After Philadelphia sent Carson Wentz packing due to a disastrous 2020 campaign, Jalen Hurts did a commendable job of righting the ship in his first season as a starter. Under his leadership, the Eagles drastically improved their win total from four games to nine in 2021, snagging a playoff spot in the first season of the 17-game era.
Hurts faced a barrage of criticism throughout his sophomore campaign, but in spite of this, he was producing in fantasy leagues. While he threw for 3,144 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions, it’s his rushing ability that made fantasy owners happy: On the ground Hurts rushed for 784 yards and ten touchdowns.
In total, Hurts produced 3,928 yards of offense and 26 touchdowns. On Fantasy Data’s metrics, he lofted up 312.6 fantasy points, tenth among all players and ninth among all quarterbacks.
Naturally, we could end the article here and talk about Hurts’ ceiling, his upside, and overall dynasty value being a positive. However, there’s been questions about how long his stay as the Eagles’ signal-caller will last, and the feeling from many is that this 2022 season will be a make or break campaign for Hurts.
Hurts’ accuracy has been widely criticized, and in 2021 his 61.3% completion percentage ranked 28th among all qualified passers. Via Pro Football Reference, Hurts’ receivers dropped 5.4% of his passes, tied with Jimmy Garoppolo for ninth-most that season. What’s surprising is using those same metrics, Hurts had an on-target percentage of 78.2%, finishing eighth-best.
You won’t find much in terms of bad throws either, as PFR also has Hurts down for the third lowest bad throw percentage at 14.0%. So with all this in mind, where are the accuracy criticisms truly coming from?
The answer lies down the field.
What Makes Hurts Unappealing As A Dynasty Option?
Under Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, Hurts played in a vertical heavy passing offense in 2021. His 9.0 average depth of target ranked fourth highest, only trailing Russell Wilson, Justin Fields, and Lamar Jackson. In my charting of passes of 21+ yards, Hurts’ 56 attempts tied with Tom Brady for seventh.
This is all to say Hurts was asked to throw constantly down the field while also doing that on his own outside structure. But so far the accuracy has not been there. Out of 32 quarterbacks studied, he had a deep accuracy percentage of 37.50%, the third lowest mark. (The quarterbacks below him? Taylor Heinicke and Ben Roethlisberger.)
This pass above is a completion to Zach Ertz, but the effort in which Ertz has to go out of his way to make this catch is too much for an open receiver down the sideline. Obviously a better throw results in a touchdown, though in his defense this was one of Hurts’ better games on the year.
In this play, Ertz has a step on a nifty route combination from Steve Steichen, but the throws sails and instead lands in the hands of Donte Jackson for the interception. This was common for Hurts in 2021, as he was 23rd in deep accuracy to open receivers last season.
Hurts’ vision could also stand to use more work. Let’s take this play against the Saints, for instance. As he breaks outside the pocket, Miles Sanders breaks free down the sideline. Oddly, Hurts pulls the trigger a hair too late, allowing the pass to be broken up. He doesn’t have the greatest arm in the league, so the rifle isn’t fast enough to offset the slightly delayed processing.
Issues with throwing to the middle of the field have been well documented in Next Gen Stats’ pass charting, and combined with garbage time production late in games, it’s easy to see why the concern for Hurts is there.
So we’ve looked at what makes Hurts unappealing as a dynasty option. Now let’s look at what makes him appealing.
What Makes Hurts Appealing As A Dynasty Option?
Any good dynasty quarterback is going to need a good surrounding cast, and the Eagles have done well to surround Hurts with that. First, the offensive line (which finished third in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate) is one of the best in the league, with stalwarts such as Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce coming off All-Pro seasons. Even though those guys are getting up there in age, they should have some energy left in the tank.
And in terms of skill player talent, there’s a lot to be excited about.
The team recently traded for AJ Brown, a freak after the catch with excellent breakaway speed for someone with his strength. DeVonta Smith had a nice rookie season and could also break out for WR1 status thanks to his great hands and smooth receiving ability down the field. Quez Watkins is a great WR3, likely the team’s best deep threat at this point. Tight end Dallas Goedert has had an efficient connection with Hurts, and is also primed for a breakout with his first season as the full-time starter at his position. Add in talented running and receiving back Miles Sanders, and this is a quality supporting cast on offense.
Next, while Hurts’ deep passing can be seen as something below a net positive, the amount of chances he gives his receivers down the field makes him exciting to watch. For instance, the throw on this play may not exactly be the prettiest, but the QB deserves credit for sticking with it under a heavy dosage of pressure. Smith is then able to make a great adjustment at the catch point for an awesome pass completion.
As one of the more talented scrambling quarterbacks, it’s obvious that Hurts has the fluid mobility to extend plays outside the pocket. His arm strength outside the pocket isn’t as flashy as Carson Wentz’s, but he still holds his own on many of these plays.
I think what makes Hurts fun to watch is that he generally doesn’t have fear taking many of these deep shots. He’s always willing to make sure his receivers have a shot at the ball, regardless if the execution is good or bad. Here, the execution is great, as he fires a perfect pass to Smith down the sideline.
Ability As A Runner
But above all, it’s Hurts’ scrambling brilliance that promises dynasty greatness. As of this writing, I consider the three best running quarterbacks to be Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen. Hurts is next up after these three thanks to tough, fearless running and dime-stopping agility. Whether it’s the insane third and 12 scramble for a first against the Lions or the shadow realm sending ankle breaker on this touchdown against the Saints, Hurts’ running ability is on another planet.
Outside of dynasty purposes, I enjoy watching Jalen Hurts for who he is. While flawed, he has a flashy skill set that allows him to constantly take chances down the field while also executing dangerous scrambles past the line. As a passer, his deep accuracy and work over the middle of the field need serious work, and that’s where his long-term value comes into question.
Hurts could be worth it on a year rental as an injury replacement, so I would buy him there. Long-term, however, it could be a big gamble to invest in him as he enters a make-or-break year. Still, with a great offensive line and a quality group of weapons, Hurts is set up for success, and on that note would be worth a lower draft pick for a low-risk, high-reward scenario.
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