Pre-Combine Mock Draft: Giants Go Big, Eagles Go Bigger

Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. State
Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. State
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - The following 2022 first-round mock draft contains:

  • 32 picks
  • 27 teams
  • Two quarterbacks
  • Twice your recommended daily dose of Aaron Rodgers/Russell Wilson trade speculation
  • Philadelphia Eagles fan service
  • Cincinnati Bengals trolling
  • Plenty of insights and analysis, but
  • Lots of speculation and wisecracks, because we haven’t even reached free agency or the daggum combine yet!

As always, Football Outsiders' 2022 NFL draft coverage is presented by Underdog Fantasy!

Underdog Fantasy

And away we go:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ikem Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, North Carolina State

Salvaging Trevor Lawrence’s potential is the Jaguars’ only priority in 2022. That’s why they hired sitcom dad Doug Pederson as head coach, and it’s why they will emphasize pass protection in free agency and the draft.

But which pass protector? Benjamin Robinson’s Grinding the Mocks research suggests that Alabama’s Evan Neal is the current consensus choice. We’ll get to Neal soon enough, but Walkthrough just loves Ekwonu’s tape and thinks that the Hulk-sized lineman will blow up both combine workouts and interviews. 

Trading down would be an appealing option for the Jaguars. But with several top candidates at tackle, edge rusher and receiver but zero top candidates at quarterback, nobody’s gonna want to trade up. 

2. Detroit Lions: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge Rusher, Oregon

Robinson’s Grinding the Mocks research has Aiden Hutchinson ranked ahead of Thibodeaux, but that may be the result of inside-baseball mock draft click science: Detroit team plus Michigan star equals positive engagement. Thibodeaux ranks ahead of Hutchinson on the FO 40 (launching next week!), and we have a hunch that the gap will widen after combine workouts, particularly the 3-cone. 

The Lions defense finished 31st, 27th and 31st in adjusted sack rate in 2021, so this is a case where the Best Available Athlete also fits a position of extreme need. .

3. Houston Texans: Kyle Hamilton, Safety, Notre Dame

Six cups of coffee? Check. Twenty straight hours of Veggie Tales on DVD? Check. Twenty-four bench-presses of an empty bar with lots of grunting? Check. 

I HAVE NOW ACHIEVED THE HOUSTON TEXANS FRONT-OFFICE HEADSPACE. And it feels a lot like a weak-tea version of the Cowboys headspace: draft a big-strong-famous guy the owner and his life coach have heard of, claim it’s part of some inscrutable personnel philosophy, waddle off to the back nine with unearned confidence. Hey, it often works for the Cowboys!

And hey, Hamilton's awesome. Also, Lovie Smith is now in charge, and Smith’s defense relies on its deep safeties, so this selection makes as much sense as any. 

4. New York Jets: Aidan Hutchinson, Edge Rusher, Michigan

The Jets have not finished higher than 20th in adjusted sack rate since 2014, so this is a safe pick. Hutchinson and a returning Carl Lawson will give the Jets an all-important “identity”: it will make them good at something, after a year in which they struggled to simply be non-terrible at anything.

5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama

Walkthrough really wanted to play a hunch here: Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is the best center prospect we’ve seen in a decade, and with Andrew Thomas developing into a quality left tackle, the Giants might choose to address their issues on the interior line. But Neal played right tackle and guard early in his collegiate career, so Thomas can stay put while the Giants add a don’t-call-him-a-Hog-Molly on the right side of their line, which has been a disaster area for several years.

6. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, Quarterback, Pitt

It’s a poorly-kept secret that the Panthers are shopping on the quarterback trade market. But nobody with a no-trade clause or a second career as a game-show host/podcaster will willingly climb aboard Matt Rhule’s sinking ship.

Once the organization’s options become limited to the Wentz-Garoppolo tier, Rhule will nope out of the veteran market in self-defense. A rookie could give Rhule a developmental mulligan year – think Matt Nagy’s Bears gambit in 2021 – but Malik Willis, the higher-ranked quarterback in the FO 40 (coming soon!), would be too risky. Rhule needs a Mac Jones-type who can look halfway decent immediately, and Pickett’s the only quarterback in the draft remotely in that category.

In other words, this pick has nothing to do with the caliber of the prospect or the needs of the organization but everything to do with the self-preservation instincts of the team’s decision-makers. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how accurate mock draft predictions are made.

7. New York Giants: Tyler Linderbaum, Center, Iowa

Couldn’t hold back any longer! Yes, this is a reach. No center has been drafted higher than 18th in the 21st century or higher than 12th since the merger. But Walkthrough is certain Linderbaum will be the highest-drafted center in a long time. And just look at the situation Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll are in: ownership expects them to transform Daniel Jones into Josh Allen, but their interior offensive line is in shambles. If they bulwark the offensive line, they can get an “accurate read” on Jones. Heck, they might even discover that Jones can be kinda-sorta effective in a competent offense with decent protection and a receiver corps that looks solid on paper. 

Defense? Schoen and Daboll can worry about that when the Giants stop punting on fourth-and-inches and quarterback-sneaking during the opening coin toss. 

8. Atlanta Falcons: Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty

When there are two first-round worthy quarterbacks in a draft class, three of them will be selected in the first round. And when there are zero first-round worthy quarterbacks in a draft class, two of them will be selected in the first round.

Falcons fans think Matt Ryan has a few years left because he’s like their dad; Steelers fans thought Ben Roethlisberger had a few years left as recently as New Year’s. National observers think Ryan has a few years left because his stats look decent and national observers don’t pay much attention to Falcons games. I watch nearly every Falcons game with an impartial eye, so trust me: Ryan looked as creaky last year as Roethlisberger in 2020. We will soon be entering “long windup to throw 30-yarder” territory.

This is a golden opportunity for the Falcons to draft and redshirt a cannon-armed, fleet-footed local guy capable of playing the Ryan Tannehill role in Arthur Smith’s offense come 2023. It’s that or turn into the Steelers. And at least the Steelers have a trophy case to polish.

9. Denver Broncos: George Karlaftis, Edge Rusher, Purdue

If the Packers end up with this pick, they will select Karlaftis, some other edge rusher, or Sauce Gardner and rebrand themselves as a pesky young defense-oriented team.

If the Seahawks possess this pick, they will try to position themselves for a Malik Willis-centric rebuild.

If the Texans end up with it, they will fold it into a little origami sailboat and set it free in the Gulf of Mexico.

And if the 49ers or Colts end up with it, Broncos fans should just set their season ticket letters on fire.

But if the Broncos retain the pick and neither Willis nor Kenny Pickett is on the board, they should grab an edge rusher to supplement oft-injured Bradley Chubb and upgrade a pass rush that fell to 18th in adjusted sack rate last season.

Just who the best edge rusher available will be should sort itself out after the combine. For now, Walkthrough likes Karlaftis’ combination of size, athleticism, hand-fighting technique and upside.

10. New York Jets: Garrett Wilson, Wide Receiver, Ohio State

Jameson Crowder led the Jets with 51 catches last season, Elijah Moore with 538 yards. The Jets receiving corps was Six Slot Receivers in Search of an Outside Guy; that search turned up Corey Davis, which means the search must continue. 

Wilson can get open on the first few steps after his release and bounce off tacklers after the catch, two skills that could make him Zach Wilson’s favorite target right away. Wilson, Moore, either Crowder or Braxton Barrios (they’re free agents) and Davis would give the Jets a pesky little RPO and YAC offense. Hey, it kinda worked for the Dolphins!

11. Washington Commanders: Devin Lloyd, Linebacker, Utah

The (ugh) Commanders need a quarterback, of course. We could have said, “Hey, the Panthers will trade for Carson Wentz, the Broncos will snag Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan has two more good years in him, so here’s Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis!” Things could work out that way, but Walkthrough doesn’t think teams will be able to sit in the middle of the draft order and land one of the two feasible prospects. Once the merry-go-Rodgers stops spinning, the teams left out in the cold will have the Jets and Giants on the phone looking for their second first-rounders.

So let’s pencil in another year of Tyler Heincke for now – he’s no worse than Jimmy Garoppolo but far cheaper – and give Ron Rivera yet another linebacker for his collection. Lloyd can fly all over the field as a Mike on early downs, then slide down to the edge in a NASCAR package on third-and-long. He’s undersized, but that’s what Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne are for. Assuming Jamin Davis develops after a shaky rookie season, he and Lloyd could be Rivera’s new Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly. All the (ugh) Commanders will need then is a Cam Newton. Come to think of it … the original is available.

12. Minnesota Vikings: Sauce Gardner, Cornerback, Cincinnati

It’s finally time to break the seal on a deep, interesting cornerback class.

Patrick Peterson was the Vikings’ most reliable cornerback in 2021. But Peterson is: a) a free agent; b) about 83 years old; and c) not nearly as great as he was in the mid-2010s. Mackenzie Alexander is also an aging free agent, and the Vikings desperately need to get younger on defense. Sauce is a little like former Vikings first-round pick Xavier Rhodes: tall, speedy feisty, with tremendous upside (though worrisome downside). He wouldn’t be the sexiest pick, but these are the Vikings, the team that wore the same flannel shirt around the house for eight years. Let’s not expect sexiness from Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Odofo-Mensah overnight. 

13. Cleveland Browns: Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Alabama

There are two schools of thought when it comes to mock-drafting the Browns: add a receiver to further spit down the well of their downfield passing game, or be a contrarian and pair them with a defender like Georgia’s Jordan Davis so they can surrender to their running-and-defense reality. 

As Benjamin Robinson noted last week, the Browns are often paired with Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson: obvious need meets click science. Wilson will be gone by the time the Browns select, and Williams may be a better fit: a speedster with double-move, end-around and return-game capabilities to play the hypothetical Odell Beckham role in their theoretical deep passing game. 

And really, just because Baker Mayfield cannot connect with his big-play threats doesn’t mean the Browns should give up on even having big-play threats.

14. Baltimore Ravens: Derek Stingley Jr., Cornerback, LSU

Cornerback is an obvious need for a team that plumb ran out of them in 2021, finishing 30th in DVOA against No. 1 receivers and 29th against No. 2 receivers. 

Stingley is sliding down draft boards: evaluators have started to realize that the former five-star recruit who intercepted six passes in 2019 hasn’t done much for the last two years. But the Ravens love to draft for upside and aren’t afraid of slow-cooking a defensive prospect for a year.

If you prefer Clemson’s Andrew Booth in this position, there’s a chance that Eric DeCosta will agree with you after the combine interviews and medicals. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles: David Ojabo, Edge Rusher, Michigan

Eagles fan service, Part I: a raw edge rusher who may possess more pure athleticism and upside than teammate Aidan Hutchinson but still has a lot to learn after spending his childhood in Scotland and taking up football late. Think Brandon Graham meets Jordan Mailata!

16. Philadelphia Eagles: Treylon Burks, Wide Receiver, Arkansas

Eagles fan service, Part II: a king-sized, heavy-duty slot receiver who can both leap for contested catches and rumble away from defenders with the ball in his hands. Burks may not merit the Deebo Samuel comparisons that are inevitably coming, but he’ll make Eagles fans forget about Jalen Rando and J.J. Arcega-Whatshisface in a hurry. See, it’s already happening!

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Davis, Defensive Tackle, Georgia

Select CGI giant of a human with nimble feet, improve run defense that ranked 30th in DVOA in 2021, reach playoffs, make everyone wonder what was so special about the Bengals. 

18. New Orleans Saints: Charles Cross, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi State

The Saints’ cap situation is so dire and their 2022 outlook so hopeless that it would make sense for them to trade out of the first round, scrimp on a relatively-pricey first-round contract, perhaps land a 2023 first-rounder and extra low-cost goodies, and almost literally write off this season. That makes even more sense if there’s no viable quarterback prospect on the board.

Cross has dropped in our mock draft, and a lineman-needy team (the Bengals) that’s set at other positions (the Bengals) could make a tempting offer to get a missing piece to their Super Bowl puzzle (Bengals Bengals Bengals).

Should the Saints stay put to save on roaming charges and cellphone data, they can plug Cross in to replace Terron Armstead after he signs with the Bengals. 

19. Philadelphia Eagles: Nakobe Dean, Linebacker, Georgia

Eagles fan service Part III: my dear Philly Phaithful, Walkthrough knows what you want deep down inside. Not a cornerback, even though you may think you want that. You want what has been denied from you since Jerry Robinson in 1979: a true first-round linebacker. (Marcus Smith does not count. He was an edge rusher. Sort of.) Sure, the franchise historically avoids investing heavily at linebacker, for analytics-approved reasons. But this is their third pick, and Dean is a legitimate first-round talent with three-down capabilities. 

How do you like the 2022 Eagles with Ojabo, Burks and Dean in the fold? Deshaun Who??? Thought so. 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Kenyon Green, Offensive Line, Texas A&M

Green is a big ol’ nightclub bouncer of a lineman who is built like and airport shuttle. His ability to play either tackle or guard position will make him appealing to a team (Bengals) that may feel comfortable at left tackle but knows it must upgrade elsewhere.

The Steelers also need lots of help along the offensive line. They can select Green here to replace Trai Turner after he signs with the Bengals. (Yep, gonna beat this running gag into the ground.)

21. New England Patriots: Travon Walker, Defensive End, Georgia

We were going to mock a wide receiver to the Patriots, but we didn’t want to curse any of these poor lads with such a cruel fate. Bill Belichick and his recycled staff of Joe Judge, Matt Patricia, Nike the Dog and maybe Bill O’Brien (henceforth dubbed The Failure Council) will likely be in Best Available Athlete mode, at least in terms of athletes who fit their scheme. Walker, a buzzy player entering the combine, isn’t a traditional edge rusher, but he could shine in a versatile Trey Flowers-type role. 

22. Las Vegas Raiders: Trent McDuffie, Cornerback, Washington

With Mike Mayock gone, mocking the Raiders is no longer a matter of grabbing someone from Clemson and then writing a joke about how Mayock just grabs a guy from Clemson. McDuffie is a safe, low-downside, moderate-upside pick who can make up for some past reaches at cornerback and immediately upgrade a pass defense that ranked 21st in DVOA last season.

Depending on how the cornerbacks run at the combine, the Raiders may instead end up with someone like Andrew Booth, from … Oh God it’s all happening again!

23. Arizona Cardinals: Trey McBride, Tight End, Colorado State

The Cardinals need a center, because Rodney Hudson and Max Garcia should be remanded to a youth baseball camp to teach shortstops how to field grounders. Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum will be long gone by the 23rd pick. Zion Nelson was a Senior Bowl standout and the Grinding the Mocks choice, but he’s still learning the position, and the last thing the Cardinals need is another spray snapper.

The Cardinals also need a tight end, because Zach Ertz, Maxx Williams, Demetrius Harris and Darrell Daniels are all free agents. (Great roster management, Steve Keim!) McBride is another Senior Bowl standout: a solid all-around weapon over the middle of the field who can do Ertz-like things at affordable prices. 

24. Dallas Cowboys: Devonte Wyatt, Defensive Tackle, Georgia

Another excellent Georgia defender and Senior Bowl riser. When mocking for the Cowboys, it’s best to keep things simple: they like big/strong/fast/famous guys and don’t sweat the minutiae much. Wyatt is huge, mighty, explosive for a man his size and will only get more famous as draft season winds on. 

25. Buffalo Bills: Kenneth Walker III, Running Back, Michigan State

Mocking a running back to the Bills is becoming a tradition like mocking a wide receiver to the Packers: we know they aren’t going to draft one, but the fan base wants one, and it just makes too much sense to overlook. 

The Bills aren’t one player away from the Super Bowl, they are about ten plays away from the Super Bowl, so turning Devin Singletary (20th in rushing DVOA) into a change-up back and replacing Zack Moss (negative small-sample DVOA) with a Jonathan Taylor-like big-play threat would indeed matter. And the Bills aren’t exactly desperate for help at other positions.

Eh, the Bills are more likely to draft a cornerback like Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. or Auburn’s Roger McCreary or reinforce the line with Boston College’s Zion Johnson. They got to where they are now by thinking one year ahead instead of reacting to immediate needs (and because Josh Allen discovered he’s the Last Son of Krypton). But Bills fans will be clamoring for Walker if he’s still on the board, and Walkthrough is all about keeping the customer satisfied.

26. Tennessee Titans: Chris Olave, Wide Receiver, Ohio State

The Titans must make a solemn vow never again to throw the ball to Nick Westbrook-Ikhene with a big game on the line. They need a real WR3 who can also be a WR2 during Julio Jones’ lengthening stretches of unavailability/ineffectiveness.

Olave probably won’t be on the board this late in the draft after he runs in the 4.3 range at the combine, so pencil in the Best Receiver Available: Arkansas Treylon Burks could be a load in the slot, USC’s Drake London a crafty possession target, or Penn State’s Jahan Dotson a slippery jitterbug and jet sweep threat.

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Andrew Booth Jr., Cornerback, Clemson

It’s uncertain what the Buccaneers lineup will look like after free agency, but it’s probably not gonna look good: lots of veterans are about to jump ship, and Jason Licht may be happy to point them to the lifeboats so he can start over as soon and affordably as possible. So this is a “scoop up the best available player at a high leverage position” selection: Booth is a high-upside playmaker at a position where the Buccaneers were rather thin before the coming free-agent exodus.

28. Green Bay Packers: Drake London, Wide Receiver, USC

A tradition unlike any other: mocking a wide receiver to the Packers to attract/repel/troll their fanbase. The usual boilerplate explanation applies: Aaron Rodgers really wants one and will act like a toddler who can’t have ice cream if he doesn’t get one; pretending Marques Valdez-Scantling and Allan Lazard are championship-caliber WR2s has not made them anything more than league-average WR3s; it’s not like Kayvon Thibodeaux is going to fall to the Packers at 28, etc. London is a heavy-duty possession receiver who can get open on shorter routes, making him a fine choice for a No. 2 receiver. 

The Packers will bulwark their offensive line or secondary instead, but hey, we’re trying to play the peacemaker here.

29. Miami Dolphins: Zion Johnson, Center-Guard, Boston College

A team that’s a blocker or two away from winning the Super Bowl (Bengals) cannot afford to stand pat at the end of the first round. The Dolphins are all-but certain to address their woeful line with someone like the versatile Johnson, a mauling guard who is cross-training at center. The Packers may also be seeking offensive line help, the Titans need help (center Ben Jones is a free agent), the Bills might just grab the B.A.A., and so forth. 

But enough about that other team! The Dolphins finished 30th in adjusted line yards and only ranked 19th in adjusted sack rate because Tua Tagovailoa got shock-collared if he held the ball for more than two seconds. The Adorkable Mike McDaniel needs offensive lineman if he hopes to Shanahan up this offense, and Johnson is the best all-around option on the board.

30. Kansas City Chiefs: Arnold Ebiketie, Edge Rusher, Penn State

Frank Clark is $19.5 million in cap space just waiting to be set free. Melvin Ingram was a useful rental. Steve Spagnuolo’s blitz rate (28.1% per Pro Football Reference, eighth in the NFL) is generating too many open receivers and too few sacks. Ebiketie is big-game ready (he shined against Michigan and other top competition) and fills an immediate need for a team that cannot afford to backslide. 

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Trevor Penning, Offensive Tackle, Northern Iowa

As mentioned a few times in this mock draft, the Bengals should not and probably will not upgrade their offensive line by sitting at 31 and waiting for someone to fall to them. Perhaps they will trade up. Perhaps they will go HAM in free agency and come away with Trai Turner and Ryan Jensen, in which case they could actually use this pick at edge rusher or cornerback. Penning is a placeholder pick, a Senior Bowl riser who could win a starting job at right tackle or guard. If the Bengals do this, it will be fine. If it's all they do, it won't be enough.

32. Detroit Lions: Roger McCreary, Cornerback, Auburn

This is safe "quarterback lottery ticket" territory -- the Lions could lock one down with a fifth-year option if they strike gold -- but we cannot in good conscience endorse Desmond Ridder or Matt Corral as first rounders, no matter how buzzy it might be. Wide receivers Jahan Dotson, David Bell and George Pickens are all on the board, and all will make swell second round picks. We'll rap up this mock by selecting the B.A.A.: an experienced, competitive defender who should be able to step right into a starting role. 

Programming Notes

We're beefing up our draft coverage here at Football Outsiders! That means more conventional stuff like mock drafts. Don't pretend you're too cool for them.

Derrik Klassen's draft edition of Film Room kicked off late last week with a deep dive on Kayvon Thibodeaux. Look for more in-depth coverage from Derrik every Wednesday throughout draft season.

Walkthrough will run twice per week on Mondays and Thursdays from now through the beginning of May. Monday's Walkthrough will be draft focused, Thursday's free agency (salary cap, etc.) focused. Yes, there will be some overlap, but whatever. Next Monday's Walkthrough will be a Pre-Combine Spectacular! I have no idea what I am writing for Thursday yet.

Like podcasts? Check out Derrik and I, plus some special guests, on the Football Outsiders Draft Livestream every Tuesday at 1pm Eastern from now through the logical end point.

All your favorite content will still arrive in the weeks to come: more of Benjamin Robinson's meta-mock drafts, QBASE and other tools, looks back at past drafts, and so on. You can start looking for much of that material after the combine. 

And finally, next Monday marks the launch of the first every FO 40. It's actually two "40's:" one for the overall draft and a Fantasy 40 of skill-position players. These are scouting reports and capsules you can use (no self-indulgent scouting babble or vague boilerplate). They will also be a one-stop location to find our exclusive projections: QBASE, Playmaker Score, BackCAST, SackSEER and the all-new TRAVIS metric (guess what position that's for)!

So check back early and often for draft coverage you'll love from a source you trust. 

Comments

100 comments, Last at 02 Mar 2022, 1:53pm

1 QBs

It seems to me that most years, especially years when there don't seem to be many top QB prospects, the time between now and the draft usually is spent by the brains and tastemakers of the NFL talking themselves into getting excited by whatever QB prospects there are, and the end result is the QBs as a group going both much higher than they should and higher than we expected after the SB. Chances of that happening here?

23 I am torn between "They will…

In reply to by JS

I am torn between "They will talk themselves into Pickett and Willis as first rounders" (this mock) and "every Garoppolo/Wentz/Winston who is not nailed down is gonna get yet another shot." 

I honestly think Willis is a first rounder based on potential for a Falcons-like team that can wait a year. 

32 I think recent years should be diluting this mindset

If you don't have a QB, just take a shot. No one saw Mahomes (#43 on the consensus big board) being this good (shout out EB btw). No one thought Allen (#32) would be this good. So what if you miss on Haskins (actually #18). (where Washington went wrong is thinking Smith et al are the answer) 

89 If plenty of people thought…

If plenty of people thought it, they were awfully quiet about it.

In reality that was considered a weak quarterback class. That's how you could have Mitch trubisky coming from North Carolina as the top QB in the class. These days, when QBs aren't taken extremely high, it reflects what front offices think of the QB class.

 

46 especially years when there…

In reply to by JS

especially years when there don't seem to be many top QB prospects, the time between now and the draft usually is spent by the brains and tastemakers of the NFL talking themselves into getting excited by whatever QB prospects there are,

It's too early in the draft process. The problem is especially with mock drafts, they're some weird combination of "these are the guys I think are good," "these are the guys I think this team needs," and "these are the guys I believe this team will take."

In other words, right now the mock drafty-types are going primarily just by college tape. Later they'll add the combine, where people will essentially "steal" information from team scouts (who do this for a serious full-time living). If teams are really actually down on QBs, the QBs will sink. But they could easily see something that the mock drafty-types don't, which will spike the player's evaluation.

Mahomes is a good example of this. Mock drafty-types were way down on Mahomes. Way, way down. Except there was plenty of chatter that certain teams were interested. Including... the Kansas City Chiefs. Prior to the draft, Mahomes started climbing up fast, and plenty of mock drafts had him to the Chiefs late in the 1st. The guys who listen to team rumors pushed Mahomes up. The guys who stuck to their own evaluations left Mahomes down. (The Chiefs move to #10 was not a huge surprise, regardless of what you might have heard. It was literally rumored strongly before the draft by Ian Rapaport.) Same thing with Josh Allen, too.

In other words: wait until late March or so before believing that the QB prospects are marginal. Right now you're not getting any info from the team scouts, and, well... they're better.

2 The Saints cap situation

It's getting a little boring with so many "experts" saying they're screwed due to being over the cap, when they've been managing the cap this way for years. They can save $60m by restructuring just 5 players, so don't be surprised to see them competing in free agency.

https://www.nola.com/sports/saints/article_5dc75dae-9104-11ec-8dc5-13030d4bf40e.html

16 nola.com

isn't going to risk alienating the Saints by saying anything negative. Restructuring doesn't *save* $60M, it borrows it from future teams to pay this year's payroll. When Brees was still playing, it made some sense.

They'll do all of those things (they have to, they're more over the cap than the 2nd and 3rd worse cap situations combined). They might move enough money to sign free agents. I hope I'm wrong, and I'll be cheering them on either way, but it feels like we've got some 7 or 8 win seasons  coming, in spite (or maybe only because) of legitimate stars like Kamara, Thomas, the O-Line, Jordan, and Davis.

Fun fact - Taysom Hill is currently between Gary Cuozzo and Danny Wuerffel on the Saints career passing TD list. And he's going to still be counting against our salary cap in 2025. I love Hill as a wild card, but I'm unconvinced he'll ever go through his progressions fast enough or be accurate enough to start at QB.

19 The Saints are definitely in…

The Saints are definitely in a terrible situation, but it is a terrible situation they at least planned for and have plenty of options to get out of, even if those options hurt the franchise in the long run.

The more I look at the numbers, however, the more I become convinced that they're not even in the worst shape in the division.

24 The Saints will be stuck…

The Saints will be stuck extending the contracts of 30-plus year old veterans for a non-playoff team just to field a viable roster. Many key starters are free agents they have no chance at retaining. They have no quarterback and don't even have the money to really grab some Fitzpatrick to get them through a season without coming up short at some other position.

It's a bad bad bad bad BAD situation, which as Bryan says they will need to make even worse just to not gut everything completely this year. 

41 What are you talking about?…

What are you talking about? They could get out of it with cuts and restructures to (almost) only 30-and-under vets no problem (*).

Their cap situation isn't markedly different from the Cowboys or Green Bay. It just sucks more because they're also bad. It's not a long term issue unless they want to make it one. They could easily be perfectly fine by 2024 and a plucky annoyance in 2023. The real issues are new head coach + no QB + little young talent, not the cap.

*: OK, almost - they need to push a bit of money forward on one of their older vets to cover the period up to June 1 due to post-June 1 trade rules. But Lattimore/Ramczyk/Peat/Kamara/Onyemata/Davenport have enough to push them under along with several 30+ year old vet releases, and pushing/extending those guys isn't awful, with the exception of Kamara's legal issues.

51 And the fact that Kamara is…

And the fact that Kamara is a RB coming off a poor season.

Also, the "several other 30+ year old vet releases" includes a few of their starters and best players. Also, the veteran free agents, many of them key starters, are all but gone. 

Also, the comparison with the Cowboys and Packers skips the fact that those teams have quality QBs and the Saints don't. 

"They could be perfectly fine by 2024" is true from a financial sense, if the goal is to have the aging nucleus of a 4-13 team by then.

and "it sucks more because they are bad" is precisely the point. They are a bad team with no choice but to get worse this year AND slide some problems into 2023 that will make them bad that year. And they are in no position to do anything at QB except role the dice in a bad draft.

I guess I don't understand what some folks think a "terrible cap situation" is. Yes, the Saints can in fact field a roster in 2022. Yes, there will be a few quality veterans on that roster. Last I checked, the goal was to compete for a Super Bowl, not remain capable of purchasing uniforms for 53 players. The Saints will not even be able to head in the direction of competing for a Super Bowl for two solid years because of their current roster and cap situation. That's what terrible means. And folks arguing otherwise seem to be saying the exact same thing. 

53  I guess I don't understand…

I guess I don't understand what some folks think a "terrible cap situation" is. 

It's the difference between a team being prevented from getting better and a team being forced to get worse. The Saints aren't really going to be worse because of the cap situation. They already were bad, and the vets you're talking about them losing? Most likely Armstead, Roby, Thomas, Jordan, and Jenkins?

Sure, they were key contributors. But they're old (or, in Thomas's case, disgruntled). And unless the Saints are wacko incompetent, they should be able to trade both Jordan and Thomas and get return for it. That allows them to get younger, which will make them better in the long run. The cap issues mean they have to change the team. That's not a bad thing! They sucked last year! The players they have to keep are still young-ish, and worth it.

The Packers, however, are in a position where the cap issues will make them worse. They were a top team next year, and they can't bring back that core team again year after year. This is literally the reason why it's almost certain (at least, in my opinion) that Rodgers will leave. That's what a "terrible cap situation" is. The Cowboys are on the cusp of that, but not quite there yet. 

But cap issues only slow a rebuild, they don't stop it. Teams don't rebuild by bringing in free agents.

The Saints will not even be able to head in the direction of competing for a Super Bowl for two solid years

I don't know what this means. Of course they could improve in 2023. That's what draft picks and value free agent signings are for. They won't be able to be active in free agency until 2023, sure, but... who the hell would want to go there? And why in God's name would the Saints want to add someone for cost? They need to be bargain shoppers, not fashionistas.

And they are in no position to do anything at QB except role the dice in a bad draft.

Why? Why in the world would they care about having a draft pick QB in 2022 or even 2023? This draft looks bad at QB. Cool! Get a better position. Or hell, punt your first-round pick entirely this year and trade down.

The cap situation for the Saints isn't the reason they are where they are. That's my point. It changes what they have to do, but they were always a rebuilding team. The cap situation for the Packers is likely going to dictate what they are.

54 They weren't bad. Their…

They weren't bad. Their offense was bad. But that happens when you have no healthy QBs or receivers. 

Their defense was really good! They were about average in DVOA and record. They were Tampa's kryptonite. 

It's a decent team with some glaring holes and no real way to fix them due to cap hell and leaks springing in other places.

GB isn't going to get worse because of cap hell. 13-4 teams usually get worse. You're usually pretty lucky to win more than 75% of your games -- it's generally non-sustainable. The Belichick/Brady Pats didn't win 75% of their games. Aside from the Brown Browns and the Seifert 49ers, no one does. Those were both pre-cap and somewhat artificial, though. Seifert was handed a ready-made champion and Brown boosted his win percentage in the AAFC; he didn't manage 75% in the NFL.

56 These days, the words, "bad…

These days, the words, "bad team" have become inflated like the price of hamburgers. We now use "bad" to refer to a team that was above average in DVOA and with a winning record. 

I guess bad is the new word for solid. 

57 These days, the words, "bad…

These days, the words, "bad team" have become inflated like the price of hamburgers. We now use "bad" to refer to a team that was above average in DVOA and with a winning record. 

I guess bad is the new word for solid. 

64 We now use "bad" to refer to…

We now use "bad" to refer to a team that was above average in DVOA and with a winning record. 

The Saints got high-end performances out of a bunch of guys that aren't going to be there or aren't going to perform at that level anymore, either due to dumb choices (Winston) or age (Jenkins, Cam Jordan, Demario Davis). The dumb choice for Winston was that the team went with Hill instead of him, mind you.

They weren't a bad team in 2021 but totally ignoring the cap situation they already were going to be worse in 2022. And even without the cap they weren't going to be good.

65 If they had a pristine cap…

If they had a pristine cap sheet, I doubt Payton peaces out. I am getting the sense from you that if you aren't an inner sanctum contender with a QB on hand, then all of this veteran talent is a complete waste of time and its better to let them all walk and start from scratch.

67 If they had a pristine cap…

If they had a pristine cap sheet, I doubt Payton peaces out.

Yes, that's a totally good point. However again, if they had a pristine cap sheet I doubt Rodgers would peace out from the Packers, and Rodgers is more valuable than Payton is.

then all of this veteran talent is a complete waste of time and its better to let them all walk and start from scratch.

Oh, hell no. Aged veteran talent, sure. Bad veteran talent, absolutely. And that's actually my point - they don't really have that much money tied up in old or bad vets. The only player older than 30 that's uncuttable on the team is Taysom Hill, and I've made my feelings on that very clear.

But part of the reason that I don't think the Saints cap situation is quite that bad is that they're basically only paying for good talent. Whether or not they succeed or fail has everything to do with how they draft, develop, and acquire cheap talent, but that's true for any team. They can't improve in free agency, sure, but when you're at a transition point like the Saints are, that's silly anyway (*).

*: this is why the Roby and Ingram trades were dumb

72 First I think Rodgers…

First I think Rodgers primary motivation for leaving the Packers is because their GM drafted his successor so early. This is basically what created Rodgers demanding a trade a year ago. 

The problem with having a bloated cap means you can't even offer discount extensions to your veteran players. Armstead could have been extended in a different world at a palatable number but now he's going to be a free agent. Same with Davis and Jordan. And they're going to have to do more cap gymnastics just to keep the remaining stars they want on their roster.

Losing that flexibility comes back to bite you in all of these unseen ways.

So yes I think the Saints are in a disaster situation that in a different world could have been avoided. Perhaps you'll say they're going to end up in the same place 3 years from now, but it's still a disaster situation when you lose all of this veteran talent all at once

75  The problem with having a…

The problem with having a bloated cap means you can't even offer discount extensions to your veteran players.

That's literally why they have a bloated cap. They already did that!

but it's still a disaster situation when you lose all of this veteran talent all at once

It's all old talent. Armstead's 31. Jordan's 33. Davis's 33. They don't have a QB. There's no way they could have a viable QB until at least next year, even if they drafted one, when those guys will be even older. Losing those guys doesn't matter. Armstead will kick back a comp pick, Jordan will likely bring a high pick in trade. Not sure about Davis.

I am not saying the cap situation's not important - losing that cap space hurts you if you get the dream situation that, I dunno, Taysom Hill makes a pact with the freaking devil or something. But to me this literally all boils down to Taysom Hill is not a QB and never should've gotten that contract. Again, you lop off Hill's contract, they've got -$63M cap space and I would've just been like "meh, scrap the old talent, focus on defense and dilly-dally until you find a QB you like."

Do I think they're going to be even remotely on the upswing before 2024? No, but that's only because they think Taysom Hill is a QB.

80 Assuming they weren't in cap…

Assuming they weren't in cap hell, which really is a function of passing money off until the future, is the team better off saying adios to all of their veterans vs trying to coax some additional years at a palatable figure?

Really, this is asking if there's any value to being a middling team trying to remain competitive while searching for the QB vs diving head first into the toilet.

I am not sure there's a clear yes or no. The Broncos and Jets are at different stages of bad teams.

 

83 is the team better off…

is the team better off saying adios to all of their veterans vs trying to coax some additional years

With the guys at 33 they're definitely better saying goodbye, period. Even at 31 it's iffy. Jenkins at 35 is an absolute. They got lucky with him the past few years, but he absolutely could plunge off a cliff fast.

Only reason to try to keep those guys around is if you're a very solid team already. No way can you count on 33+ year old guys on defense to even make it through a year healthy. Armstead's a different question. That's pretty much the only guy I'd actually call a cap casualty.

81 Assuming they weren't in cap…

Assuming they weren't in cap hell, which really is a function of passing money off until the future, is the team better off saying adios to all of their veterans vs trying to coax some additional years at a palatable figure?

Really, this is asking if there's any value to being a middling team trying to remain competitive while searching for the QB vs diving head first into the toilet.

I am not sure there's a clear yes or no. The Broncos and Jets are at different stages of bad teams.

 

99 Sad Tanier thirsty-trolling the Saints fans :(

Agree with Pat...Saints are overall paying for good talent ...and Hill is a unicorn that will be useful in many ways.

2017- 2021 Saints are 58-23 ( thats avg 11.6 - 4.6 ) because they have an excellent roster...a real rarity in todays NFL. 

The Saints will surely not have the same injury bad luck this season...2021 they started a record 58 different players...

AND - the NFL forced the COVID-ravaged Saints to play the Dolphins on December 23 when the game SHOULD have been postponed...

2 "Saints Players" acquired that day put on Saints gear for the 1st time in the locker room before the game, and played...that ridiculous NFL decision to play that game on that day cost them the Playoffs

When you have the group of proven, talented players the Saints have, it makes no sense to tank..to get potentially good (unproven) players. They will certainly lose a couple of pieces, but the core group should remain intact. 

A bird in the hand (current roster of proven NFL veterans and All-Pro players) is worth 2 in the bush (Crap shoot in the draft) 

How did the Super bowl winning Rams get most of their top players? They mortgaged the future...mostly with draft picks...Do they have a cap problem? Yes,not like the Saints, but it is a concern having no top picks for years and being over the cap.

Winston is the #1 rated Free Agent QB -  Winston had completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,170 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions — good for a career-high 102.8 passer rating until an illegal and unnecessary Horse collar by Devil White put him out for the season.

Not a huge amount of difference between Stafford an Winston. At the moment when Stafford throws deep, do you feel it will be picked, incomplete, or a long gain? 

Also, Michael Thomas...was Kupp important to the Rams? Thomas has already done what he did.

62 Their offense was bad. But…

Their offense was bad. But that happens when you have no healthy QBs or receivers. 

Yes. But does their cap situation make fixing this harder? I mean... maybe if you entertain the dream that you could get Rodgers? I guess I could buy that? Except that's not a long-term fix either.

Don't get me wrong: the team did stupid crap to make their cap situation worse and make it harder to get out of it (cough Taysom Hill cough). But that's kindof my point. The team's salary cap isn't the fundamental issue. It's the fact that for some insane reason they thought it made sense to trade for Bradley Roby and Mark Ingram and extend Taysom Hill.

Their defense was really good! They were about average in DVOA and record

Yes, but look to the future: who are the best building blocks on that defense? Davenport, Lattimore, Onyemata, Williams. Of those guys, only Williams might be going anywhere, and they could keep him, although it'd be hard. They should trade/release Jenkins, Davis and Cam Jordan as well, but those guys are all 33+. They aren't losing those guys due to the cap, they're losing them due to age.

It's a decent team with some glaring holes and no real way to fix them due to cap hell

The holes they have you can't fix with cap space. That's basically my point. If they had offered Williams the contract instead of Taysom Hill, for instance, they'd have a young defensive core and a decent offensive line. And if you really don't like the QBs available, you just do something dumb for a year.

Take away the Taysom Hill contract and the Saints still are at -$63M, but at least to me it's an entirely different situation.

63 Belichick.Brady

In the 19 seasons with Brady as starter (including seasons where he didn't start all 16 games) the Pats went 232-72 for a 76.3% win percentage.  (For 2001, 2008 and his 4-game suspension, looks like the team went 13-8, leaving a 77.4% win percentage for his games started.) 

94 I was referring to the era…

I was referring to the era generally.

Rodgers for instance actually went 13-3 (81%), rather than 13-4 (76%), but I'm considering it a 76% season. It's football; guys miss games.

76 I don't have a sanguine…

I don't have a sanguine future about the team at all. I just don't blame their future on the cap, I blame it on them thinking that Taysom Hill's a QB.

That decision will do so much more damage to the team than the cap situation, it's not even funny.

82 Pointing out that they are…

Pointing out that they are in cap hell appears to have 0 consequence to you because they were sunk because of their QB situation. In other words, who cares if you finish 1-16 vs 5-12 right?

Maybe that's all true, but from a coaching standpoint, it makes a huge difference. 

84 It's not the QB situation…

It's not the QB situation itself that kills me, it's what it tells you about the evaluators on the team. They're clearly completely decoupled from reality, and the speed at which you come out of a rebuild is entirely dependent on how good you are at evaluating talent.

Like, if Taysom Hill was somehow, I dunno, forced on them by the league or something weird, whatever. Having Hill there isn't like, the worst thing in the world. But the fact that they chose this... that's just killer.

Now, I dunno, maybe they, who knows, find a way to trade him in the offseason or something. God knows how that could happen, but maybe Jerry Jones is like, super-convinced getting Taysom Hill will bring Payton out of retirement. Just make up a story. If that happens... all bets are off.

58 I am more interested in the…

I am more interested in the philosophical question of whether this was a smart  strategy. Given Brees' timetable, I think it was. It didn't work out, but that didn't mean it wasn't worth trying. 

I do feel bad for Dennis Allen, who is going to be a sacrificial lamb for the second time as a head coach, ensuring he will never get a third chance. Who knows if hes a good coach or not, but I doubt any coach could salvage this mess. 

61 It's happened before.

It's a bad bad bad bad BAD situation, which as Bryan says they will need to make even worse just to not gut everything completely this year. 

IMHO the best comp to the Saints today is the Raiders when Reggie McKenzie became GM.  Al Davis had been playing the same salary cap game, with only mediocre results.  It was 2 years before they were able to start a serious rebuild due to the amount of dead money they had to deal with getting out from under their cap issues.

33 It's definitely over blown

For the love of God we saw the cap go down (which NEVER happens) and yet they were able to apply and fit the full blown franchise tag on...a non specialist! 

But doubtful we'll "see them competing in free agency." Mostly just retaining their guys (and picks)

4 Lots to poke at here, but I…

Lots to poke at here, but I don't have a lot of time this morning, so I'll stick to my first caveat.

"Sauce is a little like former Vikings first-round pick Xavier Rhodes: tall, speedy feisty, with tremendous upside (though worrisome downside)."

What exactly is his downside?  He hasn't gotten injured a lot (unlike the guy most mock drafts have going earlier than him), doesn't mouth off a lot or get in trouble like Booth did.  Cincinnati did play some of the big boys (Notre Dame and Alabama) and Gardner did fine in those games.

25 Sauce's coverage style…

Sauce's coverage style basically involves contact with his receiver until the whistle. That's not uncommon in college, but it can turn into a problem where he gets flagged 20 times as a rookie for hand-checking, then has a hard time adjusting to coverage which does not involve lots of contact.

37 Last year I would have said…

Last year I would have said what you just wrote about Patrick Surtain II.  He grabbed a lot in college (which happens a lot with guys in Alabama's secondary, maybe because the best coach in the NCAA understands that giving up 15 yards and a first down is better than an 60 yard touchdown), and was fine last year in Denver in spite of my caveats.  Perhaps you're right about Gardner, and perhaps I will eventually be proven right about Surtain, or maybe refs don't call holding as much as we think (evidentiary point #1: this past Super Bowl).  The thing is, Sauce's detractors on Gang Green Nation (mostly Stapler, but probably some others) think he's going to run slow at the combine.  It seems both you and I doubt that (hence the speedy feisty line).  If he does run poorly or mehly, then maybe your caveats about his play have more play.

5 When a team feels they have…

When a team feels they have no obvious needs and therefore should take a running back as a luxury, to me this is a categorical mistake. Leaks spring onto a roster anytime and everywhere. I'd rather have four reliable corners I can trot out or an additional situational pass rusher than a running back. 

At this point, unless the RB brings a Marshall Faulk level prowess to the passing game, he should not be a first round pick.

17 Even with their RB making…

Even with their RB making the probowl, that pick looks inexplicable. It's also funny that even with a probowl season, Pittsburgh actually regressed running the ball from a year ago and both years they were flat bad.

I am not passing judgement on Harris the player, but to drive home the point about how marginal even good running backs are to a run offense and how marginal running games are to offense in general. 

The Rams just won the SB getting 0 from their run game despite McVay pretending otherwise.

44 "The Rams just won the SB…

"The Rams just won the SB getting 0 from their run game despite McVay pretending otherwise."

The Rams *barely* won against a much more limited team. Not a good example. No one would choose to rely on a late TD when their defense was destroying the other offense.

47 It's just silly to split up…

It's just silly to split up the plays into two buckets based on terminology from the 1930s. The Rams run plays were ludicrously obvious. You could see them an absolute mile away. They weren't trying to do anything - the Rams were just lining up and saying "OK, we're better than you, we'll get this."

And, well, they weren't. Which is part of the reason they struggled. The tiny few plays they actually ran that actually added misdirection to get the Bengals defense off-balance worked fine. When Kupp took a sweep outside I was like "holy crap, you're not an idiot."

Saying "the Rams got nothing from their run game" is silly. The Rams got nothing from their "line up in a tight heavy formation and run right at them" game. Which isn't a modern run game. It's a freaking 1970s throwback.

49 More recent than the 1930s…

More recent than the 1930s. With 1930s pass plays, you didn't know who was going to be passing and everything at the snap looked like a run or a punt.

(What's now shotgun formation started its life as short-punt formation)

50 No, I actually meant just…

No, I actually meant just splitting plays up as a "pass" or a "run," period. Which... I guess would actually be 1900s designations. If a toss goes one inch forwards, it's a pass, otherwise it's a run. If a handoff goes one inch forward in free space, it's a pass, otherwise it's a run. It's a hopelessly out of date distinction.

But even if you ignore the arbitrariness of that, the NFL is littered with plays that aren't actually passes or runs. RPOs are of course the prime example - it isn't a "run" or a "pass" choice by the offense, it's forced into a run or a pass by the defense. But audibles are functionally the same thing as well. If a defense forces the offense into constantly audibling from a pass to a run, if it doesn't work, why would you say "they're getting nothing from their run game." That's not a run game. It's a pass that the defense is forcing them out of. It's no different than a QB scramble where the decision happens before the snap.

I mean, there really isn't a modern "run game" anymore at all - everyone knows that runs average less than passes do. The modern "run game" is totally integrated into the passing game.

60 There's a solid historical…

There's a solid historical basis for the philosophical argument that all categories are arbitrary. At the margins, that argument may even be true. 

But given that the rules of the game are bifurcated on the basis of whether a play is a run or a pass, it's hard to argue in a useful manner that the categorization of plays  into runs and passes is not meaningful or reasonable. It may not be perfect under all circumstances, but that's inherently true -- all models are limited; some are useful.

Offenses aren't forced into anything. It's still a choice. They don't have to accept the local optimum condition. This could be because the reject a local optimum in pursuit of a global optimum. It could be because of plinkered reactionism. It could be because they are just idiots. But you can run against a stacked front. You can throw against a 0-0-11. The defense doesn't choose your play or its execution.

Passing has generally had the higher mean value relative to running throughout NFL history. What has been less consistent has been passing having a higher median and mode, and now a smaller variance. We see the beginnings of a similar idea in the NBA, where 3PTers are now nearly more valuable on a median basis than dunks. In the NFL, this has completely occurred. 

66   But given that the rules…

 

But given that the rules of the game are bifurcated on the basis of whether a play is a run or a pass

Okay. So what do you call an immediate sideline pass when the defender is in no position to intercept it and it's immediate so the downfield positioning of the linemen doesn't matter? Or a draw, where the offensive linemen pass protect?

If a play isn't constrained by the rules bifurcation at all, why do we call it one or the other?

It may not be perfect under all circumstances,

There are mathematical reasons to split things up. If you can show that two things are independent, then it makes sense to group each one to reduce the variance of each one and measure it more accurately. But if they're not independent, splitting them up just reduces the sample size and makes the measure noisier, depending on how correlated they are.

Historically I believe the NFL did have a relatively separate "run game" and "pass game." I think that's rapidly disappearing for all but the most limited of offenses. Statistics treats "pass" vs " run" as a binary choice in a finite-sum game, and it's not. If it was, the increase in pass frequency would reduce passing's effectiveness and boost running's effectiveness. Instead both are increasing.

You get the same problem when you talk about breaking up things by pass route. Teams don't say "throw a flat route to Adams," and all the other players just stand around. The entire play's built on a combination of routes. Breaking things up by pass route rather than by play just adds noise by cutting statistics, which is why you see massive variations between DVOA by route.

The defense doesn't choose your play or its execution.

Uh, yes they do, unless we've invented telepathy and I missed it. The design of an RPO literally depends on the team all doing the same thing based on a read defender. If the QB decides "eff it, I'm chuckin the ball instead" when the LB doesn't crash, you've got a lineman blocking downfield because he read differently than the QB. Letting the defense dictate the play type is flat out in the play design.

68 So what do you call an…

So what do you call an immediate sideline pass when the defender is in no position to intercept it and it's immediate so the downfield positioning of the linemen doesn't matter?

A pass.

No matter how open a man is downfield, that receiver cannot legally throw a second forward pass.

Or a draw, where the offensive linemen pass protect?

A run. No matter how much it looks like a pass, the WRs can pancake or screen the DBs as much as they like.

Similarly, no matter how fine the line, once an eligible passer crosses the LOS, it's now a run play, no matter how much yardage the subsequent completion gained.

The only place where it gets a little squirrelly is a fake punt pass, which is a pass that uses punt rules.

 

Statistics treats "pass" vs " run" as a binary choice in a finite-sum game, and it's not.

Your real issue is how conventional statistics weigh the choice. The categories are fine; your issue is with the subsequent analytical choices.  No plays are fully independent, but a slightly noisy categorization is more useful than "Play".

 

Letting the defense dictate the play type is flat out in the play design.

Letting is not forcing. You point out that the offense is not obligated to follow suit.

I'll use baseball as an example. As a pitcher, I can choose to throw a ball in the strike zone, or outside of it. (An overly simply category, and one that assumes I'm not Rick Ankiel) As a batter, I have four choices: swing at a strike; swing at a ball; do not swing at a strike; do not swing at a ball. The local optimum is to swing at strikes and to not swing at balls. If I can actually do this, more power to me -- many cannot. But also, there is often utility in letting a strike go by or in swinging at a ball. (The Vladimirs Guerrero thrive on swinging at balls) But because of these choices, neither the pitcher nor the batter fully dictate the result of a given pitch. Offense and defense are like this. They react to each other, but they are fully empowered to damn the torpedoes. 

70 Your real issue is how…

Your real issue is how conventional statistics weigh the choice.

It's not "weighing." It's grouping. If I average two independent things together, I get a noisier measure. It's like including scrambles in pass DVOA instead of rush DVOA. The argument is that well, the play was a pass, so it should be a pass, right? Or including sacks in pass defense even though no pass was thrown.

Both of those decisions are done with no rules bifurcations whatsoever. There was no pass thrown, but we call it a pass because we think it "looks like" they were going to pass. Do we call draws a pass because it "looks like" they were going to pass? No, we don't. Even though a draw is an attempt to attack a defense more in anticipation of a pass.

If an offensive lineman leaks downfield accidentally on a play that results in a scramble, there's no penalty. So why is it a pass? Because we think the offense was going to pass? So now we're grouping based on intent rather than rules.

Talking about a "run game" and a "pass game" in the modern NFL is getting borderline silly. 

71 If an offensive lineman…

If an offensive lineman leaks downfield accidentally on a play that results in a scramble, there's no penalty. So why is it a pass?

It's not a pass. A scramble is a run.

Who is "we"? Aaron started treating them as part of passing DVOA a few years back because all the scrambling QBs were breaking DVOA.

(Remember, DVOA is designed to love a million short passes and hate running in any form, so boom-y running plays had to be retroactively designated as passes in order to preserve the natural order of things and to keep squamous, eldritch, non-Euclidean statistical monsters from devouring our minds.)

Which is fine, but also arbitrary. It assumes scramblers run in order to pass, or as an offshoot of passing. But some QBs run to run -- Vick and Jackson were like this. They functioned more like option QBs. (Option offense is an interesting example of local maxima -- it's efficient both running and passing, but with really weird ratios)

How we treat sacks is actually rather arbitrary. NCAA rules treat them as runs for a loss, and yet society persists.

77 How we treat sacks is…

How we treat sacks is actually rather arbitrary. NCAA rules treat them as runs for a loss, and yet society persists.

How we treat all this stuff is arbitrary. And it does not need to be. There are solid mathematical ways to determine set independence. Football analytics just doesn't do it, with few exceptions.

This is literally the point I'm making. It is arbitrary, and we pretend it means something. People literally write papers about how football coaches are passing too much. Risky Business splits play choices into "run" and "pass" as if NFL plays can be categorized like a coin flip. There is z-e-r-o evidence that these are distinct choices, and plenty of evidence that they are not.

Part of this is because the play-by-play is utter trash, and I totally get that. But even the analytics people with full access to player tracking data are still being dumb about it.

73 Runs vs Passes

I don't know that I'm fully on board with Pat's viewpoint that categorizing plays as runs vs passes is meaningless, but I'm at least partway there.

I mean, consider a jet sweep.  You can have two plays where the action of 10 of the 11 players is identical - lineman blocking the same way, a WR in motion across the formation, other backs/ends blocking or running routes to decoy.  In one play, the QB lines up under center, takes the snap, and turns and puts the ball into the belly of the motion back.  In the other play, the QB takes a shotgun snap and touches forward a pop pass to the motion back.  One is counted as a "rushing play" and the other as a "passing play".  ??

78 In one play, the QB lines up…

In reply to by DGL

In one play, the QB lines up under center, takes the snap, and turns and puts the ball into the belly of the motion back.  In the other play, the QB takes a shotgun snap and touches forward a pop pass to the motion back. 

It seems a meaningless distinction until the RB drops the exchange.

For one play, it's a dead ball. For the other, it's a fumble.

79 I should note I'm not…

I should note I'm not talking about trying to hyper-categorize everything. For the most part, it's actually the exact opposite - I'd say unless you have good reason to demonstrate that you can group things separately, don't categorize it at all. Why bother? Just measure yards/play, EPA/play, period. Don't add a category if it doesn't benefit you. (*)

I mean, jeez, you could make a bullcrap argument that zodiac signs might be real because of the pattern of weather/holidays/whatever is similar among those - and that's true -  but unless you can show that it means something, it's pointless.

I should also note that there have been studies that there's very, very little second-order matchup dependence apparent in NFL win probabilities. As in, as much as we'd love to believe in "Patriots beat Colts beat Broncos beat Patriots" the actual win distribution shows very little evidence of that. And if that's true, that's strong evidence that there's little benefit in splitting up offense/defense, because that would obviously result in second-order matchup dependencies.

(*: I could note that it's easy to get fooled here, because biased situations - as in, forced runs/passes due to game script - could "leak" information in. As in, you might think treating rushing separate than passing is important, but it's actually treating short-yardage vs long yardage that's important)

6 Whether the Bills take a 1st…

Whether the Bills take a 1st round halfback is probably dependent on how the rest of the offseason goes (right now our top DB is rehabbing his ACL and our #2 is a free agent) but this would be in line with the McBeane era timeline:

1) Identify problem

2) Shotgun low cost veterans at it to see if we can strike gold (For WR these were Jordan Matthews, Terrelle Pryor, Andre Holmes, etc. for RB: Gore, Tolbert, Yeldon)

3) Throw low-middle round picks or contracts at it to see if we can develop one (Kelvin Benjamin, Cole Beasley, John Brown / Moss, Singletary)

4) Invest bigly (Diggs / ?)

 

Sometimes we hit on step 2 and stop (Hyde, Poyer) sometimes on step 3 (Milano, Knox), but for halfback we've tried it so I think we may be ready for the big swing.

8 I don't know the Bills cap…

I don't know the Bills cap situation, but if anyone should follow the Rams proverbial "all in" strategy, it should be the Bills. 

I don't know if I buy this logic btw...Josh Allen affords them a long time period of contention so it's better to keep a steady ship, but it would be a fascinating alternative path to trade multiple first rounders for some gettable elite player.

 

18 I'm as big a Josh Allen-stan…

I'm as big a Josh Allen-stan as you'll find, but I wouldn't assume our title window is all that big. Our defense is anchored by two safeties over 30, and most of the young players we brought in at the start of McDermott's tenure (Allen, White, Milano, Dawkins, possibly Edmunds) are moving into the expensive part of their careers. Then, there's always the chance Allen misses some time due to the pounding he takes as a running threat.

I think we realistically have another 2 seasons with this iteration of the Bills, and after that guys like Oliver, Rousseau, Davis, etc need to step up in a big way or we recede to frisky wildcard stage.

21 Well, the core concerns are…

Well, the core concerns are true for every team. Allen affords the Bills enough bites at the apple such that they should at least get to one SB and enough time such that they may end up with a new solid core.

Really, I am asking if the Bills should go whole hog and get a bunch of free agents and trade a bunch of first rounders such that in 3 years, they will be dealing with a Saints cap situation and a Rams draft equity situation.

28 I wouldn't be opposed to…

I wouldn't be opposed to borrowing against the future to win today, but it really depends on who we're chasing. The key to the Rams strategy was finding good to elite players on trash fire teams and paying to cut them free. If we're chasing someone like Khalil Mack or James Bradberry I could be convinced, it its Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffery, probably not.

29 Let's say its 2 first…

Let's say its 2 first rounders plus a 2nd for Mack. And bloat their cap for Von Miller, OBJ/Godwin and be in a cap hell in 2024 and without two first rounders. 

31 Let's just say 2 first…

Let's just say 2 first rounders then. Is the trade and the moves made about a good idea for the Bills if it means they will be a rebuilding team + Allen in 2-3 years? This was the eventuality of the Texans under Watson. 

34 Not a horrible strat

They've built, specifically, around Allen quite nicely. 

I get they're not all stars but Singletary(and Moss) should be fine, 5.37 ANY/RA this season. More variety in the RB but would still fine. No one need for a swing like this (article above). It's just not gonna move the needle. No RB (at least in this draft) needs a 5YO

7 Giants picks

I would be ecstatic if the G-men end up with Evan Neal and Tyler Linderbaum as the first two picks.  The only thing that would be even BETTER would be to trade down the 7 pick as far as 12 or so, and STILL grab Linderbaum, except with a couple of extra picks in the fold for our MANY, MANY personnel shortcomings!

11 First Round TEs

Is Ertz level production worth a first round pick? Genuine question. 

I don't know anything about McBride, so maybe he is worth it. But I generally feel for a TE to be worth a first round pick, he needs to be someone who can make an impact both receiving and blocking. It's hard to find guys that are good at both. 

12 I think it depends on where…

In reply to by matu_72

I think it depends on where in the first round you are talking about. I have always felt like there are three tiers of tight ends.

Tier 1: Obvious all of famers who are as dangerous as a typically elite receiver. Prime Gronk, Kittle, Kelce etc.

Tier 2: Asset in the passing game but not some matchup impossibility: Ben Watson, Jason Witten, maybe Ertz?

Tier 3: Jags. Anything worse than this and you just won't see snaps on the field because teams dont have to play you the way they must play receivers and offensive linemen. 

Any top 10 tight end pick almost has to turn into a tier 1 guy for it to be worth it. But tier 2 guys for late first rounders are definitely worth it. 

43 People have a super high…

People have a super high opinion of what a first round pick is worth. They're not Hall-level talent. They're not even All Pro talent. At best they're "borderline Pro Bowl at peak" talent.

Picks like those don't close the gap between you and other teams, but they don't let it open more, too.

It's just a risk issue. You just need to be more confident about low value positions.

39 Yes

In reply to by matu_72

Forget about blocking. Kelce (same draft class!), Graham, Mike Gesi, Aaron Hernandez, etc. All worth where ever they were picked up. Blocking at any position is nice but receiving is the most important part. As long as they try on blocking. 

14 Cincy QB?

in which case they could actually use this pick at edge rusher or quarterback

Pretty sure Cincy is all set at QB for a while. Is this supposed to be cornerback?

38 They need a quarterback to…

They need a quarterback to replace Burrow when he leaves in three years....

says a Jets fan who really who shut about such things, but still wants some comedy

to go with draft tragedy in his life.

20 I winced when I read "And if…

I winced when I read "And if the 49ers or Colts end up with it, Broncos fans should just set their season ticket letters on fire." Then I realized that nowhere in the capsule was the word "Vikings" and now I'm really worried. 

40 Tyler Heincke?

First, both his first and last names are spelled incorrectly, so two errors for the spelling.

I am willing to bet on a third error, that he is no worse than Jimmy Garoppolo??  Yikes, can not wait for your write up on the team that lands Jimmy Garoppolo.

42 I love how everyone gears…

I love how everyone gears themselves up to somehow explain how the Eagles will pick a first round linebacker. Finally.

But, c'mon. It's actually even a bad pick! Edge rusher, receiver, and corner would equally help the team *and* they're all appropriate uses of first round picks!

91 Jimmy G

Jimmy was fifth in DVOA in 2021. why bother with the statistics if you aren't going to pay attention to them?

96 5th is 5th

Does that mean that Kyle Shanahan's offense beats the system with respect to QB DVOA? Did it beat the system with CJ Beathard or Nick Mullens? Without more, I'm not convinced.

I mean . . . Taylor Heinicke finished 22nd in DVOA. He was 650+ DYAR behind Jimmy on over 10% more passes. That's because of the offensive playcalling? Heinicke had the same number of TDs, same number of INTs, fewer fumbles. I need more.

97 Oh course you aren't Jimmy burner

In reply to by buznakka

Congrats on being better than backups? lol

22nd/37 graded QBs including the playoff lollipops. But yea I'm sure there's no reason the 49ers used 3 1sts on another QB lol

98 Better than Heinicke is the point

Heinicke is "no worse than Jimmy Garoppolo but far cheaper" just, isn't. true. according to FO's stats.

Jimmy played three playoff games against teams Washington went 0-4 against. Higher DVOA. Heinicke had 62 more opportunities to build a better DYAR. Failed. Poster says it's the system . . . until I point out that the system doesn't work for backups - doesn't that mean that the starter's achievements are real?

100 Listen Jimmy

No one that actually watches you thinks you are as good as the stats say. You're obsession with trying to prove you're be better than non starters is weird and just goes to show how low the bar is for you. 

93 The Bucs?

The Bucs are gonna franchise tag Carlton Davis and still have high draft choices Sean Murphy-Bunting & Jamel Dean. I’m not sure how that means they’re thin at the position.