Point/Counterpoint: Will QB Jalen Hurts be a Top 5 Fantasy QB this Season?
By John Manuel and Steve Shoup:
Every offseason and all summer long, fantasy football analysts debate about different players, teams, schemes, and everything in between. What we’ve noticed as we approach the end of the offseason is you can find data and stats to support just about any argument for or against a player.
That’s fine, and it is good to have debates on players to hear both sides. The lesson I have learned is not to blindly follow one side of a stance on any player. For fantasy purposes, it is best to read about both sides of the argument and decide which side, data, and analysis YOU agree with. From there, you can use that decision to help you in drafts, best ball drafts, daily fantasy, and sports bets.
That’s why we will be doing a series of Point/Counterpoint, in an effort to show both sides of an argument “for” and “against” a player. Today we are debating if QB Jalen Hurts is likely to be a top 5 Fantasy QB this season as many are projecting.
QB Jalen Hurts was QB9 in 2021 while playing in 15 games. With their strong offensive line and addition of WR AJ Brown, many analysts have him ranked as a top 5 QB for fantasy football drafts this season. I know you are lower than the market on Hurts. Why is that? Where do you have him ranked?
The issue with Hurts is he’s typically drafted as QB4-QB6 range, but that means you are essentially taking him at his ceiling. That’s never ideal, to begin with, but Hurts is not a guy with a good bet to hit that ceiling outcome.
People will point to the fact that through the first 7 games last season, Hurts was 3rd in the league in points per game at 24.96, and he looked well on his was for being in the mix of QB1. Unfortunately, the Eagles were only 2-5 during that span, and they knew they had to change their offense to make the playoffs. Hurts’ inaccuracy became a liability, and they became more run-centric. During his final 8 games, Hurts averaged only 18.30 fantasy points, which was 10th in the league over that time frame. If you extrapolate that 18.30 average over a full season, he would have finished 13th in points per game. That means Hurts went from being in the mix for QB1 overall, to not even being a QB1 starting option.
So the question is what Hurts will we see this year?
Hurts can reach that top 5-7 QB status in most weeks. This is the first time he will play in the same system in back-to-back seasons since early at Alabama. And look at what he will face. A bunch of defenses that won’t scare any QBs — Lions, Vikings, Jags, Cardinals, Texans, Bears, and the Commanders and Giants twice. And all tougher defenses he gets at home except the Colts and if you think Dallas can keep them down.
Obviously, Hurts can run, and getting 10 rushing TDs will be a large feat to repeat. But his passing TDs should increase from 16 to make up for any dip in rushing scores. And his completion percentage should rise from 61% with the addition that Roseman went out he got him. But I can get to that later…
See I don’t know if the weaker schedule works in Hurts’ favor from a fantasy points perspective. The Eagles should have a good defense and a strong running game, which means some of those easier games they will win without much help from Hurts. They won’t need him to throw the ball 35-40 times a game like he was in the early part of last season. While the Eagles started the games in that 2-7 run more pass-heavy, the reason why he was a fantasy star in that time though was due to a lot of late game production.
Hurts had at least 21.8 fantasy points in each of those first 7 weeks last season, in those final 8 games, he only cracked 20 points twice. Even those two games feel a bit of an outlier. His 30-point game versus the Saints was driven by 24.9 rushing points, with a 3 rushing TD game. As impressive as that is, it’s also super unlikely. Hurts might never have a 3 rushing TD in his career again. Even if he were able to get 25 rushing points in a game, that is only going to be once or twice a season if you are lucky. As for the other game Hurts dropped 28 points versus the Washington Football Team that was in the midst of a Covid outbreak (and missing other starters due to injury).
This is the problem, Hurts’ rushing production was such a big factor in his fantasy scoring last season. While typically we like rushing QBs because they can be “dual-threat”, that only applies if they are going to produce fantasy points through the air as well. While rushing production can give a QB a very strong floor to build upon, it’s also pretty streaky overall. Hurts were highly reliant on his 10 rushing TDs, but that is not something he can bank on. Since Daunte Culpepper had 10 rushing TDs in 2002, the only QBs to crack that mark are Cam Newton (3 times), Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts. Murray last season lost about 4.5 points per game rushing, but his total fantasy production drop was only about 2 points per game because his passing made up for it. I just don’t know if we can think the same will occur with Hurts.
Hurts had 16 touchdown passes last season. Probably lost 3 TDs from Jalen Reagor dropping passes. He is gone now and in comes AJ Brown. A freaking machine. A guy who can take over games and take an easy slant or hitch and go to the house. A lot of discussion will be about Brown, but I want to focus on the other guy. It wouldn’t shock me to see Devonta Smith become a superstar this season. His 916 yards last season kind of were quiet and I expect 1100 receiving yards plus. Making plays like he did when he won the Heisman.
The Eagles now have two guys who can make plays and can do big time things. Add to that a solid TE option in Dallas Goedert who was a top 8 tight end. Also, Hurts will play his second full season with arguably the best offensive line in the league. Watkins and Pascal also give some receiver depth for Hurts.
If we get to January and Jalen Hurts played 17 games and isn’t a top 10 fantasy QB, it won’t be because he didn’t have the talent around him to win the Eagles and your fantasy games.
There is no question that A.J. Brown is a star receiver and gives Hurts another impressive weapon. That’s the issue though, for me, Hurts had good weapons last season. As you mentioned DeVonta Smith is a special talent. He put up good numbers for a rookie, but they could have been far better if he had a better QB. If you had put Smith on the Bengals over Chase, and he was catching balls from Joe Burrow, it would be Smith that is the 2nd year WR who would be going in the 1st round of fantasy drafts. Goedert from a pure talent standpoint is a top 5 TE in this league, but his production doesn’t match because of the low passing volume and below-average QB play. Zach Ertz might be the best example of this as he was with the Eagles for 40% of the season and was just an average player. He goes to Arizona and becomes one of the top TEs in the league.
There are a lot of QBs in the league who would have loved to have had Smith and Ertz as their primary weapons last season. So when you add in Ertz for a chunk of the year, a top offensive line, and some backs who can contribute out of the backfield, it’s tough to say Hurts didn’t have plenty of help.
Brown is a massive upgrade over Reagor, but Reagor only had a 12.2% target share last season. Brown will blow that target percentage out of the water, but that means the rest of his targets will be replacing Ertz and taking production from Watkins (who was good last year), Smith, and Goedert. So the upgrade there will be more minimal.
Overall, I just see Hurts as a solid floor play QB finishing in that 9-14 range. He’ll give you some spike weeks (mainly tied to rushing TD production), but probably won’t be a consistent top scorer. I easily want Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, and Joe Burrow ahead of him. I also can see a couple of guys like Tom Brady, Trey Lance, Kirk Cousins, and Derek Carr outscoring him as well. For me, the upside is just not there with where you need to draft him.
Where do you stand on Jalen Hurts this year? Are you drafting him as a top 5 QB in redraft or best ball? Are you high on his Week 1 or season-long passing props? Are you playing him Week 1 in daily fantasy? This debate will go far beyond Week 1, and it will be interesting to see how Hurts performs this season now that the Eagles have given him every opportunity to succeed.
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