NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. says Jalen Hurts likely to be drafted in second round
The NFL Draft is just over a week away, and Jalen Hurts’ name is getting "hot."
In his latest mock draft, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Hurts going to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round with the No. 49 overall pick.
The New England Patriots are another possibility if they trade down to get a second round pick, Kiper told The Oklahoman. But no matter what team Hurts gets drafted by, Kiper is confident about when Hurts will get taken.
“I've been told he will not get out of round two,” Kiper said.
Just last week, Kiper wrote that Hurts’ wasn’t likely to go earlier than the late second round. Kiper also suggested teams that would possibly take the OU quarterback in the third round. But now, Kiper is hearing Hurts’ name come up more as a second round pick.
There are a couple of reasons for Hurts’ recent rise, according to Kiper.
The first thing is Hurts’ athletic ability. He made improvements in certain parts of his passing game in his season under Lincoln Riley’s offense. He can run the ball well and is a versatile player. The Heisman finalist had 3,851 passing yards and 32 passing touchdowns along with 1,298 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns in his season at OU.
Hurts also performed well at the NFL Combine. He threw the ball well in drills and ran a 4.59 second 40-yard dash.
“It's having a great year, then being able to have momentum through the process, and that was at the combined,” Kiper told The Oklahoman. “...I think certainly being able to be healthy through this and there's no injury concern with him. We know he's a great kid. We know what he's meant to two elite programs and the winner that he is. All those things.”
The second thing Kiper noted was that a path for quarterbacks like Hurts has already been laid out by current NFL quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Taysom Hill.
Before Jackson was the NFL’s most valuable player, people also questioned his ability as a passer and whether he could be a quarterback. Kiper pointed to Hill who went undrafted out of BYU but has found success and “may be the heir-apparent to Drew Brees.”
Both Jackson and Hill played in designed packages. Jackson started out in packages behind Joe Flacco, and Hill gets in packages behind Brees.
There are questions about Hurts’ accuracy and his ability to see the field and go through progressions. But Kiper sees Hurts being used in a role similar to Jackson and Hill.
“It's a copycat league,” Kiper said. “Teams see a trend developing. They see the success of two quarterbacks that people questioned their passing and now look at what they are, that you have packages, as I said, for them as rookies. So if (Hurts is) playing behind Big Ben, say, you can have packages just for him.”
Whether it’s with the Steelers, Patriots or another team, Kiper has Hurts getting drafted by the end of the second round with a clear path forward in the NFL.
“As a rookie Jalen Hurts will be able to play,” Kiper said. “He'll get on the field. He'll be in packages. He'll give defensive coordinators something to worry about. And he'll have value as a rookie.”