're giving the Jaguars the win over the Titans, starting Josh Dobbs. But for the wild card? Well, the Patriots have the win-and-in scenario, but they have to play the Bills, and guessing their status at this point in time is an impossible task. The Dolphins have the highest odds of making the postseason by our numbers at 40.1%; they would need to win and have New England lose to pull that off. We'll go with them for now.
One final reminder of the rules:
- We have 14 playoff teams and 18 non-playoff teams.
- Every playoff team may pick, in reverse order of seed, one player from any eliminated team.
- Picks alternate by conference. The AFC picks first because we expect them to have the weaker seventh seed.
- Only one player may be selected from any eliminated team. If Myles Garrett goes off the board, the rest of the Browns go with him.
So, without further ado, welcome to the…
Sixth Annual Joe Thomas Draft
1. Miami Dolphins: Jared Goff, QB, DET
Well, Miami could stand to improve their pass protection at the guard slot, and Mike Gesicki never meshed with Mike McDaniel's offense…
No, of course the Dolphins had to take the best quarterback available. Tua Tagovailoa's status for the rest of the season has to be considered highly questionable after suffering his third concussion of the year, and Teddy Bridgewater's dislocated finger makes his status for Week 18 and beyond questionable as well. No one wants to see Skylar Thompson leading the Dolphins boldly into the postseason.
There are fewer solid quarterbacks to pick from this year than usual; the resurgences of the Packers and Buccaneers took some options off the table. By DVOA, the best options are Goff, followed by Jacoby Brissett, Geno Smith, Andy Dalton, and Marcus Mariota. Goff is head-and-shoulders above the rest; fourth in DVOA at 25.7% and second in DYAR at 1,409. He also has experience in a Shanahan/McVay-style offense, making the transition to what the Dolphins are doing a little easier. He hasn't thrown deep as much this season as Tagovailoa has, but having the likes of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle stretching the field for you make deep shots a bit more appealing.
2. Green Bay Packers: Quinnen Williams, DT, NYJ
The Packers are 31st in run defense DVOA at 10.2%. They are 32nd in adjusted line yards and 30th in stuff rate. A lot of the problem comes from the linebackers and safeties missing tackles like there's no tomorrow, but the Green Bay defensive line gets blown off the ball far too often for a team that might have to face the Eagles or 49ers' rushing attacks in the first round.
Any defender in the middle of the field would be a boon—and we'll probably double up on them once we get to the Packers' second pick—but Quinnen Williams is having an All-Pro-caliber season at defensive tackle and would slot in nicely for the injured Dean Lowry. Admittedly, Williams has been more of a force in the pass rush this year with 12 sacks and 30 quarterback pressures. Oh no! What a shame, adding a double-digit-sack player to the Packers line. And his 74% run stop rate is better than that of any Packers lineman this season. Shoring up an area of weakness while also being able to terrorize quarterbacks from the inside? Sign me up.
3. Baltimore Ravens: Davante Adams, WR, LV
We have had several discussions in the Football Outsiders Discord channel this year about whether or not the Ravens have the worst receiving corps in the league. The answer is probably no, but we did have to think about it, as the trio of Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and DeSean Jackson isn't exactly striking fear in the hearts of defenses everywhere. Their leader in receiving DYAR, Duvernay, is out for the year, and any time a team is seriously weakened by the loss of Devin Duvernay, you know you have a problem.
By DYAR, the choice here is Amari Cooper, followed by Tyler Lockett. But Adams may well be the best deep threat in the league this year; he's third behind Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill with 238 DYAR on deep passes, and Jefferson and Hill aren't available to be picked. By contrast, the top healthy Ravens deep threat is Mark Andrews with just 37 deep DYAR. Assuming Lamar Jackson is back and healthy, giving him a weapon to stretch the field is the best thing Baltimore can do, and there isn't a better option on the board.
4. New York Giants: Patrick Surtain, CB, DEN
New York getting into the playoffs is a huge credit to Brian Daboll's coaching prowess, because the Giants were widely considered the least talented team in football coming into the year. And while they were better than we gave them credit for, they're still operating at a talent deficiency compared to the other teams in the postseason. Almost anyone could be slotted in for an upgrade. They're 25th in adjusted line yards on offense, dead last in rush defense DVOA at 11.0%, and are 23rd against No. 1 receivers with a 9.8% DVOA. Take your pick.
I'd love to have sent Sauce Gardner from across town, but the Packers quelched that choice. Patrick Surtain isn't exactly chopped liver, mind you! The Pro Bowler is allowing just 5.9 yards per target with 11 pass breakups. He's shutting down his half of the field and can be reliably left alone on any receiver in the NFL, freeing up coverages to help elsewhere. Surtain and Adoree' Jackson make for a solid top pair of corners, while Fabian Moreau can kick into the slot like he did with Washington.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: Chris Lindstrom, G, ATL
It would help the Chargers if they could block one (1) defender. Only the Broncos and Vikings have allowed more pressures this season, and ESPN has L.A. ranked 23rd and 29th in pass and run block win rate, respectively. Some of this will be helped when Rashawn Slater returns, but that still leaves the problem of Matt Feiler. Feiler has 28 blown blocks on the season, and he has been atrocious in the running game; his 3.8% blown block rate is second-worst among guards with at least 300 snaps this season, and he's in the top 10 in stuffs allowed.
Enter Chris Lindstrom, who has been playing close to perfect football for the last two months, destroying people in front of him and helping Tyler Allgeier vault into the top five in rushing DYAR. Lindstrom has just one holding flag against him—not last game, or last week, or even this season, but in his entire four-year career. More often, the first-time Pro Bowler is just moving 300-pound guys away from the line of scrimmage with ease. More room for Austin Ekeler to run, more time for Justin Herbert to breathe.
6. Dallas Cowboys: Amari Cooper, WR, CLE
There's concern about Tyler Biadasz's heath, which downgraded multiple positions on the offensive line, but it sounds like he'll back for the postseason. That leaves us with the problem the Cowboys have had all year long—the hole at their second receiver position. CeeDee Lamb is great, but no other Cowboys receiver has 50 receptions or 600 yards or five touchdowns. Michael Gallup and Noah Brown aren't disasters, by any stretch of the imagination, but they're not game-changers either. There's a reason the Cowboys were flirting with Odell Beckham for months; there's a reason they dug T.Y. Hilton out of mothballs for depth.
I know it's hard to imagine, but how good would Amari Cooper look in this Cowboys offense? Cooper, who currently sits seventh with 280 DYAR, would be the best route-runner in Dallas' offense. His presence on the outside could let the Cowboys move Lamb to the inside, where he could be moved around to exploit mismatches against overmatched safeties. Cooper regularly wins his one-on-one matchups and would give Dak Prescott an outlet to hit if the offensive line isn't up to full strength. Yeah, if the Cowboys had a player like Cooper on their roster, they wouldn't let him go for anything. I'm sure.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, CB, LAR
And while we're sneakily arranging reunions, why not bring Jalen Ramsey back to Duval? Jacksonville is 29th in pass defense DVOA at 20.0%, including being 28th against top receivers and 30th among passes in the middle of the field. The Jaguars have shuffled things around a bit, moving Darious Williams to the outside over the past month. That has helped somewhat as he has replaced Shaq Griffin and played better than he did in the slot, but it hasn't been a cure-all; they're still one corner short of a trio.
The choice, then, was to take a slot specialist such as Bradley Roby or Tavierre Thomas, or Ramsey. Ramsey may be a bit past his prime, but he's still a better cover corner than anyone else available, and he has 211 snaps at slot this season, more than any other Rams corner. It'll be weird shunting him inside fulltime to make way for Williams and Tyson Campbell on the boundaries, but the more I think about it, the more I like the fit. Plus, it's very, very funny, and that's always a great tiebreaker for these sorts of things.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Laremy Tunsil, OT, HOU
The Buccaneers are 30th in rushing DVOA. They do end up going about as pass-happy as physically possible -- Tom Brady is on pace to break the record for pass attempts in a season, after all -- but tend to turn to their run game in the most predictable spots possible. Per RBSDM, and despite having the second-fewest rushes in the league, the Buccaneers have a higher than expected run rate on first-and-10, third-and-short, and after passing for first downs. The Buccaneers run in very specific situations, defenses are ready for it, and failure ensues. I suppose "slap upside the head to stop Tampa Bay from being so obvious" is out of the question, so the next-best thing is to improve their running game to the point where it's no longer just wasting a down. We could to that by bringing in an actual running back—Derrick Henry is available, as are Brian Robinson and Rhamondre Stevenson. But I think the run blocking may be a more significant issue here. Leonard Fournette is averaging just 2.0 yards before contact per attempt, third-lowest in the league. The offensive line as a whole is 29th in adjusted line yards, and while Fournette is not blameless, it's hard to run when you can't pick up a head of steam.
The weak link on the line at the moment is left tackle Donovan Smith (29 blown blocks on the year, albeit more in the passing game than the running game), so let's replace him with one of the better tackles in Tunsil. Tunsil will shore up Tom Brady's blind side and maybe give Fournette the tiniest bit of room to gain momentum.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, NO
La'el Collins tore his ACL and MCL in Week 16. That's bad. His replacement, Hakeem Adeniji, made the 2021 All Keep-Choppin' Wood team, albeit at guard instead of tackle. That also, for those keeping track at home, is bad.
Cursing the fact that Tunsil went one spot before they could pick—and with players such as Kaleb McGary, Kolton Miller and Penei Sewell blocked by earlier selections—the Bengals will take the next-best tackle available. For me, that's Ramczyk over the less-tested Braxton Jones; Ramczyk is having a comparative down year, but he's still better than any tackle Cincinnati has trotted out this season.
10. Minnesota Vikings: David Andrews, C, NE
Austin Schlottman fractured his fibula early in the game against Green Bay, and he was already replacing the injured Garrett Bradbury. Bradbury has not practiced since getting into a car accident on December 20, and his status for the playoffs has to be highly questionable. The Vikings are also missing tackle Brian O'Neill with a calf injury. The logical pick here is an offensive lineman replacement for the player least likely to return. The Vikings know that better than we do, but we can make our best guess.
And my best guess is that the downside of having a center who has never played the position is worse than throwing a backup in at tackle. Emergency center Chris Reed struggled with the snap and cadences, two fairly important aspects of playing center! Our only choice at center is David Andrews, with Ethan Pocic and Frank Ragnow off the board and Ben Jones on IR. Easy choice, then.
11.Buffalo Bills: Kevin Byard, S, TEN
As of press time, Damar Hamlin is reportedly moving in a positive direction after suffering cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football. He's still in critical condition and under sedation, but is showing signs of improvement. The football world continues to watch and hope.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Stephon Gilmore, CB, IND
Yes, I'm as surprised as you are that the 49ers are not taking a quarterback here, but how much would adding Geno Smith or Jacoby Brissett really improve things over Brock Purdy at this point in time? Purdy keeps winning and keeps playing well; he'd be fifth in DVOA had he enough passes to qualify. Is that system-enhanced? Of course it is. But, and as surprising as this feels to say, the 49ers' weak point right now is not their third-string seventh-round quarterback.
Instead, it's the other significantly injured position. The 49ers have lost Emmanuel Moseley, Dontae Johnson, and Jason Verrett to injuries at cornerback, leaving Charvarius Ward holding down the fort mostly alone. Options are beginning to get a little scarce, but Stephon Gilmore's track record vaults him over Tariq Woolen's interceptions for this year, at least.
13. Kansas City Chiefs: T.J. Watt, ER, Steelers
… really? We're just going to let T.J. Watt fall all this way, huh? No one else wants the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year? Well, I suppose, if no one else will take him…
In all seriousness, the Chiefs' defense does remain their Achilles heel; they're 23rd in defensive DVOA; fourth behind the Giants, Jaguars, and Vikings among projected playoff teams; and dead last among teams we expect to have a real chance of winning the Super Bowl. It really isn't so much the pass rush that's letting them down, though—they're sixth in adjusted sack rate and in a similar boat in other pass rush stats. But we know they were looking; they were involved in rumors with Jacksonville's Josh Allen and with Bradley Chubb. And a lot of their pressure comes from blitzes and scheme rather than the front four just winning. Watt can take over the LEO spot from the rookie George Karlaftis, who has started to come on down the stretch but remains very much a work in progress.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA
The Eagles are another team where we're monitoring injuries. C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Robert Quinn have both returned to practice, and there's hope that Avonte Maddox will join them soon. Jalen Hurts is participating in walkthroughs and will be good to go by the postseason. Josh Sweat is back in the complex, too. Any one of those five players could have a setback, and the right thing to do would be to pick someone here to replace them—Ryan Neal, Montez Sweat, Tariq Woolen, and Geno Smith are all still available.
But assuming that the injured all are back by the divisional round, wouldn't it be nice to upgrade over Quez Watkins in the slot? Watkins is 51st in receiving DVOA and 60th in DYAR, the weak link in a passing attack with two top-dozen players out wide and the top tight end in DVOA. And if Tyler Lockett is still nursing leg and finger injuries? Well, at least he'd have plenty of company in the trainer's room in Philadelphia.
15. Miami Dolphins: Kamren Curl, S, WAS
The pickings are getting pretty slim here. Miami could really use cornerback help; Nik Needham ruptured his Achilles back in August, and the outside duo of Noah Ibginohene and Keion Crossen do not exactly strike fear in the heart of quarterbacks everywhere. But with just Carolina, Washington, Chicago, and Arizona left, there's not exactly a plentiful collection of quality cornerbacks to choose from.
So we'll bolster the secondary in another way, adding Kamren Curl to replace Eric Rowe at strong safety. Miami is 30th covering tight ends with a 31.5% DVOA; Washington is third. Curl is one of the better pass-covering safeties in the league, with the only question mark now being availability. Curl has been out a couple of weeks with an ankle issue, but Washington isn't exactly in a hurry to bring him back now that they have been eliminated. We'll hope another week will get Curl ready to go for the wild-card round.
16. Green Bay Packers: Franke Luvu, LB, CAR
We said we'd probably double-up on run defenders when we got to the Packers' second pick, and that's exactly what we're doing. Quay Walker has had his fair share of struggles as a rookie; the game still seems to be going fast for him, and he's hesitant and slow and gets left out of position too often. There's time to correct that as he continues to develop, but for now, the Packers can do better.
You want instincts and reaction time? We can give you instincts and reaction time. Frankie Luvu is the best run defender left; his 13 rush defeats lead all Panthers, Bears, and Cardinals—and, for that matter, Packers. His 66% run stop rate is better than any other linebacker on all four teams; he has been a playmaker all year long and somewhat justified Carolina letting Haason Reddick walk. Luvu would liven up the heart of the Green Bay defense.
17. Baltimore Ravens: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, ARI
The ideal add for Baltimore at this point would be an edge rusher, but the Cardinals and Bears are not the team to shop for there. Markus Golden? Al-Quadin Muhammad? Pass and pass. J.J. Watt in the interior would be a nice add, but not a crucial one for Baltimore specifically with Calais Campbell already on the inside.
… would it be crazy to add another receiver to Baltimore? Going from Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and DeSean Jackson to Watkins, Davante Adams, and DeAndre Hopkins would be astonishing. Would Greg Roman even know what to do with them? Would Lamar Jackson, who avoids throwing outside more than almost any other quarterback in the league, be able to hook up with that kind of talent? I know I'd like to find out!
18. New York Giants: Braxton Jones, OT, CHI
Well, first things first—who on the Bears is both worth drafting and not hurt, which rules out Tevin Jenkins, Eddie Jackson, and Justin Fields? I can think of two names.
First is Khalil Herbert. He's 11th in rushing DYAR and fourth in rushing DVOA, serving as Chicago's second running back behind David Montgomery. That might be enticing for some teams, but the Giants are fine with the 1-2 punch of Saquon Barkley and Matt Breida; I'm not sure how much adding Montgomery would actually boost New York's chances.
The other is Braxton Jones, the fifth-round rookie out of Southern Utah. He has taken every snap at tackle and exceed all reasonable expectations, looking like one of the few building blocks the Bears have offensively going forwards. Right tackle is definitely a hole for the Giants, as their rookie, Evan Neal, has had a rookie season to forget. A little embarrassing for a first-round pick to be outplayed by a fifth-rounder, but these things happen sometimes. Added personal protection for Daniel Jones it is.
16 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2023, 1:33pm
#1 by MilkmanDanimal // Jan 05, 2023 - 5:38pm
This is my regularly-scheduled heavy sigh reminder that the Bucs had multiple opportunities to draft Laremy Tunsil in 2016, and instead made the choice to pick Vernon Hargreaves III instead. Nothing good has ever come from a thing named VH3, be it a cornerback or Van Halen album.
This is the same draft where they traded up for Roberto Aguayo. It takes a lot to be the low point for the 2010 Bucs, but I think they managed it that weekend.
#2 by BigRichie // Jan 05, 2023 - 6:33pm
Any reason why you can't run this on Tuesday after the season is over?
Even conceding the academic nature of the exercise, just kinda stupid to have teams drafting that wind up out of the playoffs, and players drafted who wind up in them.
(keeps me from bothering to read it, anyway)
#3 by KnotMe // Jan 05, 2023 - 7:04pm
It says something that the first teams needs a QB and Goff is the #1 pick...and this totally makes sense. If you don't have a QB it's hard to be a playoff team.
Unless your Kyle Shanahan, in which case who you plug in is irrelevant.
#9 by BlueStarDude // Jan 05, 2023 - 9:50pm
The Cooper pick to the Cowboys is fun, but really their offense is putting up points. What they need is a CB (like the team selecting after them here): the decline in the effectiveness of their pass rush corresponds to the loss of Anthony Brown which was the second of their top three CBs lost for the season. By the stats I've seen Dallas is still getting pressure but they're not getting home; evident from watching has been the opposing QBs able to get rid of the ball quickly. Better coverage would go along way to restoring the early season pass rushing success they had.