Fanspeak Mock Draft 2.15: Can Philadelphia avoid the dreaded Super Bowl hangover?

Fanspeak Mock Draft 2.15: Can Philadelphia avoid the dreaded Super Bowl hangover?

You think Philadelphia fans are upset now? Check back in a year from now – history says the Eagles face an uphill climb in 2023, while it’s all roses in Kansas City.

First, what the data says about the Super Bowl winning teams:

Only 14 out of 54 (26 percent) Super Bowl winners from 1967 to 2021 missed the playoffs the following year. That means Kansas City stands about a 75 percent chance of at least making the playoffs next season.
Of the 14 Super Bowl-winning teams that missed the playoffs the following season, only three (21 percent) had a winning record, while more than three-quarters of those teams missed the playoffs with a losing record. Injuries typically play a part in that kind of reversal of fortune.

Now, here’s what Philadelphia faces:

Of the 54 teams that lost the Super Bowl from 1967 to 2021, 29 (54 percent) made the playoffs the following season.
Only eight out of 31 (26 percent) Super Bowl losers returned to the big game the following year. (Poor Buffalo.)
Of the 25 Super Bowl-losing teams that did not return to the Super Bowl the following year, 17 (68 percent) missed the playoffs entirely. Translation: It’s almost feast or famine next season for Philadelphia, as more than two-thirds of Super Bowl-losing teams that did not return to the championship the following year also failed to make the playoffs.
Four Super Bowl-losing teams had a sub-500 record the following year.

So why are those statistics so skewed toward the winner?

Several factors should be considered.

Start with good ol’ luck. Looking back, the Atlanta Falcons caught lightning in a bottle in the 2016-17 season behind quarterback Matt Ryan, who was the league’s MVP that season. Atlanta has only had one winning season after its historic collapse against New England in the Super Bowl.

You also have to factor in strength of schedule. Teams that win their division get the “first-place” schedule the following season for their non-conference games. In theory, division winners face the tougher schedule. But Philadelphia finished second in the NFC East in 2021, which, in theory, gave them a slightly easier schedule than Dallas, which won the division the year before. By some metrics, Philadelphia had the second-easiest schedule in the league this past season.

And you have free agency to contend with. Some find a way to manage their salary cap, retool and come back just as strong. Kansas City, for example, won it all in 2020, lost it in 2021, then reshaped its offensive line before winning it all again this season. But many Super Bowl losers take a bigger hit the next season. For example, the year after the Oakland Raiders were embarrassed in the Super Bowl by Tampa Bay, the team lost several big names to free agency, plus QB Rich Gannon missed time due to injury. It’s been pretty downhill for the Raiders since then.

Collectively, none of this bodes well for the Eagles, whose historically good defense could lose as many as eight part- or full-time starters in free agency. Overall, the team has 11 starters who are unrestricted free agents.

And, not to be overlooked among the losses is offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, now the Indianapolis head coach, and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, now the Arizona Cardinals head coach.

Finally, the most obvious – but important – factor in determining future success for the Super Bowl participants is whether they have a Hall of Fame quarterback. Just over 30 percent of the losing Super Bowl QBs wound up in the Hall of Fame, although those numbers will continue to fluctuate (hello Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers).

With all that said, it’s hard to envision Philadelphia falling out of contention next season, regardless of how things play out in free agency. The team has young, future Pro Bowl players at a number of key positions and a quarterback who is just entering his prime.

And don’t forget the Eagles have two first-round draft picks.

So expect the team to try to bring back some of its older veterans on team friendly deals, then plug the other losses with premium draft picks. Sounds like a strategy that could land them in next year’s Super Bowl, hangover-be-damned.

First Round

1. Chicago Bears: DL Jalen Carter, Georgia

All by one of the Super Bowl-winning teams the past decade were led by an elite quarterback, as in, the kind who’s still hocking goods or services on nationally televised commercials. The lone exception was the 2017-18 Philadelphia Eagles team that won it all behind backup Nick Foles. Another trend has emerged, this one on the defensive side: Six of those Super Bowl winners also started an elite defensive tackle. The 2016-17 and 2018-19 New England Patriots had a solid defense overall, but no Pro Bowl-types at defensive tackle. And the same could be said for the 2015-16 Denver Broncos and the 2013-14 Seattle Seahawks teams, although the first featured a future Hall of Fame pass rusher (Von Miller), while the latter sported the famous “Legion of Boom” defense. Chicago hopes it has that elite signal caller in Justin Fields, who led all quarterbacks in rushing yards by a wide margin this past season while finishing seventh overall in the league. Could Georgia’s Carter be the Bears’ version of Chris Johnson or Aaron Donald?

2. Houston Texans: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida

It’s tempting to go with Bryce Young due to the Alabama ties he has with new head coach and former Crimson Tide linebacker DeMeco Ryans. And both Young and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State seem well-equipped to handle new offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s West Coast offense. But Slowik also ran a very QB-friendly and run-heavy offense while at San Francisco, as the 49ers didn’t ask Jimmy Garoppolo or even Brock Purdy to do more than they were capable of while complementing them with an old-school, two-RB formation. Hence, the reason why Richardson is the pick here. He might not be as advanced of a passer at this stage as Young, Stroud or even Kentucky’s Wil Levis, but he’s a superior athlete and runner than the other three.

3. Indianapolis Colts (TRADE): QB Bryce Young, Alabama

Why would Indianapolis trade up one spot when it was guaranteed of still drafting one of the top QBs? The answer lies in the teams below them like Las Vegas, Carolina and maybe even Tennessee and Washington who might be willing to move up to No. 3 to take a QB. The Colts better make sure they’re getting the right guy, though, as swapping picks with the Cardinals could cost as much as a second-round pick.

4. Las Vegas Raiders (TRADE): QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

Most mock drafts have the quarterbacks spread out more evenly among the first 16 picks. The reason that might not happen is the limited number of first-round prospects versus the number of teams who need a new signal-caller. Think about it: Almost every team after this pick could make a legitimate case for drafting a quarterback. Don’t be surprised if all four of them are taken within the first 10 picks.

5. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN): Edge Will Anderson, Alabama

Great pickup for Seattle. The Seahawks probably view the NFC West as wide-open, and adding a potentially dominant pass rusher to an already young and improving defense could (or should?) mean a return to the playoffs.

6. Detroit Lions (via LAR): QB Wil Levis, Kentucky

Jared Goff has turned his career around with the resurgent Lions, but he’ll be 29 next season. He’s also on a fairly team-friendly deal that expires after the 2024 season. At the rate Detroit is going, the team won’t have a shot at drafting a top QB the next few seasons. Armed with another first-round pick, the time to draft a QB is now. Levis can learn behind Goff the next few seasons. And if the Lions decide it’s time to move on from Goff in 2024, they would only incur a $5 million hit in dead cap money by releasing him.

7. Arizona Cardinals (TRADE): DL Bryan Bresee, Clemson

Passing up on Anderson is more complicated than it seems. While he would automatically step in as the team’s best pass rusher, Arizona has also invested fairly heavily in the draft in recent years upgrading that position. Still, the team needs to replace J.J. Watts, who was responsible for more than a third of the team’s sacks in 2022. Bresee seems like the perfect replacement.

8. Atlanta Falcons: S Brian Branch, Alabama

Edge players Tyree Wilson and Myles Murphy are tempting here, but they might be tough fits in Atlanta’s 3-4 defense, as both are probably better suited as a defensive end in a four-man front. And the team could use another corner to pair with A.J. Terrell, but this might be a bit high to take one. Texas RB Bijan Robinson could be the pick, but Tyler Allgeier is coming off a fantastic rookie season in which he finished third among first-year RBs with 1,035 yards rushing and was one of three rookie RBs to crack the 1,000-yard threshold. RT Kaleb McGary is an unrestricted free agent, but this is a bit high to take one of the top offensive tackle prospects. That’s why Branch could be the surprise pick here. Considered one of the top defensive players in this draft, Branch can be used all over the secondary and would likely lead the team in tackles his first year.

9. Carolina Panthers: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas

The bad news? Carolina missed out on a QB in this scenario. The good news? The Panthers didn’t have to give up draft picks to move up. And, say what you will about drafting running backs high in the first round, the Panthers are conceivably taking the best offensive player in this draft. Having a strong ground game should help what could (should?) be a shaky QB situation.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO): CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

The Eagles aren’t going to lose every defensive starter in free agency. Expect the team to try to re-sign some of the older vets like Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. But they also have some young depth along the defensive line. Where the team lacks depth is in the secondary, where James Bradberry is expected to leave in free agency. Aside from his one infamous penalty in the Super Bowl, Bradberry was one of the best cornerbacks in the league this past season and was a second-team All-Pro selection.

11. Tennessee Titans: OT Paris Johnson, Ohio State

Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski has positional flexibility, but his arms are said to be shorter than ideal for tackle. Georgia’s Broderick Jones also has positional flexibility and possesses adequate arm length, but he lacks ideal height for the position. That’s why Johnson is the pick here: He’s got the right measurements and can also play guard.

12. Houston Texans (via CLE): G O’Cyrus Torrence

It may be tempting to mock an offensive tackle with this pick, but the Texans are actually set at that position. Add in left guard Kenyon Green, and Houston has three first-round picks on its offensive line. But the right guard and center positions are badly in need of an upgrade.

13. NY Jets: OT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern

Aside from a shaky quarterback situation, the Jets don’t have many holes on either side of the ball – but they could use upgrades at left guard and right tackle. Skoronski could start at either position.

14. New England Patriots: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia

New England is closer to contention than people realize, but the team can’t have a dropoff along the offensive line if Isaiah Wynn leaves in free agency.

15. Green Bay Packers: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

Robert Tonyan has turned himself into a reliable starter after going undrafted in 2017 out of Indiana State. Mayer should be even better.

16. Washington Commanders: CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

Philadelphia started it off with the selection of Gonzalez, but this is where you’ll start to see the first wave of cornerbacks fly off the board. And they’re all ranked around the same range. According to the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, six CBs are ranked in the top 32, 19 in the top 64 and 16 in the top 100. It basically comes down to what flavor of ice cream you like best.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Deonte Banks, Maryland

It’s tempting to go with the Porter Sr.-Jr. for nostalgic reasons, but Pittsburgh has drafted more players from Maryland since 2016 than any other school. This would be their fifth.

18, Detroit Lions: TE Darnell Washington, Georgia

Darnell Washington had an NFL body by the age of 8. That’s a joke, of course, but it underscores just how big and powerful Washington is, as he serves as a sixth offensive lineman on the team. And he can catch. Seems like the perfect Dan Campbell prospect.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama

Sure, the team will likely need to find a replacement for CB Jamel Dean, and who knows how long the Kyle Trask era will last at QB. And with Leonard Fournette’s future cloudy, Gibbs is a big-play threat who would immediately add speed to an offense that needs it.

20. Seattle Seahawks: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State

Seattle doesn’t have too many needs on defense, especially if it can nab Alabama’s Anderson, but a corner opposite of super rookie Tariq Woolen is probably pretty high on the Seahawks’ draft wish list.

21. Miami Dolphins: Forfeited

22, LA Chargers: WR Jordan Addison, USC

The Chargers may be moving on from Keenan Allen, and even if they keep him, they still need more speed on offense. Addison takes care of both those needs. Addison starts off the first, but short, wave of receivers to go off the board.

23. Baltimore Ravens: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

Johnston’s size, speed and work ethic aren’t in question, but some wonder about his route tree and occasional drops that could drop him out of the top-20.

24. Minnesota Vikings: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

Witherspoon is shooting up many mock drafts, going as high as No. 6 overall in ESPN’s Matt Miller’s mock draft, but the corners drafted ahead of him in this mock are a bit bigger. Witherspoon could just as easily go as CB-1 in this draft, too.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Cam Jonson, South Carolina

Jacksonville is reportedly hoping to come away from this draft with at least one cornerback to pair with future star Tyson Campbell.

26. NY Giants: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

The last of the first-wave of receivers, JSN led the Buckeyes receivers in receptions and yards in 2021 on a team that featured two first-round receivers, but he was limited this past season with a lingering hamstring injury. If he can stay healthy, this pick could turn into a steal.

27. Dallas Cowboys: Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech

Prospects like Wilson, Myles Murphy, Zach Harrison and Keion White aren’t a scheme-fit for every team, and it’s their elite size that’s the problem. Teams might feel their pass-rushing skills would be wasted as a 5-tech defensive end but would question whether they have enough agility to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Dallas, on the other hand, often operates out of a 4-defensive line front, but defensive end is probably the least of their concerns with Micah Parsons (who’s a pass rusher masquerading as an inside linebacker), veterans DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong and intriguing 2022 second-rookie Sam Williams. However, Wilson is the highest-ranked remaining player still on the board and too good of a prospect to pass up this late in the draft.

28. Buffalo Bills: OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee

Buffalo hasn’t taken an offensive player in the first round (or with their first pick) since drafting QB Josh Allen in 2018. Even more shocking? Allen is the only starter for Buffalo who was a first-round pick.

29. Cincinnati Bengals: Edge Myles Murphy, Clemson

Like Wilson in Dallas, Cincinnati has bigger needs than Murphy – and if Wright is still on the board, the team might draft him instead. But, also like Wilson in Dallas, Murphy is just too good of a prospect to pass up at this point.

30. New Orleans Saints (via DEN): Edge Lukas Van Ness, Iowa

See picks 27 and 29. All three of these pass rushers could go in the top-15 just as easily, so this would be a great value for New Orleans at this point in the first round.

31. Philadelphia Eagles: S Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M

Johnson could just as easily be the here in the second round, as his rankings are all over the place among draft analysts. But the Eagles could lose C.J. Gardner-Johnson to free agency, so this would be a great pickup at a friendlier price than signing a big-name safety in free agency.

Who’s left:

Los Angeles Rams, second round: QB Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

Cleveland Browns, second round: DL Karl Brooks, Bowling Green

Miami Dolphins, second round: RB Tyjae Spears, Tulane

Denver, third round: OT Tyler Steen, Alabama

San Francisco, third round: CB Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M

 

Jake Rigdon (@jrigdon73) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak.com. He also covers the NFL draft from a Dallas Cowboys perspective in this subReddit. And his big board is updated at least once per week during the season and leading up to the draft.

Author: James Turner