New faces in new places: Wide receivers outshine quarterbacks after big NFL names switch teams via trade

This offseason saw perhaps more successful trades than any other in NFL history. While the QB carousel spun as usual, it was dubbed the ‘wide receiver offseason’ after some of the league’s biggest names switched teams.

In the quarterly survey of the 2022 season, it is clear which group of moves are bearing the most fruit so far.

The big four quarterback trades were:

No one in this quartet ranks in the top 20 in QBR this season or has a winning record. Headliners Wilson and Ryan square off on “Thursday Night Football” with both teams ranked in the bottom three in points per game this season.

These four wide receivers were traded for first-round picks:

Everyone in this quartet ranks in the top 15 in receiving yards this season. Also, the Dolphins and Eagles’ newfound firepower has gotten them off to good starts.

So what went wrong for quarterbacks and right for wide receivers?

the quarterbacks

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The Broncos are third-worst in offensive scoring this season at 16.5 points per game, the fewest in four games of a season in Russell Wilson’s career. He may attribute the early struggles to his troubles in the red zone, but they’ve bounced back with a touchdown on three of four trips to the red zone in the past two weeks.

From there, the blame shifts to Wilson’s inaccuracy and his unfamiliarity with new teammates for four weeks. He ranks eighth-worst in the league in off-target rate, while sporting the fifth-worst CPOE (completion percentage over expectation), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He ranked fifth in that category in 2020. Now that RB Javonte Williams is out for the season, Wilson has one less weapon to wield. The good news is that his deep pass is still dangerous, as his 55-yard hit to KJ Hamler in Week 4 demonstrates. All eyes will be on Denver’s sluggish offense as he plays in prime time the next two weeks. (TNF vs. the Colts followed by “Monday Night Football” on the Chargers.)

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The Colts rank last in the NFL at 14.3 points per game this season, their fewest in four games since Peyton Manning’s rookie year in 1998. That’s not the kind of production we expected from a unit with the rushing champion. from last year, Jonathan Taylor, and Ryan, a supposed upgrade over Carson Wentz. Indianapolis scored the ninth-most points in 2021.

Protection and consequent errors have been the problem. The Colts rank 26th in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric this season and Ryan has an NFL-high eight turnovers, including six when he’s under pressure. He has already turned the ball over nine unusual times this year (he turned over two) and has been sacked 15 times (fifth-most in the NFL). Ryan has zero touchdown passes and four interceptions when he targets wide receivers not named Michael Pittman Jr. this year, and every interception came under pressure. The Colts have already made one change in the offensive line this year (trading Danny Pinter to Will Fries), but it will be up to Ryan to make better decisions on the ball.

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So far we’re seeing a return of the Eagles’ version of Carson Wentz. Led the NFL in sack times (50) and interceptions (15) in his final season with Philadelphia in 2020. He has been the most sacked quarterback (17) this season and only Matthew Stafford has thrown more interceptions than Wentz’s five . Putting Wentz behind the Commanders’ beleaguered offensive line (31st in ESPN pass-block win rating) hasn’t been a good combination.

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Baker Mayfield is last in the NFL on ESPN’s QBR and NFL Next Gen Stats’ CPOE. He also ranks third in the off-target rate this year. However, no one sums it up better than Mayfield himself:

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“There have definitely been mistakes. … It’s frustrating because it’s an inch game. It’s the most cliche thing to say, but it really is,” Mayfield said. “When we’re a little bit off from a quarterback, receiver or tight end standpoint, or even checks down, it’s very frustrating. Like I said, I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to be better. A lot of This is up to me. I get it and I’ll take it and move on.”

With Mayfield already on the bench, it will be interesting to see if he can hold onto the job after a brutal run over the next three weeks against three NFC powerhouses: the 49ers, Rams and Buccaneers.

wide receivers

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Like many, I wondered this offseason how Tyreek Hill’s production would be affected by moving from Patrick Mahomes to Tua Tagovailoa. Plus, where would the pendulum swing when you add the best deep threat in the game to a team that couldn’t stretch the field?

You really couldn’t dream of a better start for both sides, as Hill leads the NFL in receiving yards (477) and has completely changed the dynamic of Miami’s offense. He leads the NFL with three receptions on throws that travel more than 40 yards downfield, matching Miami’s total from last season. He caught a 54-yard throw downfield from Teddy Bridgewater in Week 4, the longest completion of the season in terms of passing yards. As Hill told ESPN reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques, a quarterback change shouldn’t slow him down.

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Remember when the Eagles brought out wide receivers like Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Jalen Reagor and JJ Arcega-Whiteside? Philly had the fewest receiving yards from that position the previous two seasons, but that all changed with the arrival of AJ Brown (and the appearance of DeVonta Smith). He has the most receiving yards (404) of any Eagles player through four games since Terrell Owens in 2005 (506). That’s probably the last time they had a legitimate number one threat.

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Brown adds a different dimension to the Eagles’ offense than Hill does to the Dolphins. Brown’s calling card with the Titans was using his size and speed to catch the ball in midfield traffic and get loose. He has so far given Jalen Hurts easy yardage in that area, catching 11 of 12 slash targets for 166 yards. Nobody else in the league has more than six catches and 76 yards on those routes this season. The Eagles are no longer a one-dimensional offense under Brown, one of the reasons they’re early Super Bowl contenders.

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AJ Brown and Marquise Brown will share the field in Arizona on Sunday after both were traded for first-round picks on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft. While the Eagles are off to a 4-0 start, the record of 2-2 of the Cardinals has not been easy. Imagine where the offense would be without Brown, who is getting most of the targets with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins suspended. While Brown has been the target of many short shots, he has also been the only Arizona player who can stretch the field, catching half (10 of 20) of Murray’s shots more than 10 yards downfield. He also leads the NFL in receiving yards off the field (249).

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It’s been a rocky start to Davante Adams’ tenure with the Raiders. He has caught 55% of his targets this season, versus Aaron Rodgers’ 73% last season. He also had 48 yards in Weeks 2 and 3 combined. Things are looking up, though, as he had his second 100-yard game of the season in Week 4, the Raiders’ first win of the year. He caught two pitches off Carr’s back shoulder in the win, perhaps a sign of improving time between the former college teammates. He also gave us one of the best early season highlights when he rocked Asante Samuel Jr. in Week 1.

There are 14 weeks left in the 2022 regular season, but the struggles of veteran quarterbacks switching teams and the success of veteran wide receivers in new places makes me think we’ll see more offseasons like 2022. Teams with new signal callers were improving. quarterback game last season. And look at the impact of Tyreek Hill and AJ Brown on their quarterbacks. Tua Tagovailoa (before his injury) and Jalen Hurts went from quarterbacks entering breakout years to early MVP contenders. Under the right circumstances, more teams could invest significant capital around a more talented quarterback than walk away from him and play musical quarterback chairs.

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