EAGLES

Hurts' year-end PFF QB ranking should thrill Eagles fans

EAGLES

Jalen Hurts entered the 2021 season on what was basically an unofficial prove-it deal: convince the Eagles' front office you can be a starting QB long-term, or prepare to be unseated next year.

It's safe to say, as Hurts prepares for his first career playoff start, that he proved it.

But just how good can Hurts be? Is he simply an average starter? Does his ceiling leave room for legitimate excellence?

RELATED: How Eagles know Hurts is ready for his playoff moment

To hear the folks over at Pro Football Focus tell it, Hurts is already way ahead of where most thought he'd be.

The PFF crew released their year-end quarterback rankings this week, a ranking centered on their own film-based grades and players' individual EPA (expected points added) per play stats. The numbers were kind to the Eagles QB: Hurts finished the 2021 season as PFF's 11th-best quarterback.

Eleventh! 

That's a tremendous result for a second-round pick, and for a guy who just finished his first year as a clear-cut starting QB.

Hurts finished directly behind Patrick Mahomes, one of the best QBs in the NFL and someone many believe will finish among the best QBs of all time.

He also finished ahead of...

  • Mac Jones (14), a rookie who impressed a lot of smart football people
     
  • Lamar Jackson (16), a former MVP and one of the most electric QBs in football
     
  • Derek Carr (17), a routinely solid starting QB
     
  • Russell Wilson (19), the guy many - myself included! - throughout the year hoped would be a trade target this offseason
     
  • Carson Wentz (20), the guy Hurts replaced
     
  • Baker Mayfield (24), a former No. 1 overall pick with far superior talent around him

When the season began, I thought Hurts would prove to us that he was a Top 20 quarterback in the league: a totally middle-of-the-pack starter who could hold his own but would ultimately leave us wanting much more.

 

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And I'm still critical of parts of Hurts' game - he needs to see the field better; his arm strength is a bit of a concern - but the 23-year-old showed a ton of growth over the course of the season, and his dual-threat ability paired with his relative efficiency and smart decision-making in the air has made him a legitimately dangerous QB. 

Some might say it sure helps to have one of the best run games in the NFL... but Hurts' talents are a huge part of the run game's runaway success. Opposing defenses are routinely afraid of him breaking off chunk plays, leaving linebackers paralyzed by choice at the second level long enough for Jordan Howard and Boston Scott (not exactly world-beaters) to build up momentum and hammer the holes for 7-yard pops.

I absolutely need to see more from Hurts next year in terms of growth before I fully sign on for him being the Eagles' full-stop franchise QB. 

But after the year he just put up - with a playoff game still to come - any Birds fan should be thrilled.