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Jalen Hurts, Franchise QB

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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There is much to like about Jalen Hurts, his promise and his potential.

Why isn't former Oklahoma and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts more highly regarded ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft?

With consecutive Sooner signal callers Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray being selected number one overall in back-to-back years, Hurts, with similar statistical production and similar team success in Norman, is a larger latest-in-line who isn't receiving nearly the same pre-draft attention. Quite frankly, it's somewhat perplexing. While talented young pro passers Mayfield and Murray have already been effective, Hurts has the potential to be quite the player too. Though his outside prospect projections seem to fluctuate, few quarterbacks, ever, enter the NFL with the resume that Hurts has.

There is much to like about Hurts, his promise and his potential.

Hurts finished his storied college career with 9,477 passing yards and 80 passing touchdowns, 3,274 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns and, stunningly, a 38-4 record as a starter. All four of the teams he played on advanced to the College Football Playoff, with Hurts winning a national championship as a sophomore and leaving the field with the lead in the final after driving his side down for a late go-ahead score as a first-year freshman. Notably, Hurts, with championship rings from the SEC and Big XII, is beloved in both Tuscaloosa and Norman, a testament to his leadership and personality.

Across the board, the numbers are truly astonishing. For point of reference, Hurts has one fewer career touchdown pass than Eli Manning and as many career rushing scores as Bo Jackson. Last year, alone, Hurts ranked second in the country in passer rating, trailing only Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, with a margin 191.2 that still stands as one of the best single season efforts of all-time. Hurts, in his one season at Oklahoma, scored 52 total touchdowns; he added to the work of his high-profile predecessors Mayfield and Murray, now with the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals, respectively.  

The fact that Hurts has excelled in multiple offensive systems, some with considerable professional context, offers more positive affirmation. He completed 63% of his passes at Alabama and 69% of his passes at Oklahoma. Hurts has been efficient with the likes of play-callers Steve Sarkisian, Brian Daboll and Mike Locksley, along with Lincoln Riley and his staff, all of whom are regarded as some of the best offensive minds in the sport. Hurts has proven he can master schemes quite quickly, with far-reaching results to prove it. It goes without saying that Hurts can beat defenses a number of different ways. 

A defining part of the Hurts story is where it has taken place. He was one of college football's best players at two of college football's signature programs. Hurts embraced the expectations at Alabama and Oklahoma alike, thriving in the spotlight that both big stages bring. As he continues to audition for a job at the next level, the fact that Hurts has been so comfortable with such expectations, going all of the way back to his true freshman season, should only add to his prospect profile. For years now, Hurts has excelled through all of the hype.

There is a stoic consistency to Hurts. From program to program, and starter to reserve, he has remained an example to follow. Whether a high-profile newcomer or a heralded returning name, sent to the bench or recalled from it, Hurts, setting a teamwide standard, prepared and performed all the same. His sideline support for Tua Tagovailoa in the national championship three years ago energized and affirmed Alabama; when Hurts entered for Tagovailoa in the following SEC Championship Game, the veteran's impact was just the same. Naturally, confidence and modesty in one, Hurts transitioned to Oklahoma with ease.

Hurts' leadership is renowned. His legacy reflects that.

At 6'1'', 222 pounds, Hurts is an impressive and promising prospect on the field. At the NFL Combine, he recently ran a 4.59 forty yard dash. Hurts has the numbers and the nuance to warrant a high pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. His accuracy, arm strength and athleticism is part of the modern prototype. So much of what Hurts does well reflects the latest trends seen and succeeding in the NFL. He, in multiple ways, following Mayfield and Murray and emerging as one of the latest uber-productive, versatile signal callers in college football, is next up. Simply put, Hurts checks all of the boxes.

There should be more widespread momentum around Hurts entering the stretch run of the pre-draft process. He, by every measure, deserves it. Behind closed doors, however, perhaps there is; don't be surprised if a savvy and opportunistic team selects Hurts well before many prognosticators expect. His talent is clear.   

Long a star quarterback, leading Alabama and Oklahoma, Hurts has earned the chance to be a franchise quarterback next.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports