Oklahoma Football: Did Jalen Hurts pick make sense for the Eagles?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 28: Quarterback Jalen Hurts #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners scrambles against the defense of the LSU Tigers during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 28: Quarterback Jalen Hurts #1 of the Oklahoma Sooners scrambles against the defense of the LSU Tigers during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 28, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Eagles made a big splash when they drafted Oklahoma football’s Jalen Hurts. There are many questions if it’s the right move.

Some NFL teams choose a player that fits the systematics of their offense and defense. Other teams select players based on the attraction with their names. The Philadelphia Eagles decided to take both routes in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft with Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Throughout the pre-draft process, there were reports that Hurts’ name was rising to second-round potential. The Eagles decided to make a move for Hurts with the 53rd overall pick in the draft. This was a surprising but pleasant decision to many Eagles fans based on the depth and talent he brings to the team.

Hurts was never considered an elite-caliber gunslinger during his three years with the Alabama Crimson Tide. He was a dangerous player in the RPO schemes coached by three different main offensive coordinators in Lane Kiffin (2016), Brian Daboll (2017) and Mike Locksley (2018). He was more dangerous on the run and in the short passing game due to his incredible athletic ability.

In his freshman year at Alabama in 2016, Hurts threw for 2,780 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 954 yards and 13 touchdowns on 191 rushes. He was named 2016 SEC Freshman of the year and SEC Offensive Player of the year for his dynamic ability to establish his presence against opposing defenses in the RPO.

While Hurts was highly efficient as a runner, he was about average as a passer. He made efficient throws in terms of avoiding mistakes, but he didn’t excel against some of the top defenses in the nation.

The Oklahoma football transition

Hurts transferred to Oklahoma for his senior season in 2019 as he lost his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa. While at Oklahoma, Hurts worked with head coach Lincoln Riley to learn to become a more progressive passer in coordination with RPO-playing abilities. Lincoln Riley has worked with players like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, who have gone on to become first overall picks in the 2018 and 2019 drafts, respectively.

In his lone season with the Oklahoma Sooners, Hurts threw for 3,851 yards, 32 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He also rushed for 1,298 yards and 20 touchdowns on 233 rushes.

Hurts finished in second place in the final 2019 Heisman Trophy voting behind LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow. Hurts progressed as a passer in his senior season at Oklahoma under Riley. Compared to the quarterback prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft, Hurts was a lower-tiered passing quarterback. His accuracy and velocity improved in one season at Oklahoma, but his biggest attributes were his talents in the RPO plays.

The Eagles were not in a position to draft a new high-caliber passing quarterback. The Eagles are highly satisfied with the potential and high-caliber passing of Carson Wentz. This past season is the first time since his rookie season in 2016 that Wentz played a full season. He did suffer from a head injury in the 2019 NFC Wild Card round against the Seahawks. He has suffered four significant injuries in the NFL since he was drafted second overall by Philadelphia in 2016.

Philadelphia selected Jalen Hurts in the second round based on depth. Outside of Nick Foles, the Eagles have been plagued by a lack of an efficient backup quarterback. Last season, the Eagles ranked 12th in the league in points per game (24.1) and 14th in total yards accounted for per game (360.8). Philadelphia’s main problems on offense last season was the lack of reliable wide receivers.

Hurts brings more to the table than depth when it comes to the Eagles as he is expected to open up the offensive playbook. While he is listed as the third-sting quarterback by head coach Doug Pederson, he doesn’t have to be the prototypical NFL quarterback in his rookie season. Hurts can play in an RPO setting like he was at Alabama in his early years in college. He can help the Eagles create more complicated schemes that can cause unease to an opposing defense.

The Eagles want to take the pressure off Wentz in running abilities largely due to the questions of his durability.

Hurts can be a dynamic and versatile piece of the Eagles’ offense much like Taysom Hill is for the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have one of the most diverse and explosive offenses in the league for the past two seasons. Hill’s ability to run with the ball in the RPO and lineup at different positions like an outside receiver, slot receiver and tight end makes one of the versatile playmakers in the NFL. In the previous two seasons with the Saints, the flex quarterback rushed for 352 yards and three touchdowns on 64 rushes. He also caught 22 receptions for 238 yards and six touchdowns.

The concept of the flex quarterback comes in large part of the versatility that the playmaker can bring to the team outside of the natural role of passing the ball. Hill is the ideal flex quarterback but does not have the explosive arm to consistently pass the ball. Hurts is a playmaker as a runner and a passer. He can also greatly increase his playing time by proving him as a versatile playmaker at the receiver or an extra back in the backfield.

Adding a playmaker like Hurts can greatly benefit an offense like the Eagles that can use as much diverse and explosive talent as possible. Their first-round pick in wide receiver Jalen Reagor playing a multiple-schemed offense at TCU, thus giving him experience in different RPO schemes.

Hurts is looked at for now as a run-first quarterback and won’t be called upon to be their franchised passing quarterback if they decide to move on from an injured Wentz. There is high reward for a flex quarterback playing him in multiple variations with low risk. There are some high risks if needed to be the starting quarterback for an injured Wentz.

Only time will tell if Hurts becomes a more established passer in the NFL. At this stage of his career, it is difficult, but not impossible to become a more explosive passer.

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