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Is Hurts the biggest sleeper in the 2020 NFL Draft?

Sportsnaut logo Sportsnaut 1/24/2020 Jesse Reed, Sportsnaut
a baseball player holding a bat © Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Hurts might just be the biggest sleeper in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The skinny: Hurts led College Football Playoff teams at both Alabama and Oklahoma and put up jaw-dropping stats along the way. Yet, he is not mentioned as a top quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The player: Hurts burst onto the national scene as a true freshman, putting up a historic season in 2016. From there, he continued to lead winning teams and was among the most dangerous playmakers in college football, four years running.

  • 2016: 3,734 yards and 36 touchdowns from scrimmage.
  • 2017: 2,935 yards and 25 touchdowns from scrimmage.
  • 2018: 948 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage (as backup to Tua Tagovailoa).
  • 2019: 5,174 yards and 53 touchdowns from scrimmage.

Hurts threw just 20 interceptions in 56 games and displayed impressive decision-making throughout his time in college. He’s been accurate throughout his four-year collegiate career (65.1%). He also has the type of electric dual-threat abilities that are becoming more common in the NFL as more teams lean into the spread offense.

The one alarming thing was that he fumbled the ball 25 times and lost 14 fumbles during his four years in college.

The narrative: Overwhelmingly, Hurts is viewed as a tremendous college quarterback who will probably not be able to replicate that success in the NFL.

Consider this damning quote from ESPN’s Todd McShay: “I see Hurts as a Day 3 prospect right now, and a few people I’ve talked to around the league agree. Actually, I think the third round could be his ceiling.”

The competition: The guys who are being talked about as first-round quarterbacks are all splendid prospects with outstanding potential.

  • Joe Burrow: Heisman winner and breaker of many CFB records, will probably go No. 1 overall.
  • Tua Tagovailoa: One of the most exciting pure passers to come out of college in a while, Tagovailoa is going to be a top-half selection despite a season-ending hip injury suffered in November.
  • Justin Herbert: Herbert has been getting rave reviews at the Senior Bowl and showed off his NFL-caliber arm every week during his tenure with the Oregon Ducks.
  • Jordan Love: Utah State’s star displays tantalizing skills and slayed it during the 2019 season. The big question is whether he’s a one-year wonder or a rising star.
  • Jacob Eason: A big-armed pocket passer, Eason has been mentioned as a fringe first-round pick despite some alarming inconsistency during his collegiate career at Georgia and Washington.
  • Jake Fromm: The reason Eason transferred to Washington is that Fromm took the starting job at Georgia. This kid can sling it, for sure. But like Eason, questions persist about his ability to consistently make the right decisions.

Big boards across the nation have these six quarterbacks sitting higher in the rankings than Hurts.

That may be a mistake. Here’s why.

The X-factor: When looking for a young man to lead your franchise, talent isn’t the end-all, be-all. You have to find a kid with outstanding character, leadership qualities and a level of focus that’s uncommon in the general population.

Hurts has these qualities, and then some.

  • Consider how he reacted to his poor performance after Oklahoma lost to LSU in blowout fashion last month.
  • The class this young man showed when he lost his starting job to Tagovailoa at Alabama was impressive.
  • His teammates respect the heck out of him.
  • His coaches laud him at every turn.

Hurts has the “it” teams need.

Who could possibly forget about his SEC Championship Game performance following the 2018 season against Georgia? Taking over for an injured Tagovailoa, Hurts led an incredible comeback win to improve to 13-0 and secure a spot in the playoff.

Even now, Tagovailoa is standing out among his peers as they prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft.

The bottom line: Sleep on Hurts as a potential NFL superstar at your own risk. He’s a fiery competitor who has succeeded at the highest level of competition during his college days. And he’s absolutely determined to be a quarterback at the next level.

If this kid ends up falling into the bottom half of the 2020 NFL Draft, all it’s going to do is make the gigantic chip on his shoulder double in size.

When it’s all said and done, some team is going to land an incredible bargain, if not the steal of the decade.

Related slideshow: The 25 best college football teams of the 2010s (Provided by Yardbarker)

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