What backdraft says is not universally true, but it certainly is for a large # of competitive niches, including one I work in a lot.
Page 1 of SERPs: Big Brands and Local Results.
Page 2: All pretty spammy sites. Including one I worked for.
Company A: 90% spammy paid links, Over-optimized on page text.
Compaby B: 90% spammy paid links, Over-optimized on page text.
Both decent Social Signals. Both around several years.
B is on page 45 of Google.
A is ranking #11 (page 2).