NFL

Oklahoma Football: Jalen Hurts has plenty to prove as NFL-caliber QB

After having one of the most memorable careers, Oklahoma football’s Jalen Hurts will be looking to prove the doubters wrong.

Jalen Hurts was one of the most beloved players in college football the past four years for his leadership, work ethic and, of course, his talent. He accomplished a lot in his college career: Led two different teams to the College Football Playoff, finished second in the Heisman race last year and started in two different national title games.

Much is being made of Hurts’ NFL projection and opinions vary on him almost more than any prospect. There are some who think Hurts had a good enough combine to warrant him being taken as high as the second round and then there some who would not take Hurts because they do not think he could be a consistent starter at the next level and would be best suited to be in a Taysom Hill type role for an NFL team, or maybe even switch positions.

Hurts burst onto the scene as a true freshman at Alabama. After picking Blake Barnett as the starter, Nick Saban pulled him after only the first quarter of the first game of the season against the USC Trojans, a game that they were losing 3-0 and were very sluggish on offense. Little did anybody know what would happen when a true freshman would enter the game. Alabama wound up cruising in that game 52-6 and Hurts changed the dynamic of the Alabama offense.

Saban never had a true dual-threat quarterback before Hurts and he gave Alabama a dynamic identity on offense and finished the season with nearly 2,800 yards passing and 23 touchdowns, along with 954 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Alabama fell to Clemson in the national championship but Hurts set the stage for next season.

In his sophomore season in 2017, Hurts’ passing statistics took a hit and he was not as consistent from game to game, but he managed to finish the year with nearly 2,100 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and just one interception, along with 855 yards rushing.

Hurts guided the Crimson Tide to the title game but that was the beginning of the end of his career with Alabama as he was benched in the second half of the championship game versus Georgia to make way for Tua Tagovailoa, and the rest is history. Tua led the comeback and would be the starter for the 2018 season until an ankle injury in the SEC title game versus Georgia, Hurts led the comeback against the Bulldogs but would transfer to Oklahoma for the 2019 season.

He would improve as a passer and put up over 3,800 yards passing and and nearly 1,300 yards rushing and finished second in Heisman Trophy voting and led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff. He’s a polarizing player in the draft and we’re going to take a look at his strengths, weaknesses and give a draft projection.

Strengths

Hurts is an exceptional athlete and that is proven by his combine numbers. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, a 35-inch vertical and a 125-inch broad jump. He made strides as a passer last season under the tutelage of Lincoln Riley, raising his completion rate to a career high 70 percent and threw for over 3,800 yards last season.

Hurts did not play in a very open offense at Alabama and he grew a lot under Riley and one has to wonder if he still has room to grow with good coaching and a good scheme, much like Lamar Jackson has done for the Baltimore Ravens. He has excellent intangibles as well, possessing great on and off-the-field leadership and that is something that an NFL Team will value.

As a passer, Hurts has a strong arm and can make most NFL throws and is his best when he is on the move and rolling outside of the pocket. Hurts is a very good and powerful runner.

Weaknesses

Hurts has improved as a passer, but he is not exactly Trevor Lawrence throwing the football either. He was very inconsistent throwing the ball and at times was even a liability and the biggest evidence for that is the first half against Georgia in the title game. Georgia did not fear Hurts as a passer and it was why Tua was inserted.

Sometimes he struggles throwing short to intermediate routes and had spotty accuracy for the first three years at Alabama. His mechanics are not the best either and he would be best served to sit for a year or two and get some good coaching.

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Draft Projection

Hurts is a very intriguing prospect because of his athletic ability and the way that the NFL is changing. Hurts possesses a strong arm and is a great leader. I think his liabilities as a passer are concerning and I have serious doubts if he can be a starting caliber NFL quarterback.

Projection: Mid-second to third round