Jalen Hurts is coming off the best season of his young career and one of the best seasons in fantasy football last year. In his second full season as starter, Hurts passed for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions.
His real fantasy value came from his running ability, however, with 760 rushing yards and a whopping 13 touchdowns on the ground. These numbers made him good for 378 fantasy points in standard scoring at a rate of 25.2 fantasy points a game. His 35 total touchdowns tied Randall Cunningham’s single-season franchise record.
Heading into the 2023 season, there are many reasons to suggest Hurts can replicate or even build on his 2022 success. Hard to believe considering his play helped lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance and he landed second in MVP voting, but all the pieces are in place for sustained success.
In terms of talent around him, Hurts gets great continuity from his receivers. A.J. Brown set an Eagles record for receiving yardage last year, while DeVonta Smith set a record for receptions by a wide receiver over that same time. Both Brown and Smith are back in 2023.
Quez Watkins had a down year in his third NFL season, while many expected a big leap from the speedy No. 3 receiver. It turned out Watkins played much of the season with a shoulder injury and hopefully should be at 100% in 2023, a contract year. A big piece of the passing game in 2023 should be Dallas Goedert, who was on pace to be a 1,000-yard receiver in 2022 before a face mask incident caused him to miss five games. Now healthy, Goedert figures to give Hurts a great safety blanket in the middle of the field and the red zone.
A key change in skill position dynamics this season will be the running backs. The Eagles targeted their running backs 61 times in the passing game last year. With Miles Sanders out and D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny in, that is due to change. D’Andre Swift saw more targets (70) than the entire Eagles backfield in 2022 and over 50 catches a season since entering the NFL. The addition of a pass-catching back of his caliber could mean more high-percentage throws and easy yardage in the short and intermediate passing game.
Finally, a key part of the offensive lineup is the linemen. The Eagles have one of the best lines in football and return four of five starters from last year’s unit. Isaac Seumalo leaves a big hole at right guard, but the Eagles drafted Tyler Steen in the third round to compete with 2022 second-round pick Cam Jurgens for that starting spot. The line is still a strength, keeping Hurts upright in the passing game and paving the way in those short-yardage running situations.
In terms of projection for 2023, there are a few more key factors to consider, one being Brian Johnson stepping up as offensive coordinator. Johnson has been Hurts’ position coach since Hurts was given the reins in the 2021 offseason. Hurts has credited Johnson’s tutelage in his development and the two seem to have a great relationship. It’s to be seen how this impacts Johnson’s tenure as the offensive coordinator, but it is hard not to feel optimistic about his influence on Hurts and the offense in 2022.
Another key factor is health. Hurts has been the full-time starter for two seasons and missed three games over that time. In 2022, he missed two straight games after a heavy hit against the Bears hurt his throwing shoulder. That was a particularly egregious performance by the coordinator at the time, who was intent on running Hurts into the teeth of a defense that was loading up against quarterback runs.
Hopefully, Johnson has better sense to not be so stubborn and make Jalen Hurts vulnerable to big hits. After all, the Eagles made Hurts their $250 million dollar man this summer and it would be bad business to keep grinding him down and exposing him to unnecessary tread. In any case, drafting Jalen Hurts in fantasy football should lead you to draft Marcus Mariota as a handcuff. In the case that Hurts goes down, Mariota still brings plus mobility to his game and could put up decent numbers with the Eagles’ talented offense.
Worst-case scenario for Hurts is overall regression as a passer and he misses two to three games again. Even in that case, it’s hard to see his numbers being that bad considering the talent he’s throwing to and his ability to generate offense as a runner.
Worst case: 14 games started: 3,300 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 700 rushing yards, 5 touchdowns.
Best-case scenario for Hurts is he takes a step forward as a quarterback, especially attacking the middle of the field, and more importantly stays healthy for 17 games. That would mean fewer designed runs, which could be helped by a more talented backfield. That being said, I still expect Hurts’ mobility to be a factor down in the red zone. He is the first quarterback ever to have back-to-back seasons rushing for 10 or more touchdowns, and it is fair to expect those numbers again.
Best Case: 17 games started, 4,000 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 650 Rushing Yards, 11 touchdowns.
Other Eagles to consider drafting:
A.J. Brown: A.J. Brown set a career high in yards last season and broke the Eagles’ franchise receiving record. Considering his talent and connection with Jalen Hurts, Brown looks to continue his dominance as the Eagles big play threat and number one receiver.
DeVonta Smith: DeVonta Smith had 95 catches in 2022, breaking the Eagles’ franchise record for a wide receiver. He eats up targets as the No. 2 receiver and is sneakily good after the catch. Smith should be looking at another 1,000-yard season.
Dallas Goedert: Dallas Goedert has been a force in the Eagles passing game since taking over as the top tight end. As long as he is healthy, Goedert should be putting up good numbers week in and week out.
Running back options: The Eagles’ running back situation is a bit unclear at this point. The addition of Rashaad Penny on a one-year deal and the trade for D’Andre Swift are both great for the team but don’t create any sure things in fantasy football.
Penny and Swift are as talented as any backs in the league, but Penny has had trouble staying healthy and Swift was never able to establish himself as a lead back in Detroit. Both get a fresh start in Philly, but will be up against an emergent Kenneth Gainwell and the steady Boston Scott. It’s a risk to invest early in the Eagles backfield, but whoever emerges as the top back could be a great midseason addition to your team.