Eagles QB Jalen Hurts is the future
By: Brady Akins
In fantasy football, we crave players that can do it all.
Running backs who can catch passes, as well as, can run are valued much higher among experts than players who specialize in one. Wide receivers who get a high amount of targets better rank well in yards per target to be seen as a WR1. And of course, quarterbacks who run often and run well, are seen as must-start players.
The do-it-all focus is why we’ve seen players like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen emerge as some of the hottest players in all of fantasy football. They put up impressive passing stats, and oftentimes outpace their own running backs in rushing yards.
Four of 2020’s top six highest-scoring quarterbacks had at least 400 yards rushing, and with the next four players outside the top six adding at least three rushing touchdowns to their fantasy production, it might be fair to say that the trend of rushing quarterbacks isn’t going anywhere.
The latest team to pick up on the trend is the Philadelphia Eagles, who will head into the 2021 season with their second-round pick from last year’s draft looking ready to lead the team back to glory– Jalen Hurts.
Hurts, as a runner, finished ninth among quarterbacks in rushing yards, despite starting in only four games last season. On top of that, he added three rushing touchdowns in just a three-week span and used that rushing performance to finish seventh overall in fantasy points per game from the time he became the team’s starter to the end of the year.
Hurts’ fantasy production in that time was ahead of Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Deshaun Watson– and did so facing strong defenses as well, going up against the Saints, Cardinals, and Washington Football Team in three of his four starting appearances.
But the craziest thing about Hurts is that he might not even be a duel threat, at least not yet. One look at the Eagles’ quarterback’s box scores will show that he still struggles as a passer. Hurts managed only one game in that four-game period with more than one passing touchdown, finished the year with a 1:3 touchdown to interception ratio in his final two games, and has yet to start a game and finish with a completion percentage above 60%.
But there’s reason to believe Hurts can improve on his passing, all while maintaining his elite ability as a rusher. If he can make the leap from ‘bad passer, good runner’ to at least above average in both, Hurts will have a legitimate case to be one of fantasy football’s best quarterbacks by the end of the 2021 season.
Help is on the way
With the 2020 season well in the rear-view mirror, it could be easy to forget that the Eagles’ pass-catchers last season were… let’s say “sub-optimal.”
The Eagles didn’t have a single player on their roster finish the season with over 1,000 receiving yards. Or, for that matter, over 900 receiving yards. Or 800… or 700.
In fact, Philadelphia’s leading receiver, a former sixth-round pick by the Detroit Lions, Travis Fulgham, didn’t even break the 600-yard mark with 539 yards in 13 appearances.
But reinforcements should be arriving just in time to lead Hurts to a masterpiece season.
The best and the (metaphorically) biggest boost to the receiving corps will be the Alabama-rookie Devonta Smith, coming off of a Heisman-winning season where he led the FBS in essentially every statistical category you could imagine. On a loaded Crimson Tide offense, Smith’s skill stood out to the point where he became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since 1991.
Smith is now in Philadelphia, joining the Eagles’ first-round draft pick from last year in Jalen Reagor– a player who struggled with injury through a chunk of 2020 but will be looking to bounce back from a down rookie campaign. Also looking to bounce back will be tight end Dallas Goedert, who, despite finishing with more yards, catches, and touchdowns than his tight end counterpart Zach Ertz, was out-snapped and out targeted by Ertz.
But now, with rumors swirling around Ertz’s unhappiness with the Eagles, Goedert’s door to becoming the full-time starter at the tight end might be open. Between him, the addition of a potential star in Smith, and the hopeful bounceback of Reagor, Hurts could have three talented pass-catchers at his disposal, enough to make a strong leap in his passing stats.
Now add that to Hurts’ rushing potential. The guy who, again, finished top ten among quarterbacks in rushing yards with only four starts. The guy who had three games with over 60 rushing yards, and one with over 100, all while playing quarterback.
Hurts, without the exceptional numbers as a passer, still finished as the QB7 in his time as a starter. All the stars are aligning for that already impressive ranking to get much better in 2021– and you won’t want to miss out on it.