JALEN HURTS IS READY AND WAITING, Jalen Hurts was a great pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, should have been picked in the 1st round

JALEN HURTS IS READY AND WAITING,  Jalen Hurts was a great pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, should have been picked in the 1st round
When Jalen Hurts left Alabama for Oklahoma, he was a benched quarterback viewed as more of a runner than a passer. A year with the Sooners provided quite the renaissance.Hurts went from a possible NFL prospect as a gadget player to a legitimate quarterback draft pick in the second round by the Eagles. All it took was one year lighting up the Big 12 in Lincoln Riley’s offense, but it was more than that. Hurts displayed improved mechanics at OU that helped him more accurately and consistently push the ball down the field. Coupled with a rushing ability that fits in the modern NFL, Hurts’ passing improvements led him to Philadelphia despite the presence of Carson Wentz.There’s no telling what Hurts would’ve become if he’d stayed in Alabama, or if Tua Tagovailoa had never come to take his job in the first place. But the events that followed made Hurts a potential long-term starter in the NFL. Here’s a look back at how one final, emphatic year of growth pointed toward professional quarterback success for Hurts.

Career highlights and awards

 

Jalen Hurts college stats

Year School Comps Attempts Completion % Pass yards Pass TDs Int Rush

atts

Rush yards Rush TDs
2016 Alabama 240 382 62.8 2780 23 9 191 954 13
2017 Alabama 154 255 60.4 2081 17 1 154 855 8
2018 Alabama 51 70 72.9 765 8 2 36 167 2
2019 Oklahoma 237 340 69.7 3851 32 8 233 1298 20

Jalen Hurts at Alabama

Hurts arrived in Tuscaloosa for the 2016 season as 247Sports’ No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in his class. He presented a different mold than Alabama QBs of recent vintage, the Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarrons of the world that might best have been described as glorified game managers. As the phrase “dual-threat” suggests, Hurts was going to cause problems by himself for opposing defenses.

Right from the outset, Hurts was the starter for the Crimson Tide. He ran for nearly a touchdown per game as a freshman and completed more than 60 percent of his passes, and Alabama lost in the national title game to Clemson. But Hurts wasn’t a downfield threat as a passer as a freshman.

Hurts was again a first-stringer as a sophomore, but Tua Tagovailoa was breathing down his neck. When Tagovailoa took over for Hurts and led a comeback to win a national championship, the writing was on the wall for Hurts. While the dual-threat nature of Hurts’ game could still be useful going forward with the Crimson Tide, he wasn’t going to be the passer that put Alabama over the top. That would be Tagovailoa.

The final season Hurts played at Alabama in 2018 was one of occasional cameos rather than full-on dominance. He maxed out at 10 pass attempts in one game, with his single-game high for rushing attempts coming in at five carries. His small-sample stats did suggest an improved passer, with Hurts completing 72.9 percent of his 70 passes, but he announced in January he’d play his final year of college football at Oklahoma.   

Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma

Hurts’ throwing mechanics didn’t magically go from zero to hero upon his arrival on OU’s campus, but the subtle changes were there. His arm path still had more length than might be ideal, but he often got rid of the ball quicker thanks to improved lower-half and hip motion. 

Right from the start, Hurts was a Heisman Trophy contender with the Sooners, and he wound up finishing second to Joe Burrow’s record-setting season. Some made the case that Hurts was just proof that Oklahoma was a system that made its quarterbacks look good. First there was Baker Mayfield, then Kyler Murray and now Hurts.

But both Mayfield and Murray both went first overall in their respective drafts, while Hurts lasted until the second round. There was still a whole lot of tape of Hurts looking more like a runner than a passer, but he showed his small-sample accuracy improvements from the year before weren’t a fluke. Hurts completed 69.7 percent of his passes at Oklahoma and shattered his season-best for passing yards and passing touchdowns. At one point, Bleacher Report noted Hurts was completing more than half his passes 20-plus yards down the field, much better than the 32 percent from his freshman year. 

Playing an LSU defense filled with NFL players in his final college game probably knocked Hurts’ stock the most. He completed less than half his passes in a season-ending loss. 

Still, though, Hurts had made improvements. Whether they amounted to a long NFL career as a starter or a backup, they certainly locked him in to having a quarterback future. And if accuracy, especially down the field, was Hurts’ biggest question mark? The same could have been said for Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, who both have improved as throwers once reaching the pros.

That’s not to say Hurts will turn out as good as Jackson or Allen, but it’s the growth he showed at Oklahoma that presented any hope at all of such an outcome for Hurts.

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Jalen Hurts is a strong contender to become an elite quarterback, especially for a prospect available outside the first round. Hurts was highly successful in his final season at Oklahoma, with a 70% completion percentage, 12.2 adjusted yards per attempt and a PFF passing grade only lower than No. 1 pick Joe Burrow among drafted quarterbacks. You can take issue with his late breakout, but quarterbacks like Russell Wilson have shown it’s possible to turn a late breakout into an elite NFL career.

The combination of Hurts’ extensive history as a starter, eye-popping stats and strong grades led a number of different models to conclude that Hurts had the upside to be an elite quarterback. Our college-to-pro forecasts have Hurts as the second-highest projected quarterback, below only Joe Burrow and above Tua Tagovailoa. Our text-analytics on the 2020 quarterback class, which harnessed years of Dane Brugler’s scouting reports, found that Hurts’ closest comps were Deshaun Watson, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield. Three No. 1 overall picks, a No. 2 overall pick and one of the top three best young quarterbacks in the NFL. 

And it’s not only PFF that sees Hurts with elite-quarterback upside. Football Outsiders’ QBASE model found that Hurts was undervalued at an expected draft position of the late-third round. Developed by Andrew Healy — currently the Browns’ senior personnel strategist — the model now would have Hurts’ projection only below Burrow’s and Herbert’s after accounting for his mid-second-round selection.

It’s not just numbers geeks who see this potential in Hurts. Doug Pederson explained on the Eagles’ post-draft conference call that they see Lamar Jackson as a fair comp for Hurts — and that senior offensive consultant Marty Mornhinweg, who was with the Ravens when they chose Jackson, was influential in the Eagles’ decision to draft Hurts.

The key to understanding the value of adding a quarterback like Hurts is understanding and estimating and the range of outcomes for quarterbacks. I’ve done work with Bayesian updating to incorporate NFL performance into the expectations and confidence we should have in quarterbacks. The numbers for Wentz show that he’ll very likely be at least an average quarterback (92% probability), but less certain he’ll be a top-12 (60%) or top-six quarterback (20%). If you want to sit tight with Wentz assuming that you’ll have above-average performance, that’s a good bet. But average play isn’t the ideal at the position. 

The probabilities table below quantifies with simple math how to think about quarterback range of outcomes and how to view the addition of Hurts as part of finding an elite QB.

Player Top-6 Top-12
Wentz 20.0% 60.0%
Hurts 10.0% 30.0%
Either QB 28.0% 72.0%
% Increase 40.0% 20.0%

If we assume Hurts is half as likely as Wentz to be a top-12 or top-6 quarterback, which is reasonable based on the probabilities in our college-to-pro model and QBASE, adding him to the quarterback room with Wentz raises the chance that the Eagles have a top-6 quarterback to 28% from 20%, or a 40% increase. In terms of finding a top-12 quarterback, the Eagles’ probability with both quarterbacks rises to 72% from 60%, a 20% increase. These increases are well worth the investment of the 53rd pick, which, as we discussed earlier, normally yields a slightly below-average non-quarterback. Top quarterbacks generate 1 to 3 more wins than average quarterbacks according to our WAA metric, whereas the range for the best non-quarterbacks is around 0.3-0.7 wins. 

This strategy of taking more shots at an elite quarterback doesn’t apply equally to every team. If you add Hurts to a player like Patrick Mahomes, he barely increases the chance of having a top-6 or top-12 quarterback.

Player Top-6 Top-12
Mahomes 80.0% 95.0%
Hurts 10.0% 30.0%
Either QB 82.0% 96.5%
% Increase 2.5% 1.6%

The overarching lesson is that you can’t treat having Derek Carr as your quarterback the same way as Lamar Jackson, and you shouldn’t lock yourself into anyone but the truly elite at the position. The best way to raise the ceiling for team performance is to attain an elite quarterback, and more teams should be making moves like the Eagles to increase the chances of having one, even if they’ve spent draft capital and significant cap space on the position. 

The Hurts acquisition gives the Eagles many options for unforeseeable circumstances. If Wentz fails, they have another quarterback with a great chance of success. If Hurts outplays Wentz in practice and they want to make the switch in a year, the Eagles will likely have strong offers for Wentz in a trade and the cap hit for the combination of Hurts’ contract and Wentz’s dead money will be roughly the same as Wentz’s scheduled 2021 cap hit. If Wentz gets injured, they have a potential high-level backup, good enough to give a team with many pieces in place a chance to win the title. 

 

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