Opinion: Eagles' pick of QB Jalen Hurts puzzled many, but NFL Draft move makes sense for Philadelphia
In one of the most fascinating moves on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles used their second-round pick on Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts.
It’s just a shame that we have to wait so long for the regular season’s arrival and the unveiling of how Doug Pederson and his staff will use the 2019 Heisman Trophy runner-up.
In Hurts, the Eagles secured one of the most intriguing players in the draft.
After transferring from Alabama, where he lost his job to Tua Tagovailoa, Hurts orchestrated a prolific senior season, passing for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns and just eight interceptions while rushing for 1,298 yards and 20 touchdowns.
But the 6-1, 222-pound Hurts had his doubters throughout the pre-draft process. Back in January at the Senior Bowl, numerous NFL talent evaluators, speaking to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity for competitive reasons, raised concerns about his accuracy and expressed doubts that his skill set would translate to the NFL game. They projected him as a mid- to late-round pick.
However, between that week in Mobile, Alabama, and the NFL scouting combine in late February, perceptions began to change. In Indianapolis, Hurts showed improved mechanics and delivery and interviewed well with teams, perceptions about Hurts began to change. In recent weeks, there were rumblings that Hurts could go as high as the second round.
Those predictions came true Friday night as the Eagles used the 53rd overall pick on the Channelview, Texas, native.
Philadelphia’s decision raised eyebrows for a couple of reasons.
- Related to this story
- Article: NFL Draft: OU's CeeDee Lamb falls to 17th overall, but that's not necessarily bad news
- Article: Seeing player and team personnel in their homes was a fun way to view the draft
- Article: NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys pick OU's CeeDee Lamb, follow trend of powerful offenses adding even more punch
- Article: NFL Draft: Sooners' Jalen Hurts taken by the Philadelphia Eagles in second round
- Article: NFL Draft: OU's Neville Gallimore picked by Dallas Cowboys in the third round
First, they're heavily invested in Carson Wentz, whom they drafted second overall in 2016 and just last summer signed to a four-year, $128 million contract extension. Secondly, the Eagles seemingly had more pressing needs, particularly on defense after they used their first-round selection on TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor.
But the Eagles saw Hurts as a piece they had to have. And although it feels like an outside the box type of pick, the selection does make a lot of sense when considering the direction the league seemingly is headed.
If there’s any team that knows about the importance of depth at the quarterback, it’s the Eagles. When Wentz suffered season-ending injuries in both 2017 and '18, Philadelphia turned to Nick Foles. The veteran turned into Super Bowl hero to cap that 2017 campaign and helped get Philadelphia into the playoffs the following year.
Wentz played all 16 games last season, and the Eagles hope that his injury woes are behind him. However, it’s always smart to have quality depth at the most important position.
And don’t be surprised if Pederson finds a way to utilize Hurts even if Wentz is healthy.
Hurts has work to do to become a polished pro quarterback. But even in his current form, he offers an explosive, game-changing element, and Pederson boasts the creative mind to take advantage of Hurts’ gifts.
When discussing Hurts’ potential, some within the league liken him to New Orleans Saints’ Taysom Hill. Sean Payton uses his backup quarterback as Swiss Army knife. In spot work, he takes snaps under center. He also lines up at wide receiver or tight end and can make an impact as a pass catcher. He chips in as a ball-carrier and on special teams.
That’s not to say that Hurts will play an identical role for the Eagles. Leading up to the draft, he was adamant that he saw himself as a quarterback and that he had no desire to switch positions.
The Eagles still could come up with various packages that will allow them to take advantage of the unpredictability that Hurts’ dual-threat capabilities create.
“We’re going to explore,” Pederson told reporters Friday night while discussing the selection.
He mentioned the way the Baltimore Ravens used Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson together in 2018. Pederson stressed, “Jalen is a quarterback. He was drafted as a quarterback first. He has a unique skill set. He's a great runner, he throws well on the run.”
Around the league, the selection drew mixed reviews. There certainly were some who expressed confusion over the Eagles’ decision because they are so heavily invested in Wentz and need full-time contributors. But others liked the move. Hurts certainly proved himself as a winner in college, compiling a 38-4 record, and he boasts a number of appealing intangibles and growth potential.
Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman disagreed with the notion that they had reached on Hurts. They didn’t view the decision as neglecting more pressing positions.
Quarterback is the most important position on the field, Roseman stressed before gushing about Hurts’ abilities.
As the draft dust settles, Pederson and his offensive coaches will determine just how they plan on using their new quarterback along with their incumbent starter.
The NFL is steadily changing. Unfortunately, we have to wait a while before finding out exactly what the Eagles’ new wrinkle entails.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones and listen to the Football Jones podcast on iTunes.