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Tale of the Tape: Joe Burrow vs. Jalen Hurts

By Kirk Hollis | 8/2/22

One of the most difficult tasks in drafting a fantasy football team is trying to decide between two players you essentially see as having nearly identical value. Knowing how to break such a ďtieĒ can be important as often a pick comes down to a dilemma between Player A and Player B. The purpose of this article is to not only identify pairs of players that are considered of nearly equal value in 2022, but also take a look at the process of solving those dilemmas. Our first installment of this feature examines two quarterbacks entering into their third NFL seasons having both been drafted out of college in 2020.

Joe Burrow has exploded onto the NFL scene by way of his skills and overall leadership abilities, but this season, heís getting recognized in fantasy circles for being a player of high value. He is likely going to be a QB1 for fantasy purposes for the next decade or so, particularly if his options to throw to remain as dynamic as they are at present.

Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts has far less job security and the forecast concerning his next decade is cloudy. That said, Hurts possesses an ability to score fantasy points that extends beyond the parameters of what Burrow brings to the table and that makes choosing between these two third-year quarterbacks so difficult.

There are reasons to like both guys as your starting quarterback and you might be able to wait to grab either until the sixth round (or even a bit later). So, who do you choose?

Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts

The Strengths

The strengths of Burrow as a fantasy quarterback are fairly obvious, but worth stating to create comparison. Primarily, he has a world-class stable of wide receivers to throw the ball to - guys who can not only excel in the red zone, but can take a pass ten yards downfield and turn it into a 50-yard gain. That dynamic led to Burrow averaging 12.6 yards per completion last season, which was second only to Jimmy Garoppolo last year with respect to QBs that played in more than five games. So, in leagues which value yardage and award bonuses for big yardage games, Burrow is an ideal fit as your starting QB. In addition to the trifecta of JaíMarr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd, the Bengals added TE Hayden Hurst in the offseason to shore up seam routes. It all adds up to an offense that is buoyed by a loaded cupboard at receiver and will have to score regularly to overcome what is an opportunistic, but otherwise very average defense.

Hurts doesnít average as much per completion as Burrow, but he was top-six in the league in that category just the same. Hurts has the capacity to extend plays with his legs which means that big yardage games are also possible even if not as frequently. The strength of Hurtsí game, though, from a fantasy perspective has to do with his work as a runner. Anytime a QB scores double-digit TDs rushing in a season and is the teamís primary goal line option, we as fantasy managers pay attention. When you look at what Hurts did last season (784 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs), the results show 138.4 fantasy points generated prior to him even throwing a pass. Weíll contrast that with Burrow in a moment. Itís a dimension to Hurtsí game that is impossible to ignore. A third-year quarterback would be expected to make a jump forward in the passing game, but with respect to ground prowess, youíve either got it or you donít. Hurts has that aspect of his fantasy game down pat.

The Weaknesses

Letís go back to Hurtsí 138.4 rushing number for a moment. What percentage of that number accounts for Joe Burrowís ground production? If you guessed 17%, you would be correct as Burrowís ground attack accounted for a paltry 23.8 fantasy points. That means when comparing Burrow to not only Hurts, but also Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Kyler Murray, heís got a lot of catching up to do in the air. Even the 44-year-old Tom Brady accounted for 20.8 points rushing the ball, so Burrow is more on TB12ís level than anywhere near what Hurts (and others) can do. It certainly creates a different ceiling even as his floor is more dynamic by way of his noted strengths.

In contrast, Hurts may be able to score fantasy points in a variety of ways, but heís not guaranteed to be the starting QB in Philadelphia for the duration of the season should even moderate regression occur. It is always concerning when a QB barely completes 60% of his passes and Hurts didnít eclipse that mark by all that much (61.3%) in 2021. Lower completion percentage means fewer yards via fewer sustained drives and modest expectations for yardage over the course of a season. Considering that reality alongside far lesser job security, Burrow offers a stability that Hurts cannot in spite of his attractive accomplishments from last season. 1,500 yards difference in passing yards is, after all, nothing to sneeze at.

The Verdict

One thing not mentioned above is that Hurts will be operating with a significant upgrade at wide receiver this season in the form of A.J. Brown. Brownís presence will allow DeVonta Smith to be what he is more ideally suited for - the WR2 spot on an NFL team. Together with high volume target Dallas Goedert at tight end, Hurts may not have what Burrow has to throw to, but heís trending in a good direction.

As for Burrow, whoís to say that the opening act with Chase isnít just the beginning of something even better? Yes, defenses will prepare for the duo differently this season, but with more time to gel in an NFL offense, Burrow to Chase may rise to an even more potent level. The presence of Tee Higgins on the other side will certainly keep defenses honest and could mean that Chaseís rookie season was the first of many years of dominance.

The bottom line when it comes to this match-up is whether you value safety and security or upside more. Burrow isnít going to get benched. Heís isnít going to be held back by coaches who want to see Cincinnati in more of a ball control mode. Heís going to be allowed to be the gunslinger he wants to be making him a safe bet to essentially repeat last seasonís numbers without a great deal of difficulty.

He isnít likely to exceed them though, and thatís where he and Hurts differ. With A.J. Brown in the fold, I would expect Hurts to throw for 400-600 more yards than last year while also improving on his TD totals thru the air (he notched only 16 passing TDs in 2021). The question is whether or not heíll remain the goal line option for the Eagles that he was last year. Since no one outside of the offensive coordinator and head coach can probably answer that in early August, risk is generated. And therein creates the rub. I think Hurts is the better fantasy QB to have ultimately based on projections, but I also think youíll need a better back-up on the roster than would be necessary with Burrow in the QB1 seat just in case. Security? Upside? Your value system, thus, will make the choice for you.

Projected 2022 Statistics:

Joe Burrow - 4,580 passing yards, 36 TDs; 150 rushing yards, 1 TD
Jalen Hurts - 3,575 passing yards, 19 TDs; 700 rushing yards, 8 TDs

Next up: Wide Receivers. Until then…

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