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Scariest defenses in college football since 2000



In honor of Friday the 13th, let’s take a journey through the annals of college football history to resurrect the scariest defenses since 2000. In chronological order, we produced the list with stats, the number of players drafted, and award winners taken into account. While many of the defensive units were easy to include, there were some tough decisions.

Using 2000 as a cutoff allows us to recognize the top defenses of this century without leaving out members from the 1900s. Maybe a list only including teams before 2000 should come next…

Editor’s note: Drafted players only including those on the two-deep depth chart 

Georgia Bulldogs – 2021

Record: 14-1 | Yards Allowed/Game: 279.1 (3rd) | Points Allowed/Game: 10.4 (1st) | Drafted Players: 8 | Shutouts: 3 | Award Winners: Jordan Davis (Outland, Bednarik), Nakobe Dean (Butkus)

It may not be Crystal Lake, but Athens, Georgia, was one of the scariest places to be for opposing offenses last year. By sheer NFL talent, the 2021 iteration of the Bulldogs’ defense was asinine. Travon Walker (No. 1), Jordan Davis (No. 14), Quay Walker (No. 22), Devonte Wyatt (No. 28), Lewis Cine (No. 32), Nakobe Dean (No. 83), Channing Tindall (No. 102), and Derion Kendrick (No. 212) were all selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

That star-studded crew allowed just 4.1 yards per play (second-fewest) and 15.2 first downs per game (third). They didn’t even average a touchdown allowed per game (0.9), the only unit to do so since 2012. Georgia beat up on the schools they should have, but they also held No. 14 Clemson (3), No. 21 Arkansas (0), No. 18 Kentucky (13), and No. 3 Michigan to under 15 points.

In fact, they only allowed over that twice during the year. The first came in a loss — their only one of the season — to Alabama in the SEC Championship (41-24). The next came in their rematch in the national championship, knocking off Bryce Young and Co. 33-18.

Clemson Tigers – 2018

Record: 15-0 | Yards Allowed/Game: 294.7 (4th) | Points Allowed/Game: 13.6 (1st) | Drafted Players: 8 | Shutouts: 0 | Award Winners: Clelin Ferrell (Ted Hendricks), Isaiah Simmons (Butkus)

The Power Rangers were in full force in 2018. Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Christian Wilkins, and Dexter Lawrence made life hell for opposing backfields. While they were tormenting offenses up front, Isaiah Simmons, Trayvon Mullen, A.J. Terrell, and K’Von Wallace were enforcing a no-fly zone. They may not have pitched a shutout, but they allowed over 20 points (four) fewer times than they allowed less than 10 (seven).

Need some more numbers to tickle your fancy? Clemson allowed a 53.4 completion rate (10th lowest) and a 27.9 third-down conversion rate (fifth). Offenses struggled to move the ball down the field. The Tigers took care of business in the playoffs as well, trouncing Notre Dame 30-3 in the semifinal, and unseating Alabama 44-16 in the national championship.

Florida State Seminoles – 2013

Record: 14-0 | Yards Allowed/Game: 270.8 (3rd) | Points Allowed/Game: 11.1 (1st) | Drafted Players: 9 | Shutouts: 1 | Award Winners: None

Everyone remembers the 2013 Florida State Seminoles’ explosive offense with Jameis Winston under center, but the defensive talent wasn’t lacking. The front seven comprised of future NFLers Eddie Goldman, Mario Edwards, Timmy Jernigan, Christian Jones, Terrance Smith, and Telvin Smith. But the secondary was arguably even more impressive with Lamarcus Joyner, Ronald Darby, Terrence Brooks, P.J. Williams, and, of course, a true freshman Jalen Ramsey.

They only conceded over 14 points twice in 14 games. That includes a 51-14 win over seventh-ranked Clemson, a 41-14 victory against third-ranked Miami, and a 63-0 shutout of 25th-ranked Maryland.

The Seminoles cruised to their toughest matchup of the year — a national championship bout against the Auburn Tigers. The defense forfeited 31 points but held on for Florida State’s third national championship in school history.

Alabama Crimson Tide – 2011

Record: 12-1 | Yards Allowed/Game: 177.6 (1st) | Points Allowed/Game: 7.7 (1st) | Drafted Players: 12 | Shutouts: 3 | Award Winners: None

Pick nearly any Alabama defense, and they could make this list. 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, the list just keeps going. Nick Saban has turned Tuscaloosa into Titletown, and that success has permeated throughout the team’s year-over-year depth chart. But arguably, Alabama’s best defensive unit came in 2011.

Not only were they first in passing yards, rushing yards, total yards, and points allowed per game, but they also owned top marks in yards per play allowed (3.0), opponent first downs per game (10.4), and opponent third-down conversion rate (25%). Truly, name any team defensive statistic, and Alabama was likely first or at least in the top five.

What makes that more impressive is the Crimson Tide did so in an SEC West division that possessed three top-five-ranked programs. Alabama’s only loss came against No. 1 LSU in overtime, but the defense held up its end of the bargain in a 9-6 barnburner. Nevertheless, they got their revenge in the BCS National Championship, dispatching the Tigers 21-0.

The unit sported three first-round defenders in the 2012 NFL Draft (Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Dont’a Hightower), as well as another in 2013 (Dee Milliner) and 2014 (C.J. Mosley). Any way you slice it, Alabama’s 2011 defense was one of the scariest in college football history.

Nebraska Cornhuskers – 2009

Record: 10-4 | Yards Allowed/Game: 271.7 (7th) | Points Allowed/Game: 10.4 (1st) | Drafted Players: 8 | Shutouts: 2 | Award Winners: Ndamukong Suh (Bednarik, Nagurski, Outland, Lombardi)

There are multiple players from the 2009 Nebraska defense to highlight, but Ndamukong Suh likely sends chills up even Jason Voorhees’ spine. The 6’4″, 300-pound DT routinely penetrated backfields, racking up 24 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. He was as close to unstoppable as you can get, ragdolling offensive linemen en route to one of the most decorated seasons in CFB history.

The Cornhuskers’ defense may have revolved around a single player, but the rest of the unit stood tall. A secondary led by Prince Amukamara, Larry Asante, and Alfonzo Dennard were able to play free with Suh and Co. wreaking havoc up front. A 10-4 record isn’t all that impressive, but the offense was mediocre. Still, Nebraska dominated Arizona 33-0 in the Holiday Bowl and nearly beat the national champion runner-up Texas 13-12 in the Big 12 title match.

USC Trojans – 2008

Record: 12-1 | Yards Allowed/Game: 221.8 (2nd) | Points Allowed/Game: 9 (1st) | Drafted Players: 13 | Shutouts: 3 | Award Winners: Rey Maualuga (Bednarik)

Under Pete Carroll’s tutelage, USC thrived in the mid-2000s. Yet, 2008 saw the Trojans deploy one of the scariest defenses in college football history. With three linebackers selected in the top 40 picks (Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing, and Rey Maualuga), it’s safe to say the second level of the defense was as good as it gets. USC’s lone defeat came at the hands of No.1 ranked Oregon State. In total, the Trojans gave up 10+ points just three times across 13 contests.

With Fili Moala, Everson Griffin, and Kyle Moore rushing the passers, the aforementioned three-headed dragon patrolling the middle of the field, and Shareece Wright, Cary Harris, Kevin Ellison, and hard-hitting safety Taylor Mays laying the wood at the catch point, it’s no wonder USC conceded just 134.4 passing yards per game — 20 fewer than the next closest team.

LSU Tigers – 2003

Record: 13-1 | Yards Allowed/Game: 255.4 (1st) | Points Allowed/Game: 11 (1st) | Drafted Players: 8 | Shutouts: 0 | Award Winners: None

Were it not for that 2011 Alabama squad, LSU’s defense would’ve been the peak of the mountain that year. Tyrann Mathieu, Mo Claiborne, and Eric Reid made throwing the ball a chore. Regardless, the 2003 version of the Tigers (yet another Nick Saban-led team) rivaled that success. They may not have held a team to zero points, but they allowed over 14 just once.

With five soon-to-be drafted starters, the Tigers posted a completion percentage against of 44.7 (second), an average yards per play of 4 (first), and forfeited just 13.6 first downs per contest (tied first).

LSU plowed to a 12-1 regular-season record, joining Oklahoma and USC as the only one-loss programs that year. The coaches and AP polls had USC and LSU as the top-ranked teams, but the BCS system placed the Tigers and Oklahoma in the national title bout. Will Muschamp’s defense was prepared for Bob Stoops and Jason White’s high-flying offense. They held the Sooners to 14 points, with Marcus Spears even taking an interception to the house.

Miami Hurricanes – 2001

Record: 12-0 | Yards Allowed/Game: 270.9 (6th) | Points Allowed/Game: 9.4 (1st) | Drafted Players: 14 | Shutouts: 3 | Award Winners: None

Even if this list wasn’t in chronological order, I would have saved the best for last. This Hurricanes defense was so talented that they sent 10 (TEN) players to the NFL via the first round of the draft from 2002-2005. While the “drafted players” section above only includes players on the two-deep depth chart to highlight key contributors, this defense would see a mind-boggling 21 future NFL draftees. Just to name a few of those players: Ed Reed, Sean Taylor, Antrel Rolle, Vince Wilfork, and Jonathan Vilma.

En route to the program’s fifth national title, the Hurricanes generated 4.1 turnovers per game. That was just under one turnover more than the second-placed team. Miami would face fourth-ranked Nebraska in the natty. The Cornhuskers averaged 37.4 points (seventh) and 451.2 yards (12th) heading into the contest, but the Hurricanes proved too much to handle. Miami’s defense conceded just 259 yards and 24 points, with James Lewis aiding the offense with a pick-six.

Scariest defenses in CFB since 2000 | Honorable mentions

  • Notre Dame – 2012
  • Florida – 2012 & 2006
  • Virginia Tech – 2006
  • Ohio State – 2002
  • Oklahoma – 2000

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Ranking Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Tommy Eichenberg, and Others




What does the 2024 NFL Draft linebacker class look like off preliminary viewings? As has become a common theme with the 2024 group, there’s an abundance of depth to sift through. And the top prospects have a brand of dynamic upside that could lift them into the Round 1 range. Here’s a look at the full list.

Ranking the Top LBs in the 2024 NFL Draft

The 2023 NFL Draft ended up having a linebacker go in Round 1 in Detroit Lions selection Jack Campbell. But for most of the 2023 cycle, the LB group was notorious for having a lack of bona fide first-round prospects. Campbell’s testing and production helped him, but even he had some holes in his composite profile.

A linebacker hasn’t gone in the top 10 since 2020, and the linebacker drafted highest since then — Micah Parsons — has morphed into a full-time edge rusher at the NFL level. For years on end, it seems the LB position has been starved for blue-chip talent. Will the 2024 NFL Draft class change that? Let’s take a closer look and see for ourselves.

10) Tyreem Powell, Rutgers

At the very least, the 2024 NFL Draft LB class isn’t short on upside. That’s something you’ll see quickly with prospects like Rutgers’ Tyreem Powell. Powell put up 71 tackles, six TFLs, three sacks, and four PBUs in a standout 2022, and he’s expected to play the MIKE position more in 2023. Together, his traits and early production generate plenty of excitement.

It’s important to note that Powell is still largely a work in progress. His coverage instincts are very inconsistent, and he often drifts too far past gaps when tracking runs laterally. But at 6’5″ and 235 pounds, Powell has elite size, and he couples that size with impressive lateral twitch, burst, and fluidity. He’s already a physical form tackler who brings immense upside in all phases.

9) Curtis Jacobs, Penn State

Penn State won’t have another Micah Parsons on the NFL Draft circuit — at least not yet. But there is a linebacker prospect on the Nittany Lions’ roster to keep an eye on. Through 2021 and 2022, Curtis Jacobs produced 113 tackles, 14.5 TFLs, and seven sacks. His playstyle makes him a must-watch for evaluators, and there’s room for him to keep growing.

MORE: FREE NFL Mock Draft Simulator (With Trades)

Jacobs is a bit lean and undersized, and that lack of elite play strength can hinder him in certain situations. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions defender has smooth mobility in coverage. And ultimately, his best plays come when he’s able to pin his ears back, attack downhill, and splice through gaps. He’s an absolute homing missile when seeking out ball carriers.

8) Eric Gentry, USC

The 2024 NFL Draft LB class presents a lot of variety up top, but there’s no prospect as unique as USC’s Eric Gentry. Gentry — who recorded 71 tackles, four TFLs, two sacks, three PBUs, and two forced fumbles in 2022 — has an extremely unorthodox frame at 6’6″, 205 pounds. There will be questions about how he translates, but the upside is clear.

Gentry underwent surgery for an ankle injury this offseason but should be good to go by the start of the season. He’s still in dire need of added weight. Nevertheless, Gentry’s nimble athleticism and overwhelming wingspan make him a constant threat to undercut passes at the second level, and that same length magnifies his tackling range in pursuit.

7) Luke Reimer, Nebraska

The Nebraska football program will hope for a renaissance under Matt Rhule, who was able to rebuild both the Temple and Baylor programs earlier in his coaching career. It helps that Nebraska has a strong core to carry over from 2022, especially on defense. Quinton Newsome is a standout at cornerback, and Luke Reimer is the leader of the unit.

Reimer has accumulated 194 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and 11 pass deflections over the past two seasons. That production sheds light on his speed and range at the second level, but the 6’0″, 225-pound Reimer also has the football IQ, vision, and compact frame to hold his own in run defense.

6) Jestin Jacobs, Oregon

At Georgia, Dan Lanning fueled the rise of first-round LB prospect Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean, who’s now in line to start with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lanning knows how to put talented linebackers in position to succeed. He’ll have his opportunity to do it again with Iowa transfer Jestin Jacobs, who’s coming back from a soft tissue injury suffered in 2022.

Jacobs only played two games before missing the rest of 2022 with an injury, but he has one of the most exciting ceilings in the 2024 NFL Draft class. At 6’4″, 238 pounds, he has impressive size and length, and yet, he’s very natural managing space and changing directions in coverage. Jacobs’ size and athleticism allude to vast projected versatility.

Tommy Eichenberg (35) celebrates a tackle during the first half of the NCAA football game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium.

5) Tommy Eichenberg, Ohio State

Tommy Eichenberg had fans as a potential early-round LB prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle after experiencing a career resurgence under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. He racked up 120 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a pick, and three PBUs but ultimately chose to return to school for the 2023 campaign. Now, he’s a top LB in the 2024 class.

MORE: 2024 NFL Draft Big Board

At 6’2″, 239 pounds, Eichenberg brings contagious energy and play pace at the second level. He’s an extremely explosive athlete, but 2022 was the first year he truly reined in his traits and learned to play with more control. He can stack and shed, as well as invade gaps and wrangle up QBs as a blitzer, and his hot motor makes him a constant threat around the ball.

4) Danny Stutsman, Oklahoma

Danny Stutsman was one of the most productive defenders in the entire nation in 2022, putting up 125 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, two picks, and five pass deflections. He’s a proven playmaker in all phases, and he returns as one of the most established 2024 NFL Draft prospects at the LB position.

At 6’3″, 229 pounds, Stutsman has great size, and he plays with an unmatchable motor in pursuit. Not only does he play all the way to the final whistle, but he has the high-end speed and explosiveness to run down ball carriers with his range. His instant acceleration when triggering is awe-inspiring, and while he can refine his instincts further, all of the traits are there.

3) Omar Speights, LSU

LSU has a future star in Harold Perkins at linebacker, but it’ll be just as exciting to see Oregon State transfer Omar Speights play his first season under the SEC lights. In four years with the Beavers, Speights accumulated 304 total tackles, 25 TFLs, five sacks, three picks, and four deflections. With the Tigers, he aims to make himself known.

Speights’ ceiling might not be quite as high as other prospects on this list, but he’s a sound three-down linebacker at 6’1″, 237 pounds. He’s a sturdy tackler with good closing speed and reaction quickness, and while he doesn’t have much production in coverage, Speights does have the vision and route-recognition ability to process and respond to plays in zone.

2) Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson

One year after Clemson boasted Trenton Simpson on the NFL Draft stage, the Tigers have two more potential early-round LB prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. — son of an All-Pro NFL linebacker of the same name — comes in as our second-ranked LB on our preliminary rankings. Another season of production could lock Trotter in this range.

MORE: 2024 NFL Draft Prospect Watchlist

In 2022, Trotter put up 89 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, two picks, and five deflections. At 6’0″, 230 pounds, he’s a dense, well-leveraged linebacker over the middle of the field who offers great instincts and awareness for his age. He has a natural feel for how to combat, evade, and bend around blocks, and he’s a very reliable tackler with sturdy form and closing burst.

Who Is the Best LB in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Clemson lays claim to both of the top LB prospects on our preliminary 2024 NFL Draft positional rankings. Trotter was actually more productive than his counterpart in 2022, but looking at his traits and versatility, it’s hard to keep the top spot from Barrett Carter in the summer months.

1) Barrett Carter, Clemson

Carter is Clemson’s “Agent 0.” A former five-star recruit who was timed in the 4.5 range coming out of high school, Carter amassed 73 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions, eight deflections, and two forced fumbles in 2022. At 6’1″, 225 pounds, his versatility and attacking mentality are both nearly impossible to replicate.

Trotter might have better discipline as a traditional LB, but in a modern NFL, where versatile linebackers create a mismatch, Carter projects extremely well. He has the fluidity to drop into coverage and play the slot, but his value is highest in the box, where he has the searing explosiveness, quick trigger, and pass-rushing chops to be a down-to-down nightmare.

Honorable Mentions

  • Mason Cobb, USC
  • Jackson Mitchell, UConn
  • Francisco Mauigoa, Miami (FL)
  • Justin Flowe, Arizona State
  • Khari Coleman, Ole Miss
  • Ty’Ron Hopper, Missouri
  • Tatum Bethune, Florida State
  • Deshawn Pace, Cincinnati
  • Travion Brown, Arizona State
  • Kam Arnold, Boston College

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Projected Depth Chart, Rosters, and Predictions




For the first time since Chris Ballard took over the personnel duties for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017, he has a fresh start with a rookie QB. There were wholesale changes made this offseason, and while we won’t know until September if the team can truly contend in the AFC South, they finally have something they’ve lacked for so long … hope for the future.

Everything You Need Ahead of the Indianapolis Colts’ 2023 NFL Season

Since Andrew Luck suddenly retired before the 2019 season, many veteran passers have come and gone from Indianapolis. Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan have all been recycled through the program, with varying degrees of success and failure.

MORE: Where Does Indianapolis’ Offense Rank in 2023?

What changes did the Colts make in 2023 to bring life to a franchise that has been clinging on to relevancy over the past half-decade?

Indianapolis Colts Roster Changes

  • Players Signed
    • EDGE Samson Ebukam
    • K Matt Gay
    • LB E.J. Speed
    • WR Ashton Dulin
    • DT Taven Bryan
    • QB Gardner Minshew
    • WR Isaiah McKenzie
    • TE Pharaoh Brown
    • EDGE Khalid Kareem
    • S Rodney McLeod
    • CB Tony Brown

McKenzie, Gay, and Ebukam are likely the most significant names on the list. It should come as no surprise that Ballard did very little needle-moving during free agency. He’s never been one to make big moves during that period.

On the surface, losing Gilmore really hurts the Colts’ defense in the short term. However, few teams have done a better job of evaluating and developing talent at the CB position than Indianapolis over the years, and the Colts drafted three of them.

  • Players Lost
    • K Chase McLaughlin (Buccaneers)
    • G Matt Pryor (49ers)
    • LB Bobby Okereke (Giants)
    • WR Parris Campbell (Giants)
    • CB Brandon Facyson (Raiders)

Okereke really exploded when forced into the main playmaking role with Shaquille Leonard out with an injury for most of the 2022 NFL season. Losing him means losing an integral piece of the middle of the defense, although getting Leonard back healthy in 2023 will help mitigate that loss.

Zaire Franklin and Speed should be more than enough from a depth standpoint.

  • Expired Contracts
    • EDGE Yannick Ngakoue
    • EDGE Ben Banogu
    • OT Dennis Kelly
    • S Armani Watts
  • Players Cut/Waived
    • RB Darrynton Evans
    • WR Kristian Wilkerson
    • QB Nick Foles
    • DL Chris Williams
    • DL Kameron Cline
    • TE Nikola Kalinic
    • TE Jalen Wydermyer
    • QB Matt Ryan (cut/retired)
  • Players Drafted
    • QB Anthony Richardson
    • CB Julius Brents
    • WR Josh Downs
    • OT Blake Freeland
    • DT Adetomiwa Adebawore
    • CB Darius Rush
    • S Daniel Scott
    • TE Will Mallory
    • RB Evan Hull
    • EDGE Titus Leo
    • CB Jaylon Jones
    • OT Jake Witt

Richardson may or may not start right away for the Colts with Minshew in the fold. However, he is the team’s future, and fans should be incredibly excited about his unbelievable physical tools.

Indianapolis Colts Coaching Staff in 2023

  • Head Coach: Shane Steichen
    • Assistant to the Head Coach: TJ Ingels
  • Offensive Coordinator: Jim Bob Cooter
    • Wide Receivers: Brian Bratton
    • Wide Receivers: Reggie Wayne
    • Tight Ends: Tom Manning
    • Offensive Line: Tony Sparano Jr.
    • Quarterbacks: Cam Turner
    • Assistant Offensive Line: Chris Watt
    • Running Backs: DeAndre Smith
  • Defensive Coordinator: Gus Bradley
    • Linebackers/Run Game Coordinator: Richard Smith
    • Defensive Quality Control: Brent Jackson
    • Assistant Linebackers: Cato June
    • Defensive Backs: Ron Milus
    • Assistant Defensive Backs: Mike Mitchell
    • Defensive Line: Nate Ollie
    • Assistant Defensive Line: Matt Raich
  • Special Teams Coordinator: Brian Mason
    • Assistant Special Teams: Joe Hastings
    • Head Strength and Conditioning: Richard Howell
    • Assistant Strength and Conditioning: Zane Fakes

Steichen is an outstanding offensive architect.

He found a way to absolutely maximize Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia, helping him achieve near-MVP levels of passing and rushing efficiency. However, the offensive line was outrageously talented, and the receiving corps was one of the best in the entire league.

MORE: Where Does Indianapolis’ Defense Rank in 2023?

Keeping continuity on the defensive side of the ball with Bradley was a good decision by the organization.

The Colts’ defense wasn’t one of the best in the league, but relative to the talent on the depth chart, it performed admirably.

Predicting the Indianapolis Colts Depth Chart

Indianapolis colts


  • QB: Anthony Richardson, Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger
  • RB: Jonathan Taylor, Zack Moss, Evan Hull, Deon Jackson
  • WR: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Josh Downs, Isaiah McKenzie, Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan
  • TE: Jelani Woods, Mo Alie-Cox, Will Mallory
  • LT: Bernhard Raimann, Blake Freeland
  • LG: Quenton Nelson, Emil Ekiyor
  • C: Ryan Kelly
  • RG: Will Fries, Danny Pinter
  • RT: Braden Smith, Jake Witt


  • DE: Kwity Paye, Samson Ebukam, Dayo Odeyingbo, Tyquan Lewis, Khalid Kareem, Leo Titus
  • DT: DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Taven Bryan, Adetomiwa Adebawore
  • LB: Shaquille Leonard, Zaire Franklin, E.J. Speed, Grant Stuard, JoJo Domann
  • CB: Isaiah Rodgers Sr., Kenny Moore II, Julius Brents, Darius Rush, Dallis Flowers, Jaylon Jones, Tony Brown
  • S: Julian Blackmon, Rodney McLeod, Nick Cross, Daniel Scott

2022 Results and Standings

The Colts’ offense struggled mightily in 2022. They scored 30 points just three times all season and lost two of those games, both late in the year. Their 4-12-1 record was bad enough to secure them the fourth pick in the NFL Draft, which then allowed them to secure the future of their franchise with the selection of Richardson.

However, the Texans had a worse record in the division, and both the Bears and Cardinals finished with worse records league-wide.

2023 Power Ranking and Season Outlook

The latest edition of the Pro Football Network Power Rankings by Dallas Robinson has the Colts coming in at 28th.

“It feels like the Colts have one of the widest ranges of potential outcomes of any team in the NFL,” Robinson wrote. “If Anthony Richardson can immediately capitalize on his legendary athletic profile and deliver an Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign, Indianapolis has enough playmakers to compete for the AFC South title.”

MORE: Indianapolis Colts 2023 Schedule

The Colts do have a massive range of outcomes, and it is because of the unknown at the quarterback position. Richardson could end up being everything we dreamed of, but that is likely to take quite a bit of time to round into form.

According to PFN’s model, the Colts have one of the easiest schedules in the NFL heading into 2023. If Richardson plays beyond his years under center, the team could surprise everyone and push for a playoff birth.

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What Would’ve Happened If the Eagles Traded Jalen Hurts to Seahawks for Russell Wilson in 2022?




The NFL has seen an unprecedented number of star-driven trades over the last few offseasons. Some have worked out, but others have proven to be disastrous for one or both teams involved. One deal — involving the Philadelphia Eagles and Russell Wilson — never came to fruition but would’ve changed the direction of several franchises.

Per Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop, Wilson used his no-trade clause to decline a trade to both the Washington Commanders and the Eagles in 2022. Wilson ended up in Denver instead and endured a historic regression. Seahawks quarterbacks coach Jake Heaps originally said the deal happened “quickly” but fell apart because Wilson didn’t want to go anywhere other than Denver.

We dive into what would’ve happened if the Eagles acquired Wilson, presumably including star quarterback Jalen Hurts in the deal with the Seahawks.

What If the Eagles Traded Jalen Hurts for Russell Wilson in 2022?

The ramifications of the Eagles trading Hurts and a flurry of draft picks that resemble the deal that Denver coughed up to Seattle would be immense. Had the Eagles given up a similar package as the Broncos did, the Eagles wouldn’t have landed 2022 first-round pick Jordan Davis or 2023 first-round pick Nolan Smith.

The Eagles Never Reach the Super Bowl

While the players that Philadelphia drafted in 2022 weren’t main cogs in their Super Bowl run, Hurts developed from a questionable long-term starter into the NFL’s-highest paid player. Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen built his scheme completely around Hurts’ strengths, including 75 red-zone rush attempts and the third-highest yards per pass attempt of any quarterback.

MORE: Where Russell Wilson and Jalen Hurts Land in QB Power Rankings

It’s safe to say the Eagles’ offense would’ve functioned differently with Wilson. While Steichen and Hurts created a symbiotic relationship to get the most out of the offense, Wilson was on such a different page with Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett that Wilson was still using Seahawks terminology on audibles by mid-November. The chemistry that the Eagles thrived on simply wouldn’t have been there for their offense.

Also, consider that Hurts’ completion rate was 6% better, his touchdown rate was 1.5% higher, and his interception rate was a full percent lower, and there’s simply no way the Eagles would’ve been anywhere near the third-ranked scoring offense in the NFL with Wilson. The Broncos, like the Eagles, were loaded with playmakers, and it didn’t matter because Wilson was so bad.

Geno Smith (7) drops back to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half at SoFi Stadium.

Geno Smith Never Cashes In

Assuming the Seahawks would have landed Hurts, then it’s more than likely Hurts would’ve ended up starting for them in 2022.

Geno Smith and Drew Lock were in a battle that was characterized as “the most embarrassing, saddest, pathetic quarterback competition of all time.” Smith struggled in the preseason, and Lock was as bad as he’s always been before Smith suddenly blossomed into a star during the regular season.

Eventually earning Pro Bowl status and a fat three-year, $105 million deal, Smith was never guaranteed to even start one game for the Seahawks in 2022. He would’ve been fine with that outcome, saying his “tough times would be a dream to someone else.” Though he clearly should’ve been a starter based on his 2022 play, teams didn’t know that at the time.

There was also a level of uncertainty with Hurts, which is why the Eagles wanted Wilson in the first place. Hurts isn’t a traditional passer because he’s not the most accurate thrower, and his anticipation isn’t quite as refined as a veteran’s. He was entering a make-or-break season in 2022 for a reason.

The Colts and Cardinals Hire Different Head Coaches

If the Eagles suffered their worst-case fate in 2022 and Wilson bottomed out despite the immense talent around him, there’s little chance that either Steichen or defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon land head coaching gigs elsewhere.

MORE: Best NFL Offenses | Best NFL Defenses 

Steichen was masterful with both Justin Herbert in 2020 and Hurts in 2021 and 2022, but Wilson’s diminished returns weren’t just bad. Wilson’s play could’ve been career-ending for Hackett if the coach didn’t have a great relationship with Aaron Rodgers. The Broncos were hoping that hiring Hackett would help facilitate a deal for Rodgers, but Wilson became their fallback option.

If the Eagles’ offense finished dead last in 2022 like the Broncos’ did, then the Eagles’ defense certainly isn’t as high-profile or as effective as they were while constantly playing from ahead. This would’ve had cascading effects across the league since both coordinators landed head coaching jobs quickly after the season ended.

Broncos Don’t Hire Sean Payton

Wilson is now “fighting for his career” after the new Broncos’ ownership aggressively traded for head coach Sean Payton. The Broncos have to see more from Wilson immediately in order to justify keeping his massive cap hit after the 2023 season. The best way to rekindle whatever is left of Wilson was to hire the best offensive mind available.

Sean Payton won’t tie his career to Wilson moving forward unless the quarterback gives him reason to believe in his ability to win in the next few seasons. But he likely wouldn’t have been so valued by the Broncos if Wilson wasn’t acquired in the first place. Denver likely would’ve entered the 2022 season with Lock, then drafted a top rookie with their high draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft class.

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