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Analytics prove that Jalen Hurts vs. Patrick Mahomes is closer than people think

PFF grades quarterbacks in a variety of ways, here we break down Mahomes vs Hurts

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NFL: Super Bowl LVII Opening Night Cheryl Evans-USA TODAY Sports

While the NFL is the ultimate team sport, the focus on quarterbacks continues to grow and grow. In this year’s Super Bowl, the attention given to the quarterbacks is well deserved. Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts represent the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles perfectly and should make for an exciting game.

It isn’t a surprise that Mahomes and Hurts are two of the leading candidates for the NFL’s MVP honors and have the best odds for Super Bowl MVP as well.

Mahomes has been a transcendent talent at the position since taking over as a starter in 2018 when he led the Chiefs to a 12-4 record while leading the league with 50 touchdown passes. While he didn’t improve either of those marks the following year, Mahomes led Kansas City to a Super Bowl championship instead.

The road to the Super Bowl hasn’t been as overwhelmingly positive for Hurts. He started out as Carson Wentz’s backup in 2020 and had an 8-7 record with just 16 touchdowns to nine interceptions in 2021. This year was his breakout, leading the team to a 14-1 record in his 15 starts with 3,700 yards passing and 22 touchdowns through the air combined with 760 yards on the ground and 13 rushing touchdowns.

The two star quarterbacks have also had to deal with recent injury concerns with Hurts hurting his shoulder late in the season and Mahomes dealing with a high ankle sprain since the divisional round of the playoffs.

As we kick off the start of Super Bowl week, a lot of focus will be on the quarterbacks. We decided to take a deep dive into Pro Football Focus’ grades for each and see how they compared this season. Their grade cards are in, how did they do? (Note: PFF grades are on a 100-point scale.)

Overall Grades

Mahomes - 91.5 grade, 3rd overall quarterback
Hurts - 84.8 grade, 5th overall quarterback

Mahomes - 89.2 passing grade
Hurts - 80.6 passing grade

Mahomes - 84.7 run grade
Hurts - 84.4 run grade

Starting out, it is surprising that Mahomes has the lead in all three categories, especially in the rushing department as Hurts outrushed him by 350 yards and nine touchdowns. In overall grade, the six-point differential between the two is the same as the difference between Hurts and Trevor Lawrence, the 12th-ranked quarterback according to PFF.

Use of Play Action

With Play Action
Mahomes - 94.2
Hurts - 81.2

Without Play Action
Mahomes - 85.1
Hurts - 81.8

The biggest surprise is that Hurts is better without play action as that is rare in the league. Mahomes, on the other hand, is graded significantly higher with play action despite the Chiefs being in the lower half of rushing yards per game.

Types of Throws

Deep 94.8
Medium 87.2
Short 85.6

Deep 86.1
Medium 90.2
Short 78.0

It is impressive to see how good both quarterbacks are at throwing medium and deep passes according to PFF’s grades. Mahomes is at an elite level on deep balls while Hurts is better in the intermediate. Some of that intermediate success can be attributed to Philadelphia’s A.J. Brown (powerful over the middle) and DeVonta Smith (technician as a route runner).

Role of Pressure

When Blitzed
Mahomes - 76.6
Hurts - 72.5

Not Blitzed
Mahomes - 92.3
Hurts - 85.4

While Mahomes and Hurts were two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, even the best are much better when they are not blitzed. While it is risky and can’t be done regularly, blitzing is a vital way to impact them. Mahomes was graded 20 points higher when kept clean while Hurts’ grade when pressured was quite low (52.4) especially compared to when he had a clean pocket (91.6).

Reviewing the Grades

While it is not surprising that Mahomes graded out better than Hurts overall, it is interesting that there was only one main area — intermediate passing — where Hurts graded out better. Even when we look at their highest-graded games this season, Mahomes’ 91.4 against Jacksonville in Week 10 tops Hurts’ 85.4 against Pittsburgh in Week 8.

PFF is just one way to evaluate quarterbacks but looking at their grades, Mahomes graduated the 2022 NFL season summa cum laude. Hurts will look to take the Lombardi Trophy, away from the leader of the class, as the ultimate end-of-the-year award.