With the Indianapolis Colts trading the #13th overall pick for San Francisco 49ers All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, the team no longer has its best ammunition to lock down a potential franchise quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft.
Anything’s possible, but according to most experts’ mock drafts, the team will be out of range with its pair of second round picks to potentially select Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Utah State’s Jordan Love—unless the team decides to trade up in the second half of the first round (presumably using some combination of picks #34 and #44)—pending one of Herbert or Love actually slides a bit on the board.
It also seems logical to think that had the Colts had clear conviction that one of Herbert or Love was their next franchise quarterback, general manager Chris Ballard may not have traded out of #13 entirely—and risked losing ‘their guy’—especially when potential quarterback needy teams like Miami, Las Vegas, and Jacksonville have picks in the first round right after #13.
Perhaps the Colts simply have better intel than the general public has had regarding either Herbert or Love’s actual sliding stock—and one of those guys could very well end up falling to #34 overall.
However, in any case, the Colts probably are already looking at the top “Tier 2” quarterback prospects, and one intriguing option is Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts.
Having transferred to Oklahoma from Alabama for his senior season, the 6’1”, 222 pound quarterback completed 237 of 340 passes (69.7%) for 3,851 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions in 14 starts—as well as rushed for 1,298 rushing yards on 233 carries (5.6 ypc. avg.), and 20 rushing touchdowns. (He even caught a touchdown on the season too).
With the Sooners in 2019, Hurts became the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year, First-Team All-Big 12 member, a Big 12 Champion, and was the Heisman Trophy Runner-Up.
As a two-year starter for Alabama previously (before losing the starting job to projected Top 10 pick Tua Tagovailoa), Hurts finished his impressive Crimson Tide career—having completed 445 of 707 passes (62.9%) for 5,626 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in 28 starts.
He also rushed for 1,976 rushing yards on 381 carries (5.2 ypc. avg.) and 23 rushing touchdowns with Alabama.
Playing for head coach Nick Saban, Hurts was a National Champion, First-Team All-SEC member, a 2x SEC Champion, SEC Offensive POY, and SEC Freshman of the Year.
Upon further review, here are a few reasons why I really like Hurts for the Colts as a potential developmental quarterback on Day 2:
1. He’s a Winner
Yes, the ghosts of other collegiate ‘winners’ such as Florida’s Tim Tebow or Ohio State’s Troy Smith loom large here at the professional ranks, but Hurts started 42 of 56 career games and went 38-4 as a starter playing against elite competition.
As noted, his feats include winning a National Championship and multiple power conference titles.
Simply stated, Hurts has had one of the more decorated winning careers of any recent top quarterback prospect coming into the NFL Draft.
2. He’s a Leader
When Hurts was benched in 2018 with the Crimson Tide in favor of Tagovailoa, I’m sure that transition couldn’t have been easy, but Hurts handled it with class and was a consummate professional—still supporting Tua and his Alabama teammates.
It’s easy to handle things when everything is going right, but Hurts was dealt with a difficult situation his junior season—when it wasn’t, and turned it into a positive—remaining a leader in the locker room.
That’s nothing new though, as Hurts has demonstrated great poise and demeanor throughout his entire college career:
Jalen Hurts' dad is a football coach. People mock the way "coach's kid" is tossed around as an intangible at NFL draft time, but Hurts has all the qualities that make coaches' kids desirable on a team. Hard worker, dedicated, keeps supporting the team when things don't go his way— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) December 2, 2018
I don't think I've ever seen a college player with as much personal poise and calm as Jalen Hurts.— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) December 7, 2019
3. He’s a Special Athlete
Everyone knew Hurts would post some exceptional NFL Combine measurables—but he may have exceeded even reasonable expectations.
Aside from LSU’s Joe Burrow (who didn’t test), Hurts may be the best athlete in this year’s rookie quarterback class.
Hurts posted a 4.59 forty time, 35.0 inch vertical jump, and 125.0 inch broad jump—the last mark which was tied for the best in his entire quarterback class.
His SPARQ rating (which tests overall athleticism) was in the 95.6% NFL percentile, the highest among the quarterback prospects who tested at the NFL Combine.
From an athleticism perspective, he has drawn some comparisons to Los Angeles Chargers newly appointed starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor as well.
4. He’s a Playmaker
His eye-dropping numbers this season at Oklahoma speak for themselves, but Hurts is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback with his ability to both pass and run at a high level.
Having seen the recent success of the Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes, Baltimore Ravens Lamar Jackson, Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson, and Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray among others, it helps having a quarterback with escapability—who can make big plays on the move:
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma:— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) March 11, 2020
• Unshakable Poise (++)
• “It” Factor/Character
• Ultimate Leader (+)
• Short-to-Intermediate velocity
• Continued growth as a passer (+)
• Off-script creations
• Mobility/Designed run threat pic.twitter.com/68eK2uairj
5. Continued Growth as a Passer
With Hurts, one can easily see some of the strides—and the game-changing throws, as well as some of the occasional mistakes or errant passes.
Admittedly, Hurts needs to work on his timing and anticipation of open throws at times.
As it stands, Hurts holds his own though when comparing his ability to throw into tight windows to the other quarterbacks in this draft class (excluding #1 pick LSU’s Joe Burrow—who’s pristine).
Anyone saying he’s more of a runner than a thrower is probably off-base—but yes, Hurts can certainly do both.
6. The ‘IT’ Factor
No, not Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but Hurts has “IT”, the thing you can feel, but isn’t exactly one thing that you can point to—as it’s a combination of factors: intangibles, leadership, and hard work that have made him highly successful to-date:
Oklahoma has its Pro Day today. I personally think Jalen Hurts will be an absolute stud on the next level. Has that dynamic “it” factor, he’ll outwork the world, lead others to be better, think he’ll work hard to improve, I’m a believer same way i was on Watson, Wentz and Jackson— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) March 11, 2020
Now, according to The Athletic’s Zak Keefer (subscription), we know four qualities that stand out to Colts general manager Chris Ballard when evaluating a quarterback:
“Accuracy, No. 1.”
“I don’t think it is talked about enough, but a fit with what you’re trying to do schematically, offensively, is critically important.”
“I’ve always said they’ve got to have enough escapability, enough feet and accuracy. Those are things you just can’t teach. It’s hard to (find) accuracy. Can you get a little better? Can you get it dramatically better? No.”
Regarding Hurts’ evaluation specifically:
- Accuracy: He’s a 65.1% career passer at both Oklahoma and Alabama, but completed a whopping 69.7% of his throws with the Sooners last season as a full-time starter again.
His overall accuracy is an area that appears to be improving, and PFF had him rated as the third most accurate passer in his draft class according to one metric, but admittedly, it still remains a bit of a work in progress overall.
- Mental Aptitude: This box appears to be safely checked off given his overall intangibles.
- Schematically: We’ve seen how Colts head coach Frank Reich schemed for Jacoby Brissett last season—trying to place the quarterback in his comfort zone and play to his strengths (while mitigating weaknesses), and we also saw it previously with former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (when Reich was their offensive coordinator in 2017—tailoring the offense to him with a number of RPO’s).
I’m sure we’ll see it again with veteran starter Philip Rivers this year (although assuredly, with less RPO’s than we saw with Brissett—and much more of a true pocket passing offense).
- Escapability: Safe to say with Hurts’ mobility, this is another box that can be checked off.
When factoring in that the Colts could select Hurts with say the #44th overall pick (whose stock is rising) and have him sit behind Rivers for a season or two as a developmental quarterback, and it seems like there’s at least a decent chance Hurts is the potential ‘future of the Colts quarterback position’ come late April.
Much like the Ravens watched Jackson improve as a passer under quality coaching and tailored their offensive system around him—en route to his winning of NFL MVP honors, so too could the Colts (although with much more tempered expectations regarding Hurts).
Best case scenario, Hurts has the potential be be a poor man’s Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson—maybe a full-on Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott, and worst case, he could be an elite backup and serviceable starter such as the Chargers’ Tyrod Taylor.
While that floor means the Colts won’t have found their next franchise quarterback, it does mean that they could have a cost controllable, elite backup quarterback for the next few years—which is valuable in itself as Jacoby Brissett has shown in recent seasons—who is likely on his way out going forward with such a high price tag.
When looking at the complete package, Hurts seems like a “Ballard guy” as a potential Colts developmental quarterback given his leadership, exceptional athleticism, mobility, overall intangibles, and continued growth as a passer.
As such, Hurts’ name is definitely one to watch as the NFL Draft quickly approaches.