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The Great Debate: Jalen Hurts (2021 Fantasy Football)

Jul 23, 2021
Jalen Hurts

Fantasy football draft season is officially here, and the time has come to refine your stance on players. What better way to do that than a good, old-fashioned debate! We’re rolling out our debate series where one writer higher on a given player will take on another that’s lower than our expert consensus rankings.

Up next, we have Jeff Bell and Matt Barbato debating Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

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The Debate

Most analysts would agree there is a clear top 5 when it comes to quarterback ADP. Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott all combine rushing ability with explosive offensive systems to give fantasy managers cornerstone lineup pieces. Absent those players, if I am drafting in the summer, I am taking a chance on a player who has shown a similar lineup shifting ceiling.

Jalen Hurts gave a glimpse of his ability in a single game in week 15 against Arizona. That performance ranked as the 8th highest fantasy game of the season, better than any game from Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, or Aaron Rodgers. Allen is well of the board by the time Hurts becomes a consideration, but Rodgers and Wilson offer a lower weekly ceiling in exchange for safety. At the QB position, I am ready to gamble. Hurts is that upside gamble.

There are real reasons Hurts can step forward to challenge that top tier. Starting with infrastructure, the Eagles aggressively maneuvered in the draft in order to snipe DeVonta Smith from the Giants. The reigning Heisman winner gives the Eagles a sorely missed number 1 target. The offensive line was a mess, starting 14 different combinations through 16 games. The health would have to improve, simply because of the near impossibility of duplicating that feat.

Hurts is worth the gamble due to his ADP and the safety net at the quarterback position.
Bell

As someone who loves a trip to the craps table, I respect your gambler’s mentality, Jeff. However, Jalen Hurts isn’t the quarterback I’m willing to bet on at his current ADP of 78th overall.

I get the sense the fantasy community sees the next Lamar Jackson in Hurts because of his rushing ability. And while Hurts is an exceptional rusher, he’s still got a long way to go as a passer. Hurts completed just 52% of his passes last season. He still has a tendency to escape the pocket too quickly and needs to do a better job of allowing plays to develop. I need to see Hurts stand in the pocket, go through his progressions and consistently find open receivers before I can start to believe in him. Even Jackson, who has limitations as a passer, can win from within the pocket.

On the surface, Hurts’ Week 15 performance against Arizona was great. But it wasn’t all pretty. He took six sacks and fumbled three times in that game but luckily didn’t lose any of them. And while 37.8 fantasy points is nothing to scoff at, Hurts was an average fantasy quarterback in his other three starts, averaging just 19.1 fantasy points per game. I can’t bet my fantasy season on just one really good performance.

I’m also still worried about the infrastructure surrounding Hurts in Philadelphia. The coaching staff led by Nick Sirianni is a complete unknown. The offensive line should have better injury luck, but I’m not sold that it’ll be a strong unit. I love DeVonta Smith. He’s the exact type of receiver Hurts needs – someone who knows how to get open – but banking on a rookie instantly making a smooth transition to the pros is a risky proposition. I also love Dallas Goedert‘s talent, but we have to see whether he can produce at a high level as the TE1 in the offense. The receiving depth chart is still thin – I’m not a Jalen Reagor fan – and there isn’t a dynamic tailback on the roster.

Ultimately, my analysis of Jalen Hurts comes down to this question: what has he proven to deserve being the 10th QB off the board in drafts? Even with his rushing ability, I worry the floor is a lot lower than some think. Hurts’ passing limitations could be exposed in 2021 if opposing defenses can keep him in the pocket. I’m all for taking him as a high-upside backup behind a proven starter (such as Rodgers or Wilson), but I can’t buy him as my QB1 at this price.
Barbato

Absolutely valid point on Hurts’ possessing a low floor. As I sit ready to draft in one QB format, the floor is not a concern in my mind. If I do not have a difference-maker at the position, I will continue to chase upside.

Mahomes, Allen, Murray averaged roughly 25 ppg weekly during the 2020 season. Tom Brady completed one of his best seasons and posted an average of 21.87. Three points weekly may not seem like much, but it’s the difference between starting Derrick Henry vs David Montgomery week.

More to the point, I am comfortable with the remaining options. Ryan Tannehill entered 2020 with an ADP of QB20 before responding with a QB10 weekly score. With a crop of young QBs like Trey Lance and Justin Fields bringing the elusive rushing floor into the league and a heavy discount on Deshaun Watson, who would be in the top tier, replacements exist should Hurts not deliver.

Ultimately a drafter needs to decide their risk appetite. The ceiling is raising at the top end of the position, in 2018 and 2019 only one player exceeded 22.16 points per game: Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. QB has increasingly become a “have or have not” position. You did a great job highlighting all that went wrong in a game Hurts still delivered the 8th highest scoring performance in 2020. Top-end QBs can consistently deliver lineup-shifting performances even with concerns about the floor. To channel my inner 90s child: “go big or go home.”
Bell

I don’t have any issues with taking a flyer on a high-risk, high-reward fantasy asset, especially at quarterback. You’re talking to someone who landed Lamar Jackson in the 14th round of a redraft league the year he won the MVP.

The difference was I saw more promise in Jackson as a passer, and so did the Baltimore Ravens. Hurts needs more development. And I worry the upside he offers as a rusher will be negated by poor decision making and an inability to make progressions at the next level.

Finally, Hurts’ draft price offers little room for error. If he doesn’t deliver a top 10 QB season, he could sink your fantasy fortunes. His ADP is just too high for me to justify the risk.
Barbato

The Analysts

We saw a glimpse of what Hurts can bring to the table last year, though it was just a four-game sample size. He started four games for the Eagles, and each of those games netted at least 16.3 fantasy points, highlighting a floor that’s hard to find. He also flashed upside with a 37.8-point outburst in Week 15 against the Cardinals. The downside is that it was a small sample size, and Hurts appeared to get worse every time out. Even then, it’s still a small sample size. There’s a new coaching staff, along with a new No. 1 receiver, but if what we saw from Hurts in 2020 was his floor, we’re in for a treat in 2021. If he can hone in and improve his accuracy numbers from 2020, there’s legitimate top-six quarterback upside.
– Mike Tagliere

While Hurts was a solid addition to fantasy rosters off of the waiver wire last year due to his rushing ability, he didn’t necessarily shine as a passer. With just a 52% completion rate and a 6:4 TD to INT ratio, Hurts is going to have to be sensational as a mobile QB this season to justify the hype that he’s getting. While he has the talent to be very good on the ground and pick up rushing yards, NFL defenses are now going to be able to game plan for Hurts’ skillset with an entire off-season to study tape. If defenses can work to limit his mobility and force him to beat them from the pocket, we could see his fantasy output take a hit. As a streaming QB, Hurts is worth taking the shot on to see if he can overcome these potential obstacles. However, there’s the potential that we see his ADP get to the point where he’s being drafted as a top-8 QB and that’s just simply too much risk.
– Kyle Yates

I am a fan of Jalen Hurts, the quarterback. He bet on himself in college and won, then showed he could play at the NFL level in 2020. I am not, however, completely sold on Jalen Hurts, the fantasy quarterback, quite yet. His 38-point performance against the Cardinals rightfully excited a lot of fantasy analysts. But there were some less than stellar moments as well that folks are forgetting. His rushing upside is incredibly intriguing, but he still has a long way to go as a passer. People are also ignoring the Eagles offensive line that did not get markedly better year over year. Plus, it’s a new HC, and that means a new playbook to learn and execute. I am not saying Hurts can’t take his new toy DeVonta Smith and have himself a QB1 season. I am saying the risk of him finishing outside of the QB1 range is equally possible. Therefore, drafting ahead of proven entities like Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, etc., is unnecessary in a single QB format. In a Superflex league, the gamble becomes intriguing because you can easily team him up with one of those steadier veterans and enjoy the high ceiling games without the low floor contests costing you weeks. In dynasty leagues, Hurts needs to show himself to be the QB of the future for the Eagles, or Nick Sirianni may get to choose his guy in the 2022 draft.
– Joe Pisapia

The Public

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