When the offseason began, I was kind of out on Jalen Hurts. I wasn't convinced he was the Eagles' best plan at quarterback. That went double when they traded a first-round draft pick in 2022 as part of a package that included a first-round draft pick in 2023, where the class is expected to be loaded at quarterback. Aha!, I thought, more ammunition for the Eagles to move up and draft a new quarterback.
But then the Eagles' offseason decisions smartened me up.
They didn't add a quarterback this offseason. They kept Gardner Minshew as Hurts' backup. And they drafted A.J. Brown to support Hurts. And after an early up-and-down start to training camp for Hurts, the third-year passer appears poised to take a step forward as a passer while remaining a ferocious threat as a rusher.
Hurts' lone drive against the Jets in the team's 2022 preseason debut further solidified all of the above. Shoot, Hurts' first pass attempt was a beaut -- he extended the play by moving to his right, and with defenders guarding against him taking off as a runner, Hurts had the space to find Quez Watkins open well downfield near the right sideline and he put it on him with aplomb for a 28-yard gain. Twice on the drive Hurts recognized the Jets dropping seven defenders into coverage and checked down first to Miles Sanders on a dump pass for 12 yards and then to Watkins on a shallow cross for four yards. I could nitpick his decision to leave the pocket early on third down and run (that's the play he took a very illegal hit on), or the velocity he showed on his deep throw to Dallas Goedert, but the former is something he can correct and the latter still resulted in a touchdown.
This was a very good showing for Hurts. If I've been convinced Hurts has a bright season ahead, you should be too. I also projected him to have one of the league's easiest schedules for a quarterback, and that was before training camp even began.
Could I see myself putting him into my top-five at quarterback? I think I could get there within the next week or two. Top-three? That's a tougher sell. But Fantasy managers who want to bet on Hurts' extreme upside shouldn't be shy to take such a chance in their drafts.
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The second-year sleeper no one's chasing
Playing without Christian Kirk, Lawrence was on-time and on target with all but three throws against the Browns (one was a throwaway). He did have some drops from Zay Jones and Travis Etienne, and he had a miscommunication with tight end Evan Engram. But he moved well around and out of the pocket -- his zone-read fake to Etienne resulted in an 11-yard run on his first play.
There should be no trepidation in drafting Lawrence. Yeah, his receiving corps could stand to be more exciting, but it's going to be on Lawrence to get the best out of the players he has. At least in the case of Kirk and Etienne he has some speed, and in both Zay and Marvin Jones and Engram he has some size. This shouldn't be as bad of a group as last year. Plus Jacksonville should throw plenty this season.
Best of all, Lawrence is going well after Lance and Fields because he doesn't have the same rushing upside as they do. But Lawrence did run for 334 yards and two scores last season along with over 750 yards in his last 25 college games (30 yards per game). That's not nothing.
Don't draft Lawrence to be your starter unless it's a league that utilizes multiple quarterbacks. But stashing him in case he gets off to a great start is definitely one of the cards up my sleeve in my one-QB drafts.
The second-year breakouts everyone's chasing
- Trey Lance: The big guy seemed a lot more comfortable and understanding of what to do when a pass rush was on him. I thought he did a good job leaving the pocket when necessary and staying in otherwise. I liked that he slid on his seven-yard run. And he clearly read the Packers' defensive coverage correctly and looked off the single safety on his bomb to Danny Gray. That's the kind of stuff that will help him have major numbers in 2022. I do think his accuracy on intermediate throws could be a problem, which is common for young quarterbacks. Once a quarterback solves that, he usually breaks out. Lance may not do that so fast this season, but he could still have very good Fantasy numbers because of his rushing and his schemed-up throws (and good reads on deep bombs). Here it is again for those who have missed it: No one at any position has as much upside after pick No. 100 overall as Lance. Once I get to that spot in a draft, he's who I'm looking for whether I need a quarterback or not. And, he plays the Bears' woeful defense in Week 1, so you could potentially start him right away.
- Justin Fields: The Bears rookie also looked smoother and seemed to read the Chiefs defense a little faster than the last time we saw him. He completed two deep throws of 26 and 19 yards, both of which were good but his receivers (Darnell Mooney on the longer one, Tajae Sharpe on the shorter one) made outstanding plays to reel in the catches. Can those guys keep it up? Believing Mooney can is possible, but he needs a sidekick beyond Cole Kmet. The bigger issue for Fields is his offensive line, which struggled to give him time in the pocket in preseason action. That's expected to keep happening in-season because the front five is considered a bottom-10 unit. It will lead to some improvisational mobility from Fields, which is good for his stats, but it could also mean more off-target throws which his pass-catchers would have to come up as heroes for. It also isn't good for the offense in general or Fields' health. He remains behind Lance in the rankings for me but it is worth a speculative 11th-round pick.
And a second-year quarterback no one is chasing
- Zach Wilson: No one will draft Wilson in a one-QB league because he won't be ready to start the season. I'm not sure anyone should have even if he had two good legs. Wilson only threw five passes but one was air-mailed far out of the reach of Garrett Wilson, and another was picked off by linebacker Kyzir White when Wilson missed seeing him before he threw into tight coverage to Corey Davis. His three completions traveled less than 10 yards each. I'm curious how Joe Flacco does with the Jets offense while Wilson is out -- and if he can somehow keep the job beyond Week 1 or 2, Wilson could be on his way to the Fantasy desert.
The skinny on ...
- Marcus Mariota: I think he needs to be taken more seriously as a Superflex/two-QB option. He didn't seem to care if it was preseason, he just played like he always has -- freely and fast. He didn't throw much (no complaints about his passing) and his choice to run three times over 12 snaps in a meaningless game feels like a harbinger of things to come. Mariota said after the game he couldn't help it, that's how he's wired. Fantasy managers love mobile quarterbacks and here's one who could be pretty good because he'll run a good amount.
- Daniel Jones: The first impression of him in 2022? Not great. Jones missed on a lob to the flat, struggled with obvious pass rush situations when the Giants O-line couldn't keep him clean and held on to the ball too long. Hopefully, things get better, both in terms of the blocking and the passing, but between his unimproved game and the suspect receivers he's working with, this offense could be ugly. I'm not sure Jones would be a priority even in Superflex drafts.
- Baker Mayfield: Carolina's starter (come on, it's not gonna be Sam Darnold) had very good velocity on his throws, but there were familiar concerns. I thought he held on to the ball too long, I think he favored throwing over the middle and he had a miscommunication on a pass to Brandon Zylstra. The latter I think will get worked out, but the other stuff followed him from Cleveland. I'm still excited about him in leagues that start two quarterbacks but wouldn't touch him in formats that start only one.
- Malik Willis & Desmond Ridder: Both ran well -- Willis is a big-time difference-maker already on the ground. I believe he could be in a heck of an RPO package with Derrick Henry. But it's not enough to make him palatable in redraft leagues -- his passing needs work. Ridder is further along as a thrower but I felt like he still didn't have top-flight velocity and continued to rely on throwing lobs for his receivers to make a play on (that's how the Falcons won their game at Detroit). I'm not sure how much steam either player has in Dynasty given the limited draft capital their teams invested.