Dynasty Uncertainty: Jalen Hurts, Franchise Quarterback?

Tyler Justin Karp

Jalen Hurts is an intriguing young quarterback who quickly rose to stardom in his rookie season. However, since he’s only played in a few NFL games, let’s look at Hurts’ college career for a bit of added context.

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Stats courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.

Impressively, Hurts won Alabama’s starting quarterback position in his true freshman season, beating out Blake Barnett. He led Alabama to a 14-1 record, where they lost to Deshaun Watson’s Clemson team in the National Championship Game. Yes, he lacked polish as a passer, only completing 62.8% of his passes with 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. However, he turned 18 years old in August of that year, right before the season began. For an 18-year-old playing at Alabama, his freshman year was a stunning success, especially given his 13 rushing touchdowns.

In 2017, Hurts once again was Alabama’s starter, ahead of true freshman phenom Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts had a solid year, although he didn’t progress much from his freshman season. Alabama relied on their stable of running backs to carry the offense, with Hurts as more of a game-manager. Eventually, head coach Nick Saban replaced Hurts with Tagovailoa in the middle of the National Championship Game. As we all know, Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to a win, and he became Alabama’s new starting quarterback.

Hurts sat most of the 2018 season on the bench, only seeing spot duty behind Tagovailoa. He played well in relief, and he then decided to transfer to Oklahoma in search of a starting job for the 2019 season. At Oklahoma, Hurts suddenly blossomed as a passer. He recorded career-highs in completion percentage, yards/attempt, adjusted yards/attempt, and passing touchdowns while also putting up his best rushing performance. I suggest that dynasty managers at least consider Hurts’ final season as evidence that he can execute as a passer, but we’ll cover that more later.

The Philadelphia Eagles selected Hurts with the 53rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft as the ostensible backup to then-incumbent starter Carson Wentz. He was the fifth quarterback chosen, behind Joe Burrow, Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and Jordan Love. The Eagles had recently signed Wentz to a massive contract extension, so the Hurts pick was somewhat of a surprise. I believe that at the time, the Eagles saw Hurts as an insurance policy for Wentz’s injuries and as a potential Taysom Hill-type player, not as their future starter.

Carson Wentz’s 2020 Collapse

This article isn’t about Wentz, but suffice it to say, he played his way out of the Eagles’ starting job in 2020. He was awful in every way, and the Eagles made the right choice to yank him from the lineup during their week 13 contest against the Packers. Hurts wasn’t much better in that game, but the offense moved more successfully with him. However, let’s focus on his fantasy statistics in Weeks 14-16, the three complete games he played, using the DLF player scoring history app.

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Hurts scored at least 20 points in each of those three games, finishing as a QB1 in all three weeks. Most notably, he was the QB1 overall in Week 15, with a monster 37.82-point performance. He mostly accomplished this fantasy success by running the ball, averaging 79.3 rushing yards/game. But he also averaged 282.3 passing yards/game and totaled five touchdowns to only two interceptions, so he wasn’t a total zero as a passer. Either way, comparing Hurts’ weekly fantasy points to Wentz’s tells the whole story.

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According to this graph, Wentz’s ceiling almost seems similar to Hurts’ floor, and Wentz’s floor is rock-bottom. There’s no doubt who was the superior fantasy quarterback, at least in 2020.

The Trades

Eventually, the Eagles decided they had seen enough from Wentz, trading him to the Indianapolis Colts in February. The Eagles received a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 second-rounder that becomes a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75% or more of the snaps in 2021. With Wentz off the team, the Eagles seemed committed to Hurts, at least as their 2021 starter.

However, the Eagles doubled down on Hurts a month later with another trade, this time with the Miami Dolphins. The Eagles sent the sixth and 156th pick in this year’s NFL Draft for 12th, 123rd, and a 2022 first-rounder. Trading down from the sixth spot takes the Eagles out of the range to grab a top rookie quarterback this year. But they acquired an additional 2022 first-rounder, increasing their leverage to potentially draft a quarterback next season if Hurts flops in 2021.

Range of Potential Future Outcomes

Building on that final point, Hurts comes with one of the largest range of outcomes of any player in dynasty fantasy football. On the low end, he could revert to being a backup quarterback after the 2021 NFL season. The Eagles only spent a second-rounder on him, and they have him under his cheap rookie deal through 2023. Therefore, if Hurts plays poorly in 2021, he will not hold his starting job in 2022. I also don’t believe that Hurts showed enough in 2020 to earn a starting job for another team, especially if he didn’t excel in 2021. Remember that the Eagles never originally intended Hurts to be their starter, so they would be fine with holding him as a backup quarterback.

Hurts also has a significant middle ground, where he could be a mediocre NFL starter and potentially hold the Eagles’ job for a few years. He might not develop into a franchise quarterback, but he could do well enough in 2021 to earn at least the 2022 season as the starter. I predict that he will fall somewhere in this range. I think he will likely produce for fantasy football more so than for the real-life Eagles, and quarterbacks like that often lose their starting jobs eventually.

But also, there’s no way to deny Hurts’ upside, which is essentially what Lamar Jackson offered during his 2019 season. Jackson led the Ravens to a 14-2 record while throwing for 36 passing touchdowns and only six interceptions. He also contributed 1,206 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, despite only playing 15 of 16 games. Jackson put up those passing numbers even though he’s not the best pure passer, nor did he have the best receiving weapons.

In my opinion, Hurts is not the same runner as Jackson, although he may be a slightly better passer. He did display those pure passing skills in his final college season, but it’s impossible to deny that he hasn’t shown that in the NFL just yet. He may leap forward in year two, although that would be pure projection. Either way, I think most dynasty managers see that Hurts is a risky and volatile asset who could experience wild value fluctuations over the next year.

Dynasty Moves

Interestingly, I would handle Hurts completely differently in 1QB and superflex dynasty leagues. Here is Hurts’ dynasty value curve in 1QB leagues, according to DLF ADP.

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As you can see, he shot up in value in March, after the Wentz trade. He is currently the QB11 and 114th overall player. In 1QB formats, I typically shoot for maximum upside at the quarterback position. Therefore, I don’t care that Hurts could lose his job after 2021, and I’m happy with him at his current price.

However, the real conversation centers around Hurts in superflex leagues, where he carries far more dynasty value. Luckily, we already have April’s superflex dynasty ADP data, and I was stunned when I saw where Hurts went.

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I understand him at QB12, although that is a bit high for me among quarterbacks. But he was the 19th player selected, ahead of stud receivers like Justin Jefferson, AJ Brown, and DK Metcalf. That valuation is utterly insane. If someone tried to offer me a quarterback like Hurts, who has multiple question marks, for any of those receivers, I would laugh off their offer and snap decline it.

I still prefer safer quarterbacks in superflex leagues, like Baker Mayfield, Ryan Tannehill, and even Justin Fields. Those players have far more long-term security than Hurts, which is more critical in the superflex format. As each fantasy manager should always start two quarterbacks, I want those players over Hurts, even though Hurts provides more immediate upside.

However, the DLF dynasty trade finder demonstrates that Hurts does not carry his ADP value in existing leagues.

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Here Hurts carried more appropriate value, as his manager added the 1.11 rookie pick to him to acquire Metcalf. I likely would still prefer the Metcalf side, but I could understand a quarterback-needy manager taking the Hurts side.

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In this deal, I prefer the Hurts side. All four of the top rookie quarterbacks will likely be off the board by the 1.07 pick, and DeVante Parker does nothing for me. These are only a couple of examples, but I couldn’t find any trades in the trade finder where Hurts carried second-round startup value.

If I could obtain Hurts’ ADP value in trade, I would undoubtedly move him. Also, I would love to move off Hurts for one of the quarterbacks I mentioned earlier and acquire an additional piece. But due to his upside, I would not recommend selling low on Hurts, even considering his uncertainty.

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Dynasty Uncertainty: Jalen Hurts, Franchise Quarterback?