FanPost

Reminder why some of us thought the Jalen Hurts pick was a good one

Even before the latest 3 games of awesome play!

I'm a regular reader of PFF. Not because I always agree with what they say, but because it's one of the few websites which follow their own ideas of what's happening on the football field, leading them to have generally unique ideas. Almost every other media source will end up parroting each other, so you only really have to read one article from any of the regular newsites/ESPN/Bloggosphere to get a good idea of what the prevailing narrative is. So it was generally when the Eagles drafted Hurts. Why spend the capital on a backup? Why draft a glorified Tasim Hill? Wouldn't the resources be better spent elsewhere.

Addressing these concerns was the article "Jalen Hurts wasn't a good pick by the Philadelphia Eagles — he was a great one!" by Kevin Cole at PFF. Read the whole thing, but here are some of the more interesting, and as it turned out more prescient, quotes:

The problem with the collective assessment of the Hurts pick is how most view the quarterback position outside of a binary lens: You either have a franchise quarterback or you don’t. This philosophy assumes that if you’re lucky enough to have a solid starter, you should be focused on using free agency and draft capital only to bolster the roster around him. It ignores the fact that a quarterback like Ryan Tannehill can go from franchise-status to a cheap trade chip and back to high-paid starter in the course of a few years. There is uncertainty with every quarterback, though with some more than others.

Looking at all non-QB picks over the past 10 years in terms of our wins of average (WAA) metric, you can see how likely it is to get an above-average player at the 53rd pick (dashed line) where the Eagles selected Hurts. The total expected wins above replacement (WAR) for a non-QB pick at the 53rd selection is roughly 0.3 WAR.

His [Wentz's] four years of NFL performance give us confidence that he’ll be an above-average quarterback, but not necessarily an elite one. Jalen Hurts is a stronger contender to become an elite quarterback than most think, especially for a prospect available outside the first round. The combination of Hurts’ extensive history as a starter, eye-popping stats and strong grades led a number of different models to conclude that Hurts had the upside to be an elite quarterback.

The key to understanding the value of adding a quarterback like Hurts is understanding and estimating and the range of outcomes for quarterbacks. I’ve done work with Bayesian updating to incorporate NFL performance into the expectations and confidence we should have in quarterbacks. The numbers for Wentz show that he'll very likely be at least an average quarterback (92% probability), but less certain he’ll be a top-12 (60%) or top-six quarterback (20%). If you want to sit tight with Wentz assuming that you’ll have above-average performance, that’s a good bet. But average play isn’t the ideal at the position.

If we assume Hurts is half as likely as Wentz to be a top-12 or top-6 quarterback, which is reasonable based on the probabilities in our college-to-pro model and QBASE, adding him to the quarterback room with Wentz raises the chance that the Eagles have a top-6 quarterback to 28% from 20%, or a 40% increase. In terms of finding a top-12 quarterback, the Eagles' probability with both quarterbacks rises to 72% from 60%, a 20% increase. These increases are well worth the investment of the 53rd pick, which, as we discussed earlier, normally yields a slightly below-average non-quarterback. Top quarterbacks generate 1 to 3 more wins than average quarterbacks according to our WAA metric, whereas the range for the best non-quarterbacks is around 0.3-0.7 wins.

The Hurts acquisition gives the Eagles many options for unforeseeable circumstances. If Wentz fails, they have another quarterback with a great chance of success. If Hurts outplays Wentz in practice and they want to make the switch in a year, the Eagles will likely have strong offers for Wentz in a trade and the cap hit for the combination of Hurts’ contract and Wentz’s dead money will be roughly the same as Wentz’s scheduled 2021 cap hit. If Wentz gets injured, they have a potential high-level backup, good enough to give a team with many pieces in place a chance to win the title.

A lot of quotes there, but the bottom line is the value of the starting QB in football is so high that unless you have a 100% certainty lock at your QB being a top 5 one each year, it probably makes sense to draft one with even a small chance at being a franchise guy in the second round, considering the fact that a non-QB you draft there is very likely to be just a guy at a non-value position.

Things worked out for the Eagles so far, and even if Hurts were to be abducted by aliens and never play another down, his was the steal of the draft and makes the entire draft class an A+ by the Eagles. If his hot start continues and he truly does fulfill the promise of them for the rest of his career, he will end up being the best pick of the franchise's history.