Fantasy Football 2023: Should Jalen Hurts or Patrick Mahomes be the first QB drafted?

Last season's Super Bowl was a high-octane matchup between two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL: Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts. And because life imitates art (and fantasy imitates reality), Hurts and Mahomes are our Nos. 1 and 2 fantasy quarterbacks for 2023, respectively. You really can't go wrong either way, but who is actually the better pick? Fantasy football analysts Scott Pianowski and Dan Titus debate.

The case for Patrick Mahomes

I want to start by making it clear — I’m not here to do a hit piece on the Eagles offense. I’m over the moon for this roster and this team. I had Philadelphia ranked first on my initial set of fantasy football power rankings, and while ostensibly I’m arguing against Hurts today, he’s still my No. 2 quarterback. I’ll proactively seek shares of this offense.

All of the Tier 1 quarterbacks offer upside. Mahomes has been the QB1 twice and the league MVP twice. But floor also has some value to this discussion, and that’s why I have to lean Mahomes.

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Consider what Mahomes pulled off last year, when Tyreek Hill departed and the Chiefs never really solved wide receiver. Did the KC offense go into a funk? Hardly. Mahomes merely led the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and QBR (en route to that QB1 finish), definitively proving that the holy trinity of Andy Reid, Travis Kelce and Mahomes is impossible to stop. And it’s plausible that the Chiefs receiver play will be better, perhaps much better, this year. I see you, Kadarius Toney.

Hurts is unstoppable as a runner, especially at the goal line, but is that a wise and sustainable business model for the Eagles? Do they want their one irreplaceable player to take that many hits? And if they don’t back off Hurts the runner, does that bake in a little extra injury risk? It’s no fun to play fantasy sports like an actuary, but it belongs in the conversation. And while I agree with Dan that the Philadelphia coaching infrastructure should be fine even without offensive wizard Shane Steichen, it's still worthy of mention.

Quarterback rushing scores come with understood variance (consider Cam Newton’s career, or the scoring resume of Lamar Jackson). Ultimately I suspect the Eagles will be a little less reckless with their signature guy. It doesn’t mean Hurts can’t be fantasy royalty; he’s a legitimate MVP candidate and his supporting cast is absurdly loaded. But it's plausible Hurts could have a better real-life season and still score a few less fantasy points, if the goal-line work subsides even a little. And the Mahomes track record and floor matters as I fit someone for my summertime yellow jersey. — Scott Pianowski

The case for Jalen Hurts

Scott got the easy job — making the case to draft a two-time league MVP, Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP and future GOAT. But don’t get it twisted; Jalen Hurts is a DOG — and my QB1 in fantasy this season.

I hear all the noise. “Hurts will regress ... the Eagles lost their offensive coordinator, blah, blah, blah.” However, the fact remains that Hurts is the best dual-threat quarterback in the league. I know Josh Allen exists, but who led all QBs in fantasy points per game last season?

Jalen Hurts.

Despite throwing for only 3,700 yards, he eclipsed 760+ rushing yards and at least 10 rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons. Few QBs outside of Hurts possess that potential. The Eagles boast the best offensive line in football, and you add in dump-offs to D’Andre Swift? Yes, please.

I’m always seeking upside in fantasy, and while Mahomes has the highest floor at QB (basically a shoo-in for at least 4,700 passing yards and 37 total TDs), we haven’t seen Hurts’ upside as a passer, and that’s scary. Per Stathead, Allen is the only quarterback to throw for at least 4,000 passing yards and rush for at least 750 rushing yards in a season (he's done it twice). Mark my words: Hurts will be next on that list.

[2023 Fantasy Draft Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DEF | K]

For those concerned about the scheme, don’t be. The Eagles promoted former QB coach Brian Johnson to offensive coordinator — a coach who's quietly mentored Hurts into one of the game's most effective and efficient passers. He posted the third-highest passer rating (101.5) with the second-highest touchdown-to-interception ratio (3.67) last season. He only had eight turnovers (six picks, two fumbles lost) compared to 12 interceptions for Mahomes.

I recognize that’s a small gap, but the real differentiator is Hurts’ scoring potential in the red zone. No one vultures goal-line TDs like Hurts (and maybe Jamaal Williams). Nine of Hurts’ 13 rushing scores came from within five yards, and his 44 rushing attempts in the red zone would have ranked fifth AMONG RBs. The Eagles' explosive offense will be no stranger to the end zone, leaving Hurts to continue racking up easy TDs from their patented short-yardage rugby formation.

Even though touchdowns are random, getting that many opportunities is a substantial advantage when selecting your QB1. Hurts does it all and should be the first QB off the board in fantasy this season. — Dan Titus