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Philadelphia Eagles vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview



We have the definitive guide to the numbers behind the NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles. We explore nearly every analytical angle to the game and dive deep into the unique features of each offense and how they relate to the opposing defense.

With the Super Bowl on the line, the NFC Championship Game has produced two statistical darlings in the 49ers and Eagles, who have come about their success in two very different ways. Let’s break it down.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Behind the Numbers

49ers vs. Eagles Team-Level Statistics

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These various team-level statistics take the net result of each performance — offensive expected points per play is subtracted from defensive expected points per play, and so on. The outcome here tells us that these are two well-matched, high-performance teams.

The first three statistics are per play, and two of them are indexed off of expected points. Expected points look at the average points scored from a particular down, distance, and field position, and subtracts the difference between two plays to determine how many expected points were added between those plays.

It does a great job predicting NFL outcomes and can help us explain which teams have helped themselves the most with particular types of plays, like how some interceptions hurt more than others because they occurred deep downfield on third-and-long, instead of in the flat on 1st-and-10.

MORE: NFL Power Rankings Championship Round

Success rate evaluates what percentage of plays gained expected points. Any play that added to the total counts as a success, while plays that reduce expected points are not. This is a good proxy for consistency because it tells us whether or not a team can, from play to play, accomplish their goals instead of relying on fluke plays like a busted coverage or tipped interception.

EPA per play takes the average expected points gained over the course of a game and divides it by the number of plays.

Explosion rate looks at how often a team creates an explosive play, which is defined as 16 or more yards through the air or 12+ yards on the ground.

In these per-play statistics, the Eagles and 49ers are about even, though San Francisco comes out ahead in success rate and EPA per play and just a tick behind Philadelphia in explosion rate.

The next three statistics are drive-level instead of play-level. Drive-level statistics, in many ways, are more useful than play-level statistics. It is not the goal of any offense to score on every single play, but it is the goal of offenses to finish their drives with a score. Not only that, drives represent true opportunities.

If a team scores four times in 10 drives, they have left their opponent more drives — about 10 — to respond and rack up points. But if they score four times in five drives, they’ve only left about five opportunities on the table.

Four touchdowns in a five-drive performance is exceedingly efficient. Those 28 points are much more meaningful and likely to win the game than four touchdowns in a 15-drive performance, where the opponent had 15 opportunities to match or beat that number.

“Drive Success Rate” refers to the ability of an offense to generate first downs (or for a defense to stop them). It takes the number of first downs (and touchdowns) generated on a drive and divides it by the number of down series an offense had.

A team that generates two first downs and then kicks a field goal would have a success rate of 66.7%, while a team that generates one first down and then scores a touchdown would have a success rate of 100%.

These drive-level statistics are where San Francisco really shines, ranking ahead of Philadelphia in all. They generate and stop first downs more often, generate and stop more points per drive, and have the highest net-scoring percentage in the league, forcing punts or turnovers more often while avoiding those themselves.

None of this is to say that the Eagles are bad at any of these measures. They’re among the best in the league. But the 49ers really stand out here.

The next four are per-game statistics. Three of them are adjusted for strength of competition. Point differential, calculated per game, favors the 49ers. While the rank differences are small, the absolute difference is fairly large.

Philadelphia Eagles

The 49ers seem to be a tier above the Eagles in this category, who themselves are a tier above the Jaguars, Ravens, and Lions. But there are reasons to hesitate with this. Philadelphia has had a slightly more difficult schedule than San Francisco, though the differences are somewhat marginal. Still, correcting for that gives us what Pro Football Reference calls “SRS,” or Simple Rating System.

It takes point differential and compares it to the average expected point differential based on a team’s schedule. Then, for each team, it does that again using the new average value. And again, and so on, until the changes from run to run are small.

That closes the gap between the two, but it’s not enough to flip it in the Eagles’ favor. Game Script, which also uses points, does do that, however.

Instead of looking at the score at the end of the game, Game Script takes a look at the score for every second of every game, taking the average point differential across all time played. That produces a more granular measure that accounts for garbage time. It rewards teams for dominating early and throughout the game and captures back-and-forth games that end up looking less like the close contests they were.

It has its own problems but generally predicts future outcomes better than point differential and can be adjusted for opponent in the same way, as done here. The Eagles’ penchant for scoring early and preventing big scores puts them just slightly ahead of the 49ers, who tend to pull away late in games they end up winning.

DVOA is both a per-play and per-game metric. It accounts for both success rate and explosiveness rate but adjusts for opponents on a per-game level to give us a season-long score. It officially stands for “Defense-adjusted Value Over Average,” where defense just means opponent. Again, at this more granular level, the 49ers are just barely ahead of the Eagles.

When the Eagles Have the Ball

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Philadelphia here profiles like a team focused more on consistency than explosiveness, though are excellent at both. They find ways to make first downs and drive down the field. Compared to other top-five scoring teams, the Eagles have a bit of trouble finishing those drives and would need slightly better performance.

It’s not that Philadelphia is bad in the red zone, punts very often, or generates a lot of turnovers. They’re just slightly worse at those types of finishing statistics than the top offenses in the NFL.

The 49ers are good at forcing punts but are not uniquely skilled at it. They rank sixth in opponent drives ending in a punt. But they are one of the few teams that have a high punt rate and high turnover rate, ranking second in the NFL in forcing opponent turnovers per drive.

The Eagles are good in all of these categories, ranking third in red-zone efficiency, 10th in turnover avoidance, and fourth in punt avoidance.

MORE: 3 Philadelphia Eagles Keys to Victory vs. the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game

The two fulcrum points for how these units perform, then, will be in turnovers and red-zone performance. As far as relative strengths and weaknesses go, the 49ers are somewhat weak compared to the Eagles in preventing touchdowns once teams cross the 20-yard line, while Philadelphia is somewhat more turnover-prone than their peers on the way there.

The biggest problem is that both of these elements are somewhat volatile and hard to predict for individual games. While measures like success rate, EPA per play, and DVOA do a good job of predicting game performance, turnover production and red-zone performance are both somewhat unsustainable.

Teams good at forcing turnovers and avoiding turnovers will generally continue to be good at it. But the best teams in those categories are very unlikely to continue to produce at a top-three rate, and they generally regress to an above-average overall performance.

Same with red-zone production. You do a better job predicting TD rate if you approximate how many times teams get into the red zone rather than how often they score once they get there.

Eagles’ Passing Offense vs. 49ers’ Passing Defense

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In the air, the Eagles profile as a team that is relatively efficient and gets most of its damage done through explosive plays. They don’t press for those plays, however, and will pick and choose their moments for deep shots.

When things aren’t there, Jalen Hurts can scramble, providing the passing game with a floor in terms of production. That’s why the deep-ball rate can be middle-of-the-pack, and the average depth of target can be just a little bit higher than average, but the overall production in EPA per play and yards per dropback can be so high.

Generally speaking, if the deep ball isn’t there, they don’t force it and either throw it intermediate or scramble. That tendency to scramble is one reason that the sack rate is so high, but the overall production has generally been worth it on offense. That risk aversion with a high floor also means their turnover rate on offense has been low.

This gives Philadelphia a decent success rate, but it primarily means they rely on explosives. Their explosion rate on dropback passes is second in the NFL, and their yards per attempt on deep balls is No. 1 in the league. The Eagles live and die by those explosives and just pepper in enough success to keep the chains moving.

This might also explain why their scoring rate isn’t up there with the league’s best. Philadelphia lives in volatile plays and hopes the plays in between explosives can do enough to keep the chains moving. It generally does that but not at the rate of elite offenses.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers’ passing defense also lives in volatility. They give up a fair bit of yards per attempt, which happens almost exclusively on deep balls. They prevent those deep balls at a good rate, which is why their success rate is so high from down to down. But when offenses see an opportunity, it’s usually profitable to take it.

For the most part, however, offenses checkdown. That’s why San Francisco can be merely above average in yards allowed per dropback but sixth in success rate. The completions and yards are often empty against them. As evidence, they have the league’s best success rate on completed passes — only 65.6% of opposing completions help the offense. The NFL average is 72.7%.

Still, it’s a fair amount of yards to give up, and the deep shots can hurt. In order to make up for this, the 49ers have one of the highest turnover rates in the league.

Ultimately, this means that they’re about league average at preventing explosives. They deter attempts at a high rate but see a high rate of the ones that are actually attempted succeeding but gain that ground back with their own explosive plays, usually turnovers.

Both teams have a fairly risky profile in this regard, and we should see big plays whenever Hurts drops back to pass, whether that helps the Eagles or hurts them.

Eagles’ Running Offense vs. 49ers’ Running Defense

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Here we see two titans clash. The Eagles are an incredibly good rushing team, and the 49ers are very good at stopping the run.

Philadelphia doesn’t get as many yards per attempt rushing the ball as many other teams, but that isn’t that meaningful. A rush for two yards on 3rd-and-1 is worth a lot more than a rush for six yards on 1st-and-10.

They’re first in the league in success rate, expected points added per play, and DVOA. They rank third in first-down rate, fourth in fumble rate, and have a league-average rate of tackles for loss. The only thing the Eagles don’t have are explosives, and those are less important in the run game than success rate.

Some of that has to do with a high run rate on third downs (29.8% of all third-and-shorts, second in the league), which includes quarterback sneaks. Some of it has to do with Hurts protecting himself with slides instead of always trying to get more yards.

The fact that they don’t fumble the ball is critical, too.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers do a great job creating tackles for loss and fumbles, preventing third-down conversions, and preventing successes. They can load the box with run-capable defenders and do a fantastic job making life difficult in downs that should be easy for the offense.

This is how San Francisco can get away with having “only” an above-average passing defense reliant on turnovers — when teams get to “third and manageable,” they have difficulty converting.

This is perhaps a big reason why coaches are more interested in a strong running game than many analysts. Critical moments will often come down to a rushing attempt, and the 49ers are incredible at stopping those attempts.

The big question will surround their ability to stop QB runs. In those critical moments we just identified, the quarterback sneak is going to be the centerpiece of the conversation. Much will hinge on whether or not they can generate movement against the Eagles’ well-designed sneak, which not only relies on Hurts’ powerful legs but their willingness to use the current interpretation of the NFL rules that allow pushing the runner.

Outside of the sneak, they have to prepare for the fact that the Eagles run the quarterback the second most in the NFL as a percentage of all plays. Over one in seven Philadelphia plays will be a QB run of some sort. And they’re successful. The 49ers have a great traditional run defense but have struggled in their limited attempts to stop quarterback runs.

As we saw in the Giants-Eagles games, this is a completely different style of defense and demands particular attention, especially given how efficient it can be. On the other side of the ball, we have a different type of ball game — one that’s as volatile but in a completely different and somewhat unexpected way.

When the 49ers Have the Ball

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These are also two above-average units. The 49ers practice a slightly different kind of offensive volatility. Instead of heaving deep shots and hoping that a combination of skill and luck prevents turnovers, they throw short passes and rely on defensive positioning and offensive after-catch talent will produce explosives.

That results in a low turnover rate and a somewhat low (relatively) success rate but a high average in terms of expected points, success, and points per drive. Part of this is the third-best turnover rate on drives in the NFL at 9.1%, but part of it is a somewhat high TD rate.

Helping them is the NFL’s best starting field position on drives. On average, San Francisco starts from their own 32.2-yard line. That’s two yards better than the second-place Patriots and four yards better than the league average.

The 49ers have a low rate of punts and turnovers, which means their scoring rate is reasonably high, even though it’s not anywhere near the league’s best. They kick field goals at a league-average rate and score touchdowns at a somewhat high rate. However, that has more to do with exciting after-catch runs than it does efficient red-zone play. San Francisco is roughly league average in red-zone conversion rate and below average in goal-to-go efficiency.

The 49ers are a touchdown team. They rank sixth in touchdowns per drive and third since they traded for Christian McCaffrey, which is about the same span of time they’ve had Brock Purdy at the helm.

MORE: 3 San Francisco 49ers Keys to Victory vs. the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game

This doesn’t mean they go for it very often on fourth down. In fact, they have one of the lowest rates of fourth-down go rates in the NFL, yet they convert first downs at an efficient level. Additionally, San Francisco ranks sixth in both drive success rate and third-down conversion rate.

The Eagles, for their part, seem built to stop offenses in the same way. They have the 11th-best defensive success rate, sixth-best expected points allowed per play, and prevent explosive plays at the fifth-best rate in the NFL.

On a per-drive level, they’re a little bit weaker, and a lot of that has to do with their third-down conversion percentage, which is at league average. Philadelphia forces teams to third down fairly often but don’t always get them to punt once they’re there. Still, they prevent scores, and a good reason for that is similar to the 49ers’ approach — they get the ball.

The 14.9% turnovers per drive rate is third in the NFL, just behind the 49ers’ defense. The game on this side of the ball will likely come down to San Francisco’s ability to establish explosives outside of the deep-ball game and continue to avoid turnovers.

49ers’ Passing Offense vs. Eagles’ Passing Defense

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The 49ers don’t throw the ball with much depth and don’t throw deep very often. When they do, they’re not all that successful compared to other teams.

That’s just fine with the Eagles, who prevent deep passes at the fifth-best rate in the NFL. But they’re just average when those passes are thrown. In this case, it seems like the two styles of play are cohesive more than anything else; the game will be played short more than anything else.

San Francisco has feasted on opposing defenses with excellent after-catch performances. As a result, they’ve done an excellent job moving the chains, stringing together success after success. That’s how they stay ahead of most offenses, even as they do it differently than everyone else.

It should come as no surprise that the 49ers are one of the most YAC-dependent teams in the NFL. On all passing plays, 58.1% of their passing yardage comes on yards after the catch (second most in the NFL).

For receivers who are targeted more than five times a game, San Francisco ranks first in YAC proportion, 53.3% of those passing yards come after the catch. They’re the only team to crack the 50% mark.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have given up the 11th-largest proportion of their defensive passing yards on after-catch plays. This could imply that Philadelphia is a poor YAC team, but two things need to be taken into account.

The Eagles don’t give up very many yards in general, and they force short passes. By yards-after-catch per reception, they rank 10th in the NFL. And that’s not the whole YAC story.

Philadelphia is great at forcing short passes, and those are the ones with the highest yards after catch. If the Eagles force two-yard passes that get tackled after four yards of after-catch play, that’s good. Generally, the average pass gets completed for more than six yards.

We can account for this on both sides of the ball. Next Gen Stats has an “expected YAC” based on how open a receiver is, how fast they’re traveling, how close defenders are to them, what angle those defenders have, whether or not there’s someone blocking a defender, and distance to the sideline.

Scheme will have a big influence on those factors. So we can use “expected YAC” to isolate how good an offensive coordinator or quarterback is at finding YAC opportunities and can use YAC over expected to isolate a receiving corps’ skill in generating additional yards.

There’s seemingly little question that the 49ers are the best YAC team in the NFL. Not only do they scheme an extraordinary amount of YAC opportunities, but the individual players make the most of them.

While the average team forces one missed tackle for every seven receptions, the 49ers force one every four. This has been true across quarterbacks and is a testament to how well Kyle Shanahan knows how to manipulate defenses.

The Eagles force teams to try and generate YAC opportunities, and though that usually works out for them — they rank first in yards per dropback and third in EPA allowed per play — they’re not a particularly special team when it comes to stopping yards after the catch. When accounting for all of the factors involved in YAC production, they’re essentially average at stopping YAC.

49ers’ Running Offense vs. Eagles’ Running Defense

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The 49ers are not quite as good as the Eagles are at running the ball, but Philadelphia is substantially worse at stopping the run. There’s an open question about whether or not that will hold up when the Eagles run the ball because the element of a running quarterback throws a wrench into the works. But at a base level, San Francisco has an advantage here.

If the running game substantially affects outcomes — an open question in the analytics community — then Philadelphia has a bit of a problem here. It’s not an enormous problem, all weaknesses are relative, but at the highest levels of play, which is what this is, it can create marginal edges for other teams.

The yards-per-carry number looks bad, as does the tackle-for-loss number, but the Eagles are closer to average than they are to bad. They ranked 22nd in EPA given up per play and 19th in success rate. While teams are getting yards rushing on the ground, they often aren’t beneficial yards.

Still, with all that taken into account, it’s not an impressive performance.

What’s more alarming is that the 49ers have improved in a big way since acquiring McCaffrey. Since their bye in Week 9, when McCaffrey had more time to take in the playbook and pick up a larger role in the offense, San Francisco has ranked seventh in yards per carry, eighth in success rate, fifth in EPA per carry, fifth in explosiveness rate, third in fumble rate, and second in DVOA — all improvements.

The only areas where the 49ers have gotten worse is in first-down rate and tackle-for-loss rate. That’s likely because of McCaffrey’s running style, which prioritizes patience in picking running lanes. It produces more explosive runs and yards on average but does take on some risk in the process.

Not only that, first-down rate on runs is often a product of how often a team reserves its runs for third down. If a team chooses to run more often on first down, their conversion rates drop. While it may be less efficient to choose runs on first downs over passes, EPA accounts for that, and the 49ers’ EPA has gone up.

As they’ve leaned away from their quarterback and towards their running back, San Francisco’s become a surprisingly more efficient offense. In that time, they rank third in offensive EPA per play despite the increased rush rate.

It’s not all gloom and doom on this front. The Eagles have improved on their run defense over time too, especially since Jordan Davis’ return from injury. Since Week 13 and his return to the lineup, they’ve ranked 21st in yards per carry, fifth in defensive rush success rate, 20th in tackle-for-loss rate, eighth in EPA per snap, 13th in first-down rate, and eighth in rush-defense DVOA.

The only two places where the Eagles have stepped back is in explosive rush rate (23rd) and fumble rate (12th). While still giving up the occasional explosive run, Philadelphia’s rush defense has firmed up, as they’ve increased Davis’ role in the defense while supplementing him with Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph.

That substantial improvement might be why this is a closer contest than one might imagine, given the season-long numbers and those since McCaffrey started taking on a big role in the offense.

This might be the most closely matched pair of Conference Championship games in recent memory. Given the unique features of each offense and defense involved in both matchups, it should mean some incredible games.

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The World Awaits Aaron Rodgers and Allen Lazard Reunion in the Big Apple




The New York Jets haven’t been very active thus far in free agency, and it’s not hard to figure out why that’s the case. The Jets and Green Bay Packers must come to an agreement on the trade compensation for Aaron Rodgers, or both teams remain in a state of free agency limbo.

What the compensation will look like is fascinating and quite unknown. Obviously, Brian Gutekunst and the Packers want the world, while Joe Douglas and the Jets want to give up a bit of dirt on a run down one acre lot. And while the Jets are Rodgers’s only suiter, that doesn’t necessarily give them the leverage in this situation.

The Jets don’t have a ton of salary cap space to work with, so they’re unable to make many moves until the Rodgers deal is done. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of players from PFN’s Top 100 Free Agents who remain available. Additionally, there are more than enough players being released that would provide a spark to each roster.

Overall New York Jets Free Agency Grade

Thus far during free agency, New York has lost eight players from the 2022 roster and has signed seven players overall. The difficulty for the Jets is they’ve already toyed with the contracts of John Franklin-Myers, Tyler Conklin, Laken Tomlinson, D.J. Reed, and C.J. Uzomah.

They converted base salary into signing bonus money and added void years to get their cap situation to where it is now. Those moves created over $23 million in cap space, but New York will need to find more money somewhere if they’re to be more aggressive in the latter stages of free agency, should their trade be finalized sometime soon.

Overall, the Jets have done well with what they have, but they don’t have much to spend. Robert Saleh stated the team would be “judicious” with free agency and that he wanted to “run it back with the guys we have” on defense. So their inaction shouldn’t be surprising for fans.

Grade: B

Chuck Clark Brings Undying Reliability to Jets Secondary

Nobody in the NFL has played more consecutive snaps on defense than Chuck Clark. The 27-year-old safety played 1,091 snaps in 2022 and hasn’t missed a snap since Week 16 of the prior season, making his total iron man streak 1,248 snaps. Additionally, Clark has played more than 1,000 snaps in each of the past three seasons for a Baltimore Ravens team that wasn’t exactly the gold standard for keeping players on the field.

MORE: NFL Schedule Release Date

For the low price of a seventh-round pick, the Jets traded for the Ravens’ green dot bearer. Clark is a solid contributor added to a defense rife with playmakers.

Grade: A

New York Keeping Defense a Family Affair With Quincy Williams Extension

Before teams could begin tampering with Quincy Williams on March 13, the Jets swooped in and extended him to the tune of a three-year deal worth $18 million. Williams is an ascending player on a defense that needed a legitimate contributor standing beside C.J. Mosley.

He’s also the older brother of Jets star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, so extending the linebacker solves issues surrounding the superstar as well. Sure, there are rules surrounding teams’ abilities to communicate with contracted players. And sure, it wouldn’t be legal for teams to wink-wink-nudge-nudge Quincy regarding Quinnen, but New York made it so that wouldn’t even be a concern.

But the contract is also one of good faith toward Quinnen after multiple years of rumors that the team could possibly trade the former Alabama DT. The Jets are committed long-term to Quinnen, and his brother keeps improving on the second level behind him.

For the Jets, it was a win-win. And if, for some reason, things fall apart and Quinnen goes elsewhere after his fifth-year option in 2023 and Quincy plays poorly, the Jets can get out of the linebacker’s deal pretty easily after 2024.

Grade: B

Allen Lazard Rejoins Nathaniel Hackett

Allen Lazard is a great fit for the Jets, no matter who ends up becoming the team’s QB. If New York and Green Bay somehow aren’t able to agree on compensation for Rodgers, Lazard is a fine $33 million investment in a No. 2 receiver for a team with a No. 1 on a rookie deal.

Even though last season was a career-high in receptions (60) and yards (788), Lazard brings a level of blocking ability that exists in very few receivers around the league, if any can match his ability there. And although he produced more upon Nathaniel Hackett’s departure to Denver, Lazard had a ringing endorsement of the coach during his introductory press conference. He said Hackett was, “the best teacher I’ve ever had in my life.”

It should come as no surprise, considering the Jets’ wide receiver is the size of a modern-day move tight end. In fact, there isn’t much separating Lazard and Evan Engram based on their Combine testing numbers. Plus, Lazard is a better blocker than Engram.

MORE: NFL Free Agency Grades Post-First Wave

Breece Hall will be a huge part of the Jets’ offense when he returns from his injury. The run and play-action game will be a big part of the passing attack. So even when Lazard isn’t producing on the box score, he’s still adding value to the offense every time one of his blocks outside of the formation on wide zone springs an explosive run.

Paying Lazard at the top of the market was a steep price, but considering the market was practically non-existent this offseason, it’s not the worst investment in the world.

Grade: B

If Solomon Thomas Stays With Robert Saleh

If Solomon Thomas has one million fans (he doesn’t), Robert Saleh is one of them. If Thomas has 100 fans (debatable), Saleh is one of them. If Thomas has one fan (realistic), it is Saleh. If Thomas has no fans, Saleh is no longer a head coach.

In 2017 Saleh said, “That young man’s got a chance to be special if he continues working the way he does.” Since then, he’s brought up Thomas’ grit and ability to keep going. He truly believes that, at some point, it will all click for the 49ers’ former third-overall pick.

Re-signing Thomas isn’t the end of the world unless he has to start. Which, unfortunately, as it stands, could be the case. New York’s defense is talented, but their defensive interior is lackluster aside from Williams.

Thomas is an inexpensive piece, but he’s also simply not a very good player. Even in a more part-time role with New York a season ago, he hardly flashed as a pass rusher, the arena many believed he’d be an expert in at the NFL level. Yet, for a team that was begging for depth, Saleh added a familiar piece.

Grade: C

Jets Double Up on Interior Between Wes Schweitzer and Trystan Colon-Castillo

While Wes Schweitzer is a more traditional free agency signing as someone with starting experience at a somewhat inexpensive value, that doesn’t intrinsically make it a good or bad move. Schweitzer isn’t a bad piece to have as a rotational piece on the offensive interior who can fill in at left guard, center, and right guard.

But you don’t necessarily want him to be the starter in Week 1, particularly at center. Alijah Vera-Tucker has already changed from left tackle in college to left guard to right guard at the NFL level. Maybe he’d be open to the middle of the offense if Schweitzer provides better play at right guard.

Vera-Tucker has played every line position except for center at the NFL level. Last season alone, he played LT, RG, and RT before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 7. Sometimes we can point to position changes in-season with offensive linemen as a potential cause of injury, but a torn triceps muscle is a true freak injury.

MORE: Best Guards in the NFL 2023

Adding Trystan Colon-Castillo is the eyebrow raiser, and in a good way. He’s only played a hair over 300 snaps in his three seasons with Baltimore, but Colon-Castillo’s looked pretty good when he’s been on the field.

The undrafted free agent from Missouri has played center and some right guard and could provide some competition at center in camp. It’s impossible to know if he can sustain the level of play we’ve seen from him in short spurts, but this was a nice way to add depth to the interior for New York.

Grade: B

Losing Nathan Shepherd and Sheldon Rankins Hurts

That is over 1,000 defensive snaps lost between Nathan Shepherd and Sheldon Rankins from a season ago. New York didn’t have the money to allocate to the two players, but keeping one of them around to avoid staring at Thomas as a current starter on the depth chart for the time being would have made Jets fans feel better.

Rankins will make nearly $10 million in 2023, which made him expendable given New York’s struggling salary cap situation. However, Shephard would have been nice to keep around for his $5 million annual value.

The offseason is not over yet, though, and there are plenty of interior defenders still available for New York to steal in the latter stages of free agency.

Grade: D

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Fantasy Outlook, Value, Projections, and Rankings




As we inch toward the new season, the ever-changing NFL landscape has player fantasy values constantly on the move. Whether you’re used to the dynasty platform or are still learning the rules, let’s dive into the latest dynasty fantasy football value of Skyy Moore.

Skyy Moore’s Dynasty Outlook and Value

I really liked Moore as a prospect. Maybe it’s a scouting flaw, but I’m a sucker for incredibly dominant small-school early-declare wide receivers. But Moore was far from a perfect prospect. At 5’10”, 191 pounds, he did not profile as a WR1 at the NFL level. His burst and agility were also lacking.

As a rookie, Moore could not have walked into a better set of circumstances. Not only was he gifted the most talented quarterback in the history of the game, but he found himself on a wide-open depth chart.

Entering the 2022 season, the Chiefs did not have a single receiver — outside of maybe JuJu Smith-Schuster — who you could say for sure would be a starter.

The sad reality is Moore enthusiasts must accept that he really has no excuse for being unable to get on the field as a rookie. Mecole Hardman, MVS, Justin Watson, and Kadarius Toney (once he arrived) all played ahead of Moore. The rookie second-rounder was essentially the team’s WR6.

MORE: Dynasty Rankings 2023 — Top Fantasy Options at Wide Receiver

Targets are earned, and Moore earned just 5.6% of them. He caught 22 passes for 250 yards and no touchdowns, falling well short of the 500-yard threshold we look for in rookie receivers. He averaged 2.7 ppg.

At this point, if Moore ever ascended beyond a rotational WR3/4 at the NFL level, it would be an upset. It’s unfortunate, given how much I and many others liked him. But we now have new information, and it’s not particularly good.

Moore also failed the eye test. This guy with 4.41 speed had just an 8.5 average depth of target and looked completely incapable of making defenders miss. Seemingly every time he touched the ball, it was near the line of scrimmage on a jet sweep or a screen.

He would have acres of space in front of him, with blockers. Yet, somehow, he’d find a way to get the absolute minimum. Suffice it to say I was wholly unimpressed by Moore as a rookie.

Skyy Moore’s Fantasy Ranking

Dynasty managers who spent a 2022 second-round rookie pick on Moore obviously cannot outright cut him. You can try and trade him, but I doubt you will get anything worthwhile in return. Unfortunately, the best course of action is likely to just hold him and hope he takes a rather unprecedented leap in his sophomore season.

Based on draft capital and a barren depth chart that is now without Smith-Schuster, Moore remains WR47 (No. 122 overall) in our dynasty Superflex ratings. Truthfully, I think this is the highest he will be ranked for the remainder of his career. There is a spot in which I’d take a shot on him in dynasty startup drafts, but it’s well after his ADP.

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C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State




The 2023 NFL Draft quarterback class doesn’t have a consensus QB1, but with his scouting report, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud is right in the mix. Two incredibly productive seasons as a starter have led Stroud to this point — on the doorstep of the 2023 NFL Draft. And though there are other contenders, the first overall pick is within his reach.

C.J. Stroud NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Quarterback
  • School: Ohio State
  • Current Year: Redshirt Sophomore
  • Height/Weight: 6’3″, 214 pounds
  • Arm: 32 5/8″
  • Hand: 10″

If there’s a word that can tie together Stroud’s entire career across his time with the Ohio State Buckeyes, it’s “progression.”

The Buckeyes‘ signal-caller progressed all through high school and closed out his tenure with a senior season that saw him amass 3,878 yards and 47 touchdowns in 13 games. Stroud progressed through the Elite 11 quarterback competition showcase in 2019 and was ultimately named MVP of the event. In his first full season as a starter at Ohio State, he progressed into a Heisman finalist.

The stats are a strong indicator of Stroud’s growth. After completing just 62.3% of his passes through his first three games in 2021, Stroud closed out the year on a tear, completing 74.7% of his remaining throws, and landing with 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns, and just six interceptions.

MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board

2022 brought similar production and success for Stroud. His Buckeyes finished the regular season 11-1, with their lone loss coming to the Michigan Wolverines, and they reached the College Football Playoff. Stroud himself was the primary engine for Ohio State’s prosperity, completing 258 of 389 passes (66.3%), 41 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Stroud’s efficiency is nearly unmatched, and it’s a byproduct of a very translatable process at QB. But beyond that, Stroud’s positive progression carried on all the way to his very last game — a heartbreaking but hard-fought loss in the CFP semifinal against the Georgia Bulldogs.

In his career finale with the Buckeyes — against college football‘s most menacing defensive unit — Stroud completed 23 of 34 attempts for 348 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions, and also added a 27-yard carry. He brought his trademark efficiency and accuracy to the fold but also showed off playmaking ability he hadn’t always gotten credit for.

Some will say Stroud left meat on the bone in his two-year starting career, and they’re not wrong. He never won a championship, never won a Big Ten title, and he never won the Heisman. But that lack of over-arching accomplishments doesn’t change the tape. And the tape is resoundingly in favor of Stroud’s game.

C.J. Stroud Scouting Report

Stats can be misleading at times. But for Stroud, the production confirms what’s visible on tape. Not only is he a high-level passer who’s progressed a lot in his young career, but he has the tools to potentially be a franchise signal-caller.


To identify a first-round worthy QB, you start with the talent. Stroud no doubt has that. He passes the eye test with a sturdy 6’3″, 214-pound frame. With that frame, he flashes a crisp, tight release. He’s fast and efficient with his throwing motion and generates great velocity with ease to all levels of the field.

Stroud has stellar arm strength, and with it, he pushes the ball outside the numbers and puts passes where only his receivers can get it. He can effortlessly fit the ball into tight windows and push passes up the seam against tight coverage. His velocity generation isn’t necessarily explosive, but he generates the necessary push to fit passes past coverage with ease.

Stroud’s arm is not only strong but also elastic. This combined strength and elasticity grants the Ohio State QB exceptional overall arm talent.

Stroud can masterfully mix pace and touch on his throws. With his arm talent and methodical shoulder adjustments, he actively manipulates the trajectory of his passes. When on the move, or when his base is fading back, Stroud has enough arm elasticity to deliver accurate throws. On the run, he’s shown to cultivate solid velocity from different arm angles as well.

Beyond his arm talent, Stroud also has underrated mobility. He’s natural getting out into space on boot actions and rollouts and extends plays on the ground. Stroud also boasts solid short-area athleticism, using quick movements to escape rushers and surge through small lanes in the pocket. Furthermore, he has the twitch and lateral athleticism to sidestep blitzers and create space for himself.

C.J. Stroud
Nov 27, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) passes against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

As a thrower, one of Stroud’s best traits is his accuracy. The Ohio State QB throws within the receiver’s wheelhouse with uncommon consistency, and his passes are rarely uncatchable. Going further, Stroud consistently places the ball well for yards after the catch in the short range. He also helps lead receivers away from contact on comebacks and routes over the middle of the field. Moreover, Stroud places boundary passes to the back shoulder and has the velocity to push those throws past tight coverage.

As accurate as Stroud is, his overall processing and mental work might be even more impressive. Stroud is an extremely smart passer, who’s shown to quickly go through progressions and process leverage with stellar processing speed and field vision. He’s able to quickly diagnose coverages, make pre-snap checks, and pinpoint mismatches to exploit based on coverages.

Expanding on Stroud’s processing, the Ohio State QB can anticipate stems and maximize efficiency, especially on quick throws. He reacts quickly to WR option breaks and has the anticipation, high-level arm talent, and, most importantly, the confidence to make high-difficulty throws.

Manipulation and Mechanics

Beyond simple processing, Stroud has shown to manipulate the field in real-time. He actively uses his shoulders and eyes to manipulate and displace defensive backs, while simultaneously anticipating windows. Additionally, Stroud can feign the run as a scrambler to pull linebackers in, opening windows which he quickly capitalizes on.

In the pocket, Stroud does very well to feel pressure and can preemptively step up into lanes to buy himself time in the pocket. He’s exceptional at managing space — patient and poised, with active feet. He’s comfortable reading the field and can stand in amidst contact to deliver passes. When Stroud has to roll out, he keeps his eyes up and alert. He also has enough speed to beat edge rushers outside and keep plays alive.

Mechanically, there’s far more good than bad with Stroud. The Ohio State QB often has a steady, uniform base in the pocket, and rarely goes too wide with that base. He’s able to sustain hip rotation and level shoulders with this base and also brings a crisp release. Even when worked off his base, Stroud has shown to snap back to congruence ahead of throws. He has that corrective failsafe and can use quick gather steps to recollect his base.

MORE: Top 10 Quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft

Going further, Stroud can quickly reset his feet after rolling out, to load his hips and get adequate rotation. He’s also able to keep his shoulders level and generate hip rotation on the move. In that phase, Stroud has the arm elasticity to generate velocity off-platform.

He’s a composed, measured decision-maker who comfortably works through his progressions with discretion, all the way to his checkdown. Still, Stroud is more than willing to take high-reward risks with his arm. His risks are often calculated, and he also shows the wherewithal to throw the ball away when worked into a corner. Rarely does he force throws when encountering pressure.

Among other things, Stroud has shown he can perform pre-snap work, identifying blitzers and assigning protections to running backs.

Areas for Improvement

While he’s strong mechanically, there are few details that Stroud can work to improve, even after 2022. The Ohio State QB sometimes dips his front shoulder on passes, causing throws to sink and fall behind receivers. He could also better manage his shoulders on the move. In a similar vein, Stroud sometimes fails to fully transfer his weight forward on throws and can lock his hips, causing passes to fall short.

Going further, Stroud needs more discipline with the placement of his front foot. He sometimes overcorrects when snapping into place, resulting in inaccuracy. Additionally, the Ohio State QB’s release point sometimes varies. While often compact, his release is occasionally concave, which can push passes high.

Expanding on his mechanics, Stroud’s lower body can get tied up when manipulating DBs, and he occasionally has scissor feet on the drop back. He’ll also be a bit frantic with his alignment at times when encountering pressure. He generally senses and reacts to pressure well, but doesn’t always feel edge pressure looping around, and can be panicked when he comes across it.

Looking elsewhere, while Stroud has phenomenal precision and ball placement, his situational placement can be subject to occasional lapses. There are times when he could place the ball better to accommodate receivers, allow for RAC, and lead away from contact. His passes to the middle of the field are occasionally behind receivers, forcing them to decelerate. And on end-zone fades, Stroud could find a better balance of pace and touch.

Stroud doesn’t quite have the elite arm elasticity to correct faulty lower body angles consistently. He also plays less athletically than he is.

There’s still room for Stroud to become more comfortable as a creator. He has the athleticism and arm to work off-script, but at times, passes up opportunities to create and struggles to stay in control in those situations. Luckily, Stroud’s final game against Georgia was a very promising development in that regard.

Among other things, Stroud occasionally stares down receivers, keying in defenders, and he sometimes tries to force passes with his arm. Lastly, he may need a slight adjustment from a WR-option-heavy offense.

Current Draft Projection for Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud

Stroud is a potential blue-chip prospect at the most valuable position in football. Not only is he a legitimate QB1 contender in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he’s also a worthy candidate for the No. 1 overall pick. Whether that pick ends up being Stroud, Anthony Richardson, or Bryce Young is a matter of preference, but Stroud might have the most well-rounded profile.

Some will rightly question Stroud’s creative freedom at a playmaking QB. Especially when juxtaposed with Richardson and Young, those concerns are warranted. Nevertheless, Stroud has flashed the necessary control and athleticism when creating off-script. And in structure, there’s a strong case to make that he’s the best QB in the 2023 NFL Draft.

To start, Stroud fits the prototypical QB mold with his frame and durability. As a passer, he’s tremendously accurate and precise, composed, and extremely adept as a processor. He can anticipate windows and read the field quickly, plus has the eye discipline to manipulate defenders, before capitalizing with his elastic touch and arm strength.

MORE: PFN Mock Draft Simulator

Stroud can still be more consistent in sensing and working against pressure, but it’s not something he can’t do effectively. He has the necessary athleticism and short-area twitch for his size, and more experience should only bode well for him in that phase. And off-platform, his arm elasticity allows him to generate velocity and maintain accuracy.

If you like QB prospects who can play at a high level right away, Stroud has the best blend of intangibles to fit that description. If you like QB prospects with the traits to elevate their teams down the line, Stroud has enough baseline talent to fulfill that requirement as well. He’s a worthy QB1 candidate, a worthy No. 1 overall pick contender, and a true franchise-caliber passer, with the physical and intangible tools to lead a winning team.

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