With the 2022 NFL Draft a few months away, let’s take stock of the Eagles’ roster, the talent of the draft class and where it leaves the team in terms of how to address needs. This will be a position-by-position roster review with some draft outlook incorporated. First up, quarterback.
Right now, Jalen Hurts is the starting quarterback with Gardner Minshew slotted as the number two.
Hurts started 16 games in 2021, leading the team to the playoffs while pacing the league in rushing yards by a quarterback and setting the team record for QB rushing touchdowns. There was plenty to be encouraged by in his first season as a starter, but uneven performances and a bad playoff showing has stirred the pot a bit and has people rightfully asking questions about the future of the position.
As for Minshew, he might be one of the better bac ups in the NFL. While he has his limitations, he played very well in his relief of Hurts and crucially helped win game against the Jets. There are whispers he might seek a trade if he cannot compete to start, which would make sense given the quality of quarterback play around the league and Minshew’s resume as a young quarterback.
If a team is in desperate need of a quarterback this year, the draft does not feel like the best avenue. While the class is hardly talentless, it lacks the quality of prospect that the last few drafts have had. There’s no slam dunk first-round types of prospect like Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields. Rather, there is a group of gifted quarterbacks with huge question marks.
Malik Willis and Matt Corral will rightfully be popular names this offseason. Both are big armed, playmakers who can create offense as passers and runners. However, both have huge question marks about consistency, accuracy and decision making. Corral is also coming over a serious lower body injury.
Kenny Pickett and Sam Howell will also get some first round hype. Pickett was phenomenal for Pittsburgh in 2021 and Howell has been a longtime, prolific starter at UNC. Pickett being a late bloomer and one year wonder is a huge concern while Howell never seemed to improve over his time starting for the Tar Heels.
The last names that could garner some first round hype are Carson Strong and Desmond Ridder. Strong has a big arm and impressive accuracy, but lacks the baseline athleticism that helps so many quarterbacks be successful. Ridder is a tough QB with good physical tools and deserves credit for Cincinnati’s turnaround, but he definitely will need some time to grow as a passer.
All this is to say that these are talented quarterbacks who need time and patience where many rookies have come in and made a difference for their teams by year two. At this point, it’s hard to see that guy in this class.
This is where I plant my flag and say the Eagles should indeed give Jalen Hurts one more season at starter. Frustrations with his play are valid and he has room to improve, but we are talking about a quarterback in his first full season as a starter. He’s a year younger than Carson Wentz was as a rookie, and remember what Wentz did in year two as a starter?
For a long time, the Eagles have refused to show patience and offer full support to their starting quarterbacks. The Hurts draft pick itself came soon after Carson Wentz set franchise records and brought the Eagles to the playoffs. Right or wrong, it clearly had a negative impact on Wentz and led to his exit.
Quarterbacks, more than any other position in the league, require organizational confidence to succeed at a young age. Across the league you see teams betting on their young QBs by stacking their offenses and making hiring decisions to suit their skill sets. Look at the leap Josh Allen made in year two as a starter. Or Lamar Jackson. While their talents are different than Hurts, they’re all gifted playmaking quarterbacks who had room to grow as passers. Jalen Hurts is certainly not a bad player. He had moments of brilliance this year and was still a huge factor in the team’s playoff run. There’s plenty about his 2021 season the team should be excited on and be willing to bet on for at least another year.
This is not all to say that Hurts has an MVP ceiling. Maybe he does, but it’s more to say the Eagles have little to gain by bailing on yet another young quarterback early in their career. Given the weaknesses of this draft, sticking with Hurts and using the riches of draft picks to boost the rest of the roster feels like the right answer.