This offseason saw perhaps more blockbuster trades than any other in NFL history. While the QB carousel was spinning as usual, it was dubbed the 'offseason of the wide receiver' after some of the biggest names in the league changed teams.
At the quarter poll of the 2022 season, it's clear what group of moves are paying off more so far.
The big four quarterback trades were:
Nobody in this foursome ranks in the top 20 in QBR this season or has a winning record. Wilson and Ryan, the headliners, face off on "Thursday Night Football" with both teams ranking bottom three in points per game this season.
These four wide receivers were traded for first-round picks:
Everyone in this foursome ranks top 15 in receiving yards this season. Plus, the Dolphins and Eagles' newfound firepower has led them to hot starts.
So what's gone wrong for the quarterbacks and right for the wide receivers?
The Broncos are third-worst in scoring offense this season with 16.5 points per game, the fewest through four games of a season in Russell Wilson's career. You can attribute the initial struggles to their red zone woes, but they have bounced back with a touchdown on three of four red zone trips in the last two weeks.
From there, the blame shifts to Wilson's inaccuracy and his unfamiliarity with new teammates through 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-best in that category back in 2020. Now with RB Javonte Williams out for the season, Wilson has one less weapon to utilize. The good news is his deep ball is still dangerous, evidenced by his 55-yard strike to K.J. Hamler in Week 4. All eyes will be on Denver's sluggish offense as it plays in prime time the next two weeks (TNF vs. the Colts followed by "Monday Night Football" at the Chargers).
The Colts rank dead-last in the NFL with 14.3 points per game this season, their fewest through four games since Peyton Manning's rookie year in 1998. That's not the type of production we expected from a unit with last year's rushing champion, Jonathan Taylor, and Ryan, a supposed upgrade over Carson Wentz. Indianapolis scored the ninth-most points in 2021.
Protection and ensuing mistakes have been the problem. The Colts are 26th in ESPN's pass block win rate metric this season and Ryan has an NFL-high eight turnovers, including six when pressured. He's already fumbled an uncharacteristic nine times this year (lost two) and been sacked 15 times (fifth-most in NFL). Ryan has zero touchdown passes and four interceptions when targeting wide receivers not named Michael Pittman Jr. this year, and each interception has come when pressured. The Colts have already made one change on the offensive line this year (benched Danny Pinter for Will Fries), but it'll be up to Ryan to make better decisions with the football.
So far we're witnessing a return of the Eagles' version of Carson Wentz. He led the NFL in times sacked (50) and interceptions (15) in his final season with Philadelphia in 2020. He's been the most sacked quarterback (17) this season and only Matthew Stafford has thrown more picks than Wentz's five. Putting Wentz behind the Commanders' struggling offensive line (31st in ESPN's pass block win rate) has not been a good match.
Baker Mayfield is last in the NFL in ESPN's QBR and NFL Next Gen Stats' CPOE (completion percentage over expectation). He also ranks third-worst in off-target rate this year. Nobody sums it up better than Mayfield himself though:
"There's definitely been misses … It's frustrating because it's a game of inches. It's the most cliche thing to say, but it really is," Mayfield said. "When we're off just a little bit from a quarterback and receiver or tight end standpoint, or even check-downs to the backs, it's very frustrating. Like I said, I have to improve. I have to be better. A lot of this is on me. I understand that and I'll take that and roll with it."
The wide receivers
Like many, I wondered this offseason how Tyreek Hill's production would be impacted by going from Patrick Mahomes to Tua Tagovailoa. Also, which way would the pendulum swing when you add the game's best deep threat to a team that couldn't stretch the field?
You really couldn't dream up a better start for both parties, 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 catches on throws traveling 40-plus yards downfield, matching Miami's entire total from last season. He caught a ball thrown 54 yards downfield from Teddy Bridgewater in Week 4, the longest completion of the season in terms of air yards. As Hill worded it to ESPN reporter Marcel Louis-Jacques, a quarterback change shouldn't slow him down.
How confident is Tyreek Hill that he will be able to produce with Teddy Bridgewater at QB?— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) October 3, 2022
He looked me dead in the eyes and said: "I'll put up numbers with YOU"
Remember when the Eagles were trotting out wide receivers like Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Jalen Reagor and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside? Philadelphia had the fewest receiving yards from that position in the previous two seasons, but that's all changed with the arrival of A.J. Brown (and emergence of DeVonta Smith). He has the most receiving yards (404) by any Eagles player through four games since Terrell Owens in 2005 (506). That's probably the last time they had a legit No. 1 threat.
Brown adds a different dimension to the Eagles offense than Hill to the Dolphins. Brown's calling card with the Titans was utilizing his size and speed to catch the ball in traffic over the middle of the field and break loose. So far he's given Jalen Hurts easy yards in that area, catching 11-of-12 targets on slants 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 with Brown, one reason they are an early Super Bowl contender.
A.J. Brown and Marquise Brown will share the field in Arizona on Sunday after they were both traded for first-round picks on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft. While the Eagles have cruised to a 4-0 start, the Cardinals' 2-2 record hasn't come easy. Imagine where the offense would be without Brown, who is getting the bulk of targets with star wideout DeAndre Hopkins suspended. While Brown has been targeted on a lot of short throws, he's been the only Arizona player who can stretch the field, too, catching half (10 of 20) of Murray's throws 10-plus yards downfield. He also leads the NFL in receiving yards outside the field numbers (249).
It's been an up-and-down start for Davante Adams' tenure with the Raiders. He's caught 55% of his targets this season, down from 73% from Aaron Rodgers 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 back-shoulder throws from Carr in the victory, perhaps a sign of improving timing between the former college teammates. He also gave us one of the best early season highlights when he shook Asante Samuel Jr. in Week 1.
There's 14 weeks left in the 2022 regular season, but the struggles of veteran quarterbacks to change teams and success of veteran wide receivers in new places make me think we'll see more offseasons like 2022. The teams with new signal-callers were getting better quarterback play last season. And just look at the impact of Tyreek Hill and A.J. Brown on their quarterbacks. Tua Tagovailoa (before his injury) and Jalen Hurts went from QBs entering make-or-break years to early MVP contenders. In the right circumstances, more teams could invest significant capital surrounding a QB with more talent than move on from him and play QB musical chairs.