The battle to win the NFC East is expected to be a two-horse race between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. Perhaps no two players will have as much of a say in which team ends up with the NFC crown as quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Jalen Hurts.
Prescott has been handsomely compensated to bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Dallas for the first time since Troy Aikman was at the wheel. Hurts is facing a watershed season in his career to prove he can be a complete quarterback instead of a runner with a quarterback’s number. With Hurts getting more weapons and Prescott losing his most seasoned one, the battle is closer now.
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The case for and against Dak Prescott
- In his last two full seasons, he has thrown for 9,351 yards and 67 touchdowns, including a career-high 37 touchdowns last year, and was on pace to shatter those numbers five games into the 2020 season before getting injured.
- Prescott has the ability to be a weekly fantasy back-breaker, throwing three or more touchdowns in eight of 16 games last year and topping 300 passing yards in four of those.
- Over his last three seasons (37 games), he has thrown for more than 300 yards in 15 games and more than 400 yards in eight of those.
- Prescott has become extremely efficient in his passing. Over the last three years, his passer ratings have been 99.7, 99.6 and 104.2.
- When drafting a fantasy quarterback, you want him throwing early and often. In his last two full seasons, Prescott has attempted 596 passes in both. He completed a career-best 410 passes last season – with a career-high 68.8 percent completion rate.
- The Cowboys traded away Amari Cooper, who was Prescott’s most targeted receiver in Cooper’s time in Dallas.
- After getting injured in 2020, Prescott has made business decisions when it comes to rushing. He set career lows for attempts (48), rush yards (146) and rushing touchdowns (1) last season. After scoring 18 rushing TDs in his three seasons, he has just seven in the last three years.
The case for and against Jalen Hurts
- Hurts was the most dangerous quarterback in the league with his feet, rushing for 784 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in 15 games last year.
- He finished seventh in the league among all players in rushing first downs (56) and sixth in rushing touchdowns (10).
- He racked up fantasy points on the ground consistently. Hurts had 30 or more rushing yards in all but one game and had 55 or more rushing yards eight times. He also had four games with two or more rushing touchdowns.
- The Eagles have assembled the talent around him, drafting DeVonta Smith in the first round of the 2021 draft and trading for A.J. Brown and signing him to a $100 million contract extension.
- The Eagles have the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, which takes a lot of pressure off of Hurts in the passing game as defenses need to honor the run.
- He is not a pure passer. He was 22nd in passer rating last year (87.2) and 26th in completion percentage (61.3).
- Hurts is late to read and react to plays unfolding in front of him and too many passes have no chance of being completed, which helps explain why he had nine games with fewer than 200 passing yards.
Fantasy football outlook
Prescott and Hurts are two very different quarterbacks. Prescott’s major failing has come in the postseason, not the regular season (when fantasy football is played).
Hurts is in a make-or-break season as a starter and, if he struggles, the Eagles won’t hesitate to bring veteran Gardner Minshew off the bench if they feel their season slipping away.
While the gap has narrowed with the emergence of Smith and the addition of Brown to give Hurts more passing weapons and the loss of Cooper as a security blanket for Prescott, the nod goes to Dak Prescott because of his ability to produce huge passing numbers on a more consistent basis than Hurts does with his legs.