Don’t Let Recency Bias Overshadow Nelson Agholor’s Fantastic 2017 Super Bowl Season

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson Agholor is headed to the Raiders on a one-year deal.

Cue the jokes about dropped passes. Nelly failed to “catch” his flight to Las Vegas, according to Russ, who thinks he’s a comedian. EROCK posted a gif of a guy with no arms. Pro Football Focus tweeted that Nelson had “more drops than TD receptions every season of his career except for 2017.

Agholor, a first round draft pick, was the butt of jokes this weekend and has been for some time now, turning in 2018 and 2019 seasons that gave us dropped balls, viral memes, and even a short-lived burner account accusation. He’s been the easiest punching bag to hit.

Recency bias is a very powerful thing, especially in a city like Philadelphia, where most of us have trouble remembering what we ate for dinner last night, let alone something somebody did three years ago. Nobody should be surprised that Agholor’s terrible recent performances overshadow the absolutely fantastic 2017 season he put in, which led to the first Super Bowl in franchise history.

That’s really what he should be remembered for. When the dust settles a few years from now, people will probably remember the rough beginning and ending to his Eagles career, but hopefully the next thing that comes to mind is 62 receptions for 768 yards, eight touchdowns, 35 first downs, and a 65.3 catch percentage. He put up 48 yards per game, had the longest team reception during the regular season (72 yards), and finished tied with Zach Ertz for touchdowns, just one score behind team-leader Alshon Jeffery.

This was Agholor’s third season, and a big reason for his success was his permanent move to the slot, where he was able to catch passes, turn, run, and chunk up YAC yardage. According to NFL NextGen Stats, Agholor led the Birds that season with 5.3 yards on average after the catch, a number higher than what statisticians predicted for him via the league’s x/YAC number. The presence of Torrey Smith, who stayed healthy that year, meant that Agholor was not shuffled inside and outside like he was in 2018 and 2019, when Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson went down. The consistency in the slot allowed him to flourish while running routes that looked like this:

Shallow drags and outs were bread and butter. He’d also hit those post and hitch routes from the slot and was effective catching screen passes.

There were a number of big moments in big games that year, none bigger than the Super Bowl, when he put up 84 yards on a team-high nine receptions. He caught three straight passes during the game-winning fourth quarter drive, moving the Eagles from their own 48 yard line down to the Patriots’ 14.

This 18-yard reception was the Eagles’ biggest gain of that drive:

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Six of Agholor’s nine Super Bowl receptions came in the second half, along with a nine-yard run that moved the sticks.

He had big moments in other games, too, like the two short pair of passes he caught to start off the game-winning field goal drive against Oakland. He caught the nine-yard toss on 3rd and 8 that allowed the Eagles to kill the clock and win in Los Angeles. The 24-yard touchdown catch in Carolina wound up being the deciding touchdown. He even scored on a pair of deep bombs that season, which seems unfathomable based on the drops and missed opportunities he had in 2018 and 2019, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was doing stuff like this:

Was that his Philly pinnacle, that play? Deep post out of the slot, track the ball, make the catch, stiff arm, spin move, and YAC for a touchdown. It really encapsulates everything that Nelly did well that season, packaging it into one sequence while showing the confidence he was carrying at the time.

Yeah, it’s a shame his Eagles career didn’t turn out the way we wanted. He was brought in with the high expectations a first round draft pick carries, started slow, and then found himself the victim of every meme on the planet before ending his 2019 season with a knee injury. He won’t go down as one of the greatest to ever play the position while wearing Midnight Green

But damn was he good during that 2017 season, and Nelly goes down in the history books as a key offensive contributor to the only Philadelphia Eagles team to ever win a Super Bowl. I think after a few years, when we inevitably move on to complaining about other things, people will look back and remember Nelson Agholor for the stellar 2017 season he put in. If we’re going to rip guys for dropping passes and failing to live up to expectations, then it’s only fair to give credit where credit is due, and in this case he deserves quite a bit of it for the Birds’ title run.

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3 Responses

  1. Angry Agholor will be missed. As soon as Blount left (guy that motivated him) he went back to being a stink rag

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