27 Nov 2020

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Why Jalen Hurts can be a successful NFL Quarterback

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 07: Jalen Hurts #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to pass the ball against the Baylor Bears in the first quarter of the Big 12 Football Championship at AT&T Stadium on December 7, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Note: For the record, this is being written before the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama where Jalen Hurts will be performing. I want that stated very clearly from the beginning. 

Arrogance is a trait often found in NFL franchises. It’s something so easy for professionals at every level of work in any field or industry to get caught up in. With something as intricate as scouting, it runs rampant.

Take a second to think about it. Arrogance is rooted in the sin of pride. NFL scouting departments have to build insatiable ego’s in order to trust in their work as evaluators. Most certainly a time to reflect and look back on previous hits and misses is very important, but the name of the game is to trust. Trust your eyes. Trust what you see. Because of this necessity to trust in the work that has been placed in front of you, ego’s are strengthened and even formed as the evaluators become opinioned and passionate while debating their work with evaluating talent.

This is the danger in evaluating talent. It’s so easy for people to get caught up in the “confirmation bias” of players and closing their mind to the abilities that are shown. I strongly feel that this is the opinion of many scouts while evaluating former Alabama Crimson Tide and Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts.

The History of Jalen Hurts

Jalen Hurts emerged on the scene in the very first game of his true freshman season at Alabama when he replaced Blake Barnett in the second quarter and led Alabama to a throttling 52-3 victory over the then 24th ranked USC Trojans. His mobility was impressive, but his passing ability seriously lacked. I was watching the game with a good friend of mine who played at Auburn back in the day, and he swore on that day Jalen Hurts would be playing on Sundays.

Yes, I thought my friend was crazy.

Hurts would lead Alabama to a National Championship game appearance where they would fall just short of defeating the Clemson Tigers despite his valiant efforts late in the game to engineer a comeback. Deshaun Watson would throw a game-winning touchdown with seconds left to seal the fate of the Crimson Tide.

Tua Tagovailoa would end up replacing Hurts the next season, in the National Championship game against Georgia at halftime. Hurts was thrust to the back seat, despite losing two games as a starting quarterback in his entire collegiate career.

Hurts sat for a season at Alabama, collecting his redemption by leading the Crimson Tide to a comeback victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship game when Tagovailoa went down with an injury. After the season, he announced his intention to transfer, and chose Oklahoma.

A fresh start in Oklahoma

Jalen Hurts started fresh in a system with a head coach that had just produced back-to-back Heisman trophy winners and first overall draft picks at quarterback. It would not end up being a bad choice.

Immediately, from the spring game, Hurts showed an improved ability to play as a passing quarterback. Oklahoma would go on to have another great season, finishing as Big 12 Champions at 12-1, and entering the College Football Playoff. They fell short to LSU in the semi-finals, who went on to be crowned National Champions.

Hurts himself had a phenomenal individual season. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and ended the season with more passing and rushing yards than the previous Heisman Trophy winners, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, before him.

I released my personal positional rankings on January 1st, in which I ranked Hurts as my third-best quarterback prospect in the class. I took some heat from friends and some random people on Social Media who couldn’t understand why I ranked Hurts ahead of players like Justin Herbert or Jordan Love.

Anyone who says that Jalen Hurts didn’t progress in 2019 simply didn’t watch the film. Let’s get into what will make Jalen Hurts a good quarterback in the NFL and why I think so highly of him in this draft class.

Let’s start with the bad

The critics of Jalen Hurts are always quick to point to the bad things that Hurts does, and very rarely ever discuss the good things. So, let’s satisfy these critics and quickly knock out the bad things that Hurts struggles with. After all, if we do that first, it will confirm that I am not in “confirmation bias.”

First things first, Jalen did turn the ball over a good bit more than Oklahoma was used to. Between his 8 interceptions and 8 fumbles (6 lost), Hurts was responsible for 14 turnovers, and that’s a few more than some of these other quarterback prospects. Half of those fumbles he coughed up in the two games against Baylor.

The next potential issue that people have is that Hurts runs like Cam Newton, but he isn’t nearly as big. Yes, he’s significantly smaller than Cam Newton, and it could be potentially a problem in the future, especially with the fumbling concerns that were raised over the season.

The last thing people don’t like is the lack of tape that we have on Jalen Hurts making “window throws.” Hurts’ lack of anticipation and field vision after plays have deeply developed is concerning to some people, and we don’t see Jalen make those tight throws through waves of defenders to get the ball to his receiver.

Let’s get into the gray area

Here is where things start to get a little bit fuzzy. Jalen Hurts produced unbelievable numbers this season. He passed for almost 4000 yards, ran for 1238 on the ground, and was responsible for 53 touchdowns.

Most people think that Jalen Hurts is not capable of going through progressions because the majority of his Oklahoma playbook was one-read decisions. I think this is erroneous on many levels.

Jalen Hurts growth in progressions

Jalen Hurts has the ability to go through progressions because you see him do it time and time again. When he gets time in the pocket, he can pick apart a defense. This play here, he very clearly reads the progressions and even looks the safety off before completing a very deep ball to Charleston Rambo.

Here at Alabama, in his last real action as a player for the Crimson Tide, Hurts goes through his progressions. He even moves a bit in the pocket and makes a very good throw down the field for a first down. The tight end was his third progression on the play, and he recognized that the inside linebacker was moving to cover Jerry Jeudy. That opened the window to hit Irv Smith Jr.

Play Creation

Being able to extend plays is arguably one of the best traits a quarterback can have. It takes practice and hard work to hone down accuracy, timing and footwork. Play creation, however, is a natural God-given ability that allows great quarterbacks to somehow escape from problems and give the play another new life.

Because Hurts so naturally extends plays, it’s hard to see this ability not transitioning to the NFL level. The behind-the-back trick play on Texas wasn’t designed. It was a very good quarterback extending the play with the resources that he has. Hurts being able to extend the play when the structure breaks down with both his arm and his legs are some of the most valuable traits that he would bring to a team.

The Mobility of Jalen Hurts

Honestly, Jalen Hurts is one of the most fluid athletes that I have ever seen play quarterback. He’s a physical runner with incredible athleticism and quickness, and he’s exhibited his impressive juke ability multiple times and at multiple different levels.

People: Quarterbacks don’t normally move like this. His jukes are nifty, they’re athletic and they’re quick. He’s not afraid of contact and he’s a tough guy. What is there not to like about the mobility of Jalen Hurts?

To be honest, one has to wonder how durable this play style will allow him to be in the NFL. Hurts still deserves immense respect for his ability to just hard nose his way and play with a chip on his shoulder.

Final thoughts and words

Isn’t it funny how Jalen Hurts seems to be at his best on third down? All of the plays in the article that I just used to spotlight him were on third down, most of them in third and very long situations.

If you still aren’t convinced that Jalen Hurts can provide the NFL with some decent quarterbacking skill, I don’t know what else to tell you. I’m not saying that he will be a top-ten quarterback in the league, or an MVP some year. I think he’s a mid-level starter who can take a team to the Super Bowl because of his personality. Hurts changes locker rooms. Hurts changes the culture inside of buildings. He has never been given anything. He earns his opportunity and takes off with that.

You can’t ignore those things.

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