In what has become a tiresome rite of passage at the NFL Scouting Combine, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts became the latest quarterback to defend his position as he heads to the next level.
“I’ve always been a team-first guy, but I think I’m a quarterback,” Hurts told reporters, via Touchdown Alabama Magazine. “I think that’s that.”
Retire the question, please. Lamar Jackson, who won a Heisman Trophy at Louisville, had to answer it before he slipped to the final pick of the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft. He won the NFL MVP in his second season. That’s that.
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Hurts, meanwhile, improved his NFL Draft stock with a strong showing Thursday at the NFL Combine. The Heisman Trophy finalist ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash — the fastest among quarterbacks in his group. He did not look much different in throwing drills than Oregon’s Justin Herbert or Georgia’s Jake Fromm, who are generally considered the next best first-round prospects behind LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
Hurts’ efforts garnered praise from pundits, and then comparisons to Dak Prescott — a fourth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft who has started every game the past four seasons for the Cowboys — started to perk up.
Hurts experienced the best of both worlds in college at Alabama and Oklahoma. He started in two College Football Playoff championship games for the Crimson Tide. He led a memorable comeback in the SEC championship game.
Then he transferred to Oklahoma, pushed his completion percentage near 70 and piled up enough total yardage and touchdowns to be the third consecutive Heisman-finalist QB under Lincoln Riley. The first two — Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray — won the award and were back-to-back No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft.
Hurts fits the winner description, too. He had a 38-4 record as a starter in college. Yes, he led Playoff bluebloods, but he handled the pressure of playing in both places with uncommon poise.
Can Hurts do the same in the NFL? Didn’t we ask this question about Murray last year? It’s the same question the Saints and other organizations are asking about former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill now. We used to do it with Kordell Stewart. Hurts might be asked to play that slash-type role, but he is more than that. He’s a quarterback.
He also has put in enough work to be more than just a Day 3 pick. There is now a chance Hurts will bump into the second round, especially for a team that is willing to push the mesh point with college and the pros. Arizona did that last year with Murray, and other franchises will follow.
Hurts might not be a starter in the NFL right away, but with the right fit he could get that opportunity soon enough. He answered that question on and off the field in Indianapolis.
He’s a quarterback at the next level.
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