Can You Trust Jalen Hurts in Fantasy? (2020 Fantasy Football)
When the Eagles took Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft last April, I didn’t know what to think.
General manager Howie Roseman said that the team “didn’t think this was much different than when we brought Nick Foles in.” In subsequent interviews, he emphasized the value of backup quarterbacks and affirmed his support for Wentz. “There’s no doubt we have a Pro Bowl, 27-year-old quarterback,” he said, “but we’ve seen the value of quarterbacks on our football team.”
Because Foles won the Eagles a Super Bowl in 2018, Roseman’s appreciation for backup quarterbacks isn’t surprising. But perhaps he afforded Foles too much of the credit, not Philadelphia’s league-best offensive line and strong defensive front. After all, Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl, too.
Eight months have passed since the draft, and the Eagles are now mired in a quarterback controversy. Their offensive line ranks 32nd in adjusted sack rate, and their receiving corps is without both DeSean Jackson and Marquise Goodwin. The team tried (and failed) to shop both Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz. At 3-8-1, their weak division is the only thing keeping their playoff hopes alive.
The Eagles are scheduled to play the Saints this Sunday, and Hurts will make his first-career start. So is he worth trusting in fantasy football? Outside of 2QB leagues, I don’t think so.
The Eagles could not have drafted a better-tempered player as a backup. Hurts famously lost the starting job in Alabama to Tua Tagovailoa, and he was nothing but supportive of the younger player. Hurts would’ve filled the Nick Foles role perfectly, but it seems like Roseman’s decision undermined Wentz’s confidence anyway. Rough.
Hurts transferred to Oklahoma for his final NCAA season, and he completed 69.7% of his passes for a career-best 3,851 passing yards and 32 scores. He only threw eight picks. Hurts was more than just a pocket passer, however, as he added 1,298 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 233 attempts. For some perspective, Hurts ran for the same number of touchdowns (and passed for two more) as Cam Newton did in 2010 — and yes, both players played in 14 games.
The counting stats are good for Hurts, but the advanced stats are even better. Completion percentage over expected (CPOE) is the gold standard when evaluating quarterback prospects, and in 2019, Hurts had the third-highest CPOE among Power 5 quarterbacks. Since 2011, Hurts’ 2019 season ranks as the fourth-best season from a Power 5 quarterback in terms of CPOE, and he trails only Russell Wilson, Joe Burrow, and Justin Fields.
And here's the top 8 Power 5 seasons in CPOE since 2011. pic.twitter.com/qhjXCbmxJT
— Josh Hermsmeyer (@friscojosh) March 7, 2020
Yet he fell into the second round, and the Eagles nabbed him as their backup quarterback. Every other player on the above list (except Wilson and the yet-to-be-drafted Fields) went in the first two picks of their draft class. Interesting.
State of the Offense
Unfortunately for Hurts, he’ll enter one of the league’s worst offenses. The Eagles rank 31st in passing-game efficiency. Only one of their wide receivers (Travis Fulgham) has a positive defensive-adjusted yards over replacement (DYAR), but he plays on fewer snaps than Greg Ward and Jalen Reagor. Meanwhile, the player they passed on to grab Reagor, Justin Jefferson, leads the league in DYAR.
At tight end, Dallas Goedert and Richard Rodgers have been bright spots, as they both rank in the top-10 in terms of DYAR. But Zach Ertz ranks third-worst per the metric, and he’s pushed Rodgers back out of the offense. Ertz played on 44% of Philadelphia’s offensive snaps last week, while Rodgers got just 5% of them.
The biggest problem in Philadelphia is probably the offensive line. They rank 32nd in adjusted sack rate, and Eagles quarterbacks have taken a league-high 53 sacks — nine more than the next-worst Bengals. So what’s the problem? The Eagles moved a 38-year-old, banged-up Jason Peters to right guard, which hasn’t worked well, and they lost Lane Johnson to an ankle injury. Not even Hurts is immune to poor pass-blocking, as the Packers took him down three times after he replaced Wentz.
The Eagles are bad. They are going to suffer the consequences of their questionable front-office decision-making, and Hurts’ talents won’t be enough to overcome a weak supporting cast. The only upshot is that the team attempts 37.7 passes per game, the 10th-most in the league, which means plenty of passing volume for Hurts.
I like Hurts as a player. I do not like him as a fantasy asset in this offense.
To be fair, real-life inefficiency doesn’t always translate into poor fantasy scoring. Jameis Winston led the league in interceptions last year and finished as the QB3, and Carson Wentz was the QB11 heading into Week 13. Garbage-time points are a thing, and they absolutely inflate the fantasy value of bad quarterbacks.
That said, I don’t think Philadelphia’s quarterback will have value in Week 14. They’ll play the Saints, who boast the third-best defense against opposing quarterbacks. New Orleans’ defense has the league’s highest adjusted sack rate and the fifth-most interceptions. You shouldn’t consider starting Hurts here, even in 2QB/Superflex leagues.
Philadelphia’s schedule does get a little smoother after this week. The Eagles will play the Cardinals (13th-worst defense against opposing quarterbacks) and Cowboys (12th-worst) to wrap up the fantasy season, and both teams field bottom-half units in adjusted sack rate. Hurts could be a useful asset in those games, but given the high-stakes nature of the fantasy playoffs, I would avoid him in redraft leagues.
Hurts may end up becoming a fantastic starter for the Eagles, and, honestly, I hope he does pan out. However, you can’t expect him to do much with his current coaching staff and supporting cast.
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