Sharp Analysis released early quarterback Power Rankings for 2021, and Kirk Cousins checked in at No. 14. This placement is not outrageous as several notable personalities perceive Cousins as a notch below the great and very-good quarterbacks in the league.
By the numbers, though, Cousins can be fairly described as the 10th-to-12th best signal-caller in the business.
The No. 14 slot for Cousins is not entirely inflammatory, but the befuddlement looms when a player like Jalen Hurts is inserted four spots ahead of the Vikings quarterback. That’s right, Sharp Analysis calls Jalen Hurts the 10th-best quarterback in the league:
“Hurts scored 19.3, 37.8, 18.6, and 16.3 points in his four starts last season after the Philadelphia season was a lost cause. His 272 rushing yards in those starts were second in league history for a quarterback over his first career four starts behind Lamar Jackson. Hurts was last in the league in completion rate (52%), but also last in expected completion rate (55.5%), according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Despite that, he still led all rookie passers in yards per pass attempt (7.7 Y/A) from a clean pocket. If the Eagles commit to Hurts for a season, he joins the high-floor group aided by rushing production with the upside of crashing a ceiling should he improve from a passing stance.”
There is certainly a time and place to predict Hurts will boast a fabulous career (probably when he performs well), but proclaiming him as a Top 10 quarterback now is fishy.
For full disclosure, here are Sharp’s thoughts on Cousins:
“Cousins does not get a lot of praise, but he is a productive quarterback. Cousins has thrown more 25 or more touchdown passes in six straight seasons. Over the past two years, Cousins has ranked fifth and sixth in the league in passing points per attempt and seventh and third in yards per pass attempt. The unfortunate part is that efficiency has been tethered to pedestrian volume as Cousins has been 29th and 26th in pass attempts per game over those seasons. After rushing for 13 touchdowns over his three seasons as a starter with Washington, Cousins has rushed for three touchdowns over his three seasons with the Vikings.”
Pro Football Focus does not hold the same view on Cousins v. Hurts. In 2020, Cousins scored an 83.5 – the 11th-best grade in the NFL. This was notably better than Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, and Lamar Jackson.
Hurts, Cousins’ “competition,” was the second-worst in the league, grading a 56.2. Only the maligned Dwayne Haskins scored lower. For context, PFF called the Hurts the 37th-best passer in the industry last season.
Evidently, Sharp puts no stock in PFF’s scoring system.
So Does QBR
Cousins has never been a QBR savant. This ESPN score is routinely his worst statistical metric. Last season, he registered a 63.2 QBR, good enough for 18th in the NFL. QBR adjudicates more than raw passing performance by accounting for a player’s rushing acumen, pocket presence, etc.
Even with those intangibles in play – Hurts was still the second-worst quarterback in all of the land. His embarrassing 41.0 QBR only bested Sam Darnold of the New York Jets, who had the unfortunate distinction of worst in the NFL.
One might surmise that Hurts would excel in a small sample size (four starts) for QBR because of the plays he implements with his feet. Nope. He was significantly lower than Cousins – and almost everyone.
Passer Rating, too
With the classic rating system for quarterbacks, passer rating, Cousins tops Hurts yet again. The 32-year-old was the eighth-most prolific thrower of the football via passer rating, tallying a 105.0 (somehow higher than Tom Brady in 2020). Passer rating is consistently kind to Cousins because of completion percentage – an integral part of the scoring system.
Hurts posted a 77.4 passer rating during his small rookie campaign. He accrued a 77.4, a score that situates him as the league’s 32nd-ranked passer. It’s the same territory as Drew Lock, the aforementioned Haskins, and Hurts’ pal, Carson Wentz.
“Top 10 heading into 2021” can only be forecasted for Hurts if one is a soothsayer. He could possibly set the league on fire in 2021, but that is fluff. He showed no statistical hints to indicate he is sitting on a goldmine sophomore campaign.
Cousins, on the other hand, did his thing – more than 4,000 passing yards and north of 30 touchdowns passes. This is clockwork for Cousins. We expect it – and inexplicably criticize him for it at the same time.
When [if] Hurts posts 4,000+ yards and 30+ touchdown passes, his praises will be sung to high heavens. But we’re not there yet. Not even close.