Admittedly, I’m not a college football guy, nor am I the biggest football guy. So, you may be asking, why is the Hockey Editor writing a column on the NFL Draft?
Well, although I may be a hockey guy at heart, I’m a diehard Patriots fan, and a devoted fantasy football player. When I see a player I like, I want him on my team, which brings me to quarterback Jalen Hurts out of Oklahoma.
Hurts brings plenty of intangibles to the table as he is mentally and physically-tough. By all accounts he has fantastic leadership capabilities, he’s durable, and has the poise to get the job done late in games.
During his time at Alabama, aside from his struggles as a sophomore in the 2018 National Championship against Georgia, Hurts earned the trust of and succeeded under one of the most demanding coaches in all of football in Saban, leading Alabama to a chance at a Natty in 2016-17 as a freshman too.
Although he lost the starting job as a junior to Tua Tagovailoa after Bama’s championship victory over Georgia, Hurts adapted to his new role and stepped up as a commanding off-field leader for the Crimson Tide. Not only that, Hurts, who barely played all season, slotted in and led the team to a comeback victory over Georgia in the 2018 SEC Championship after Tagovailoa went down with injury.
The Houston, T.X. native could have easily thrown in the towel, settling for a backseat role or potentially shouldering a bad attitude, but Hurts took it as an opportunity to prove himself once again.
Upon transferring to Oklahoma for his senior season, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound passer became one of the most intriguing and exciting quarterbacks to watch with far and away his best season as a starter.
Hurts posted career-highs in passing yards (3,851 – over 1,000 yards better than his previous best of 2,780 as a freshman), passing touchdowns (32), passer rating as a starter (191.2), rushing yards (1,298), yards per attempt (6.5), and rushing touchdowns (20) en route to a 12-2 record, a Big 12 Championship, a second place finish in Heisman voting, and a spot in the College Football Playoff..
There’s also the Bill Belichick-Nick Saban connection. With his intangibles, smarts, and competitiveness, I see no reason why Hurts wouldn’t thrive under Belichick, who, like Saban, is also one of the most demanding coaches in football. Belichick and Saban also regularly talk shop during the offseason, apparently, so maybe the quarterback has come up in conversation between the former colleagues.
What I really like about Hurts is his versatility. His mobility allows him to extend plays and make big plays on the move, and he’s able to effectively evade pocket pressure with his athleticism and power. As a passer, Hurts is quality through the air overall, but especially with intermediate passes and while rolling out of the pocket.
Hurts is also able to adapt and do well in different situations as he has experience in a variety of offensive schemes between the Sooners and Bama. With his repertoire of ways he can beat you, by the time he’d be ready to assume the starting role, Hurts could help modernize a Patriots offense that looks to be in need of a jolt in the post-Tom Brady era.
The knocks against the 22-year-old seem to be his decision-making and inconsistency in terms of accuracy with the short and long ball. However, with reps and experience, a player as smart and as mature as Hurts should be able to improve his accuracy over time. In terms of his decision-making, there’s no quick-fix for that, but Belichick has molded (in some way or another) and fielded some of the most intelligent players in the league, from Tom Brady to Matthew Slater, Devin McCourty, and more.
I think Hurts has the potential to be a bargain on Day Two of the draft. Although it’s quite the wide brush. which seems to be the case for the middle rounds of the NFL Draft, Hurts is expected to go anywhere from the second to fourth round. As of right now, New England has seven picks in total between those three rounds – one second, four thirds, and two fourths.
With plenty of opportunities to potentially nab Hurts in these middle rounds, the Patriots could get tremendous value out one of those seven picks if things work out with Hurt. If it doesn’t pan out, so what? The Pats have six other picks to use from the second to fourth rounds, on top of a fifth, four sixths, and a seventh, and you can’t expect them to hit on every single pick. Belichick the GM’s track record certainly shows for that.
Our Brady Gardner came at you yesterday with his take on why Georgia’s Jake Fromm is the Patriots’ best option at QB, and co-director Ethan Fuller is of the mind that James Morgan out of Florida International is the guy they want. Of the three choices – Hurts, Fromm, and Morgan – I’d ultimately be fine if the Pats took either, but Hurts is my top choice of the group.