As the dust begins to settle following last week’s NFL Draft, few selections shocked the football world more than the Philadelphia Eagles decision to draft quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. The move immediately sparked debate to how the Eagles could utilise the former Oklahoma quarterback in their offence and what the pick could mean for Carson Wentz.
There is no doubt that Hurts has the potential to become an impressive NFL quarterback. His collegiate achievements, including a National Championship and finishing runner-up in last year’s Heisman Trophy, speak for themselves. However, much like the Eagles decision to draft him, his college career was not short of surprises.
Before transferring to Oklahoma in his senior year, Hurts spent three seasons at Alabama where he shot to national stardom. As a freshman he managed to lead the Crimson Tide to the National Championship game but narrowly lost to a Clemson team led by present Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson. Despite the loss, he was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year and led Alabama back to the Championship Game the very next season. En route to the final, Hurts was named MVP in the 2018 Sugar Bowl where he exacted his revenge on the Clemson team that defeated him the year before. Despite a successful sophomore year, Hurts was inexplicably benched at half-time during the National Championship Game and was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa, this year’s fifth overall selection. Alabama went on to win the game and announce Tagovailoa as the starter for the next season.
Hurts played sparingly during his junior year but was thrust back into action in the SEC Championship Game following an injury to Tagovailoa. Hurts led Alabama to a come from behind victory but was forced back onto the bench during the National Championship Game which the Crimson Tide lost with Tagovailoa back as the starting quarterback.
In his last year of eligibility, Hurts announced he would be transferring to Oklahoma to play his senior year. The decision turned out better than anybody could have imagined as he set career highs in all major categories including passing yards (3,851), passing touchdowns (32), rushing yards (1,298) and rushing touchdowns (20). Despite falling one game short of the National Championship, his achievements confirmed his abilities as a starting quarterback and cemented his position as one of the draft’s best quarterbacks.
After a rollercoaster college career and being able to overcome the adversity he faced, what is the big deal with the Eagles selecting him, especially considering he was a day two pick? Two words: Carson Wentz.
As the franchise quarterback for Eagles, Wentz’s tenure in the NFL has been equally as turbulent as Hurts’ college career. After sending a plethora of draft picks, including two first rounders, to acquire Wentz second overall back in 2016, he has performed at MVP level at times while also failing to finish two out of the last four seasons due to serious injuries. The injuries have unfortunately become a regular feature throughout his career including missing the Eagles Super Bowl victory in 2018 due to a torn ACL. Luckily for the Eagles, backup Nick Foles was on hand to deliver the franchise their first ever Super Bowl after being named the game’s MVP. Foles was again called upon during the following season after Wentz suffered a severe back injury but the Eagles were knocked out of the playoffs in the divisional round.
The Eagles always stood by Wentz despite Foles’ success and let the latter leave for the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to the start of last season. Wentz played admirably throughout the season despite his wide receiving group being plagued by injuries and led the team to a four-game winning streak at the end of the season to clinch a playoff spot. Unfortunately, injuries once again hit Wentz as he was knocked out of the wild-card matchup against Seattle following a dubious hit to the back of the helmet by Jadeveon Clowney. Despite the best efforts of 40-year-old backup Josh McCown, the Eagles suffered another playoff defeat with Wentz on the side-lines.
At just 27 years old, Wentz still has plenty of years ahead of him as long as his body manages to hold up. After signing a huge $128 million contract extension last season, the Eagles appeared all-in on their quarterback and were expected to be targeting weapons for him in the early rounds of the draft. After narrowly missing out on highly touted wide receiver CeeDee Lamb to the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles selected TCU’s Jalen Reagor to provide their receiving group with some much-needed speed.
Analysts and fans both expected the Eagles to perhaps double up on the wide receiver position and spend their second-round pick on players such as Baylor’s Denzel Mims or even Van Jefferson from Florida. The Eagles of course, stunned the world and selected a quarterback by the name of Jalen Hurts.
The selection of Hurts was not the only draft pick that caused controversy as the Green Bay Packers spent their first-round pick on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love immediately casting doubt over the future of their future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Although it was certainly a surprise, the move is justifiable as Rodgers’ form has wavered in the last few years and he will be turning 37 during next season. Whereas Love is expected to watch from the side-lines over the next few seasons until Rodgers moves on or hangs up the cleats, Wentz is tied into a long-term contract with his best years still ahead. The selection of Hurts has left many wondering what exactly the Eagles have in mind for him when it comes time for him to put on the midnight green?
It seems as though for the immediate future Hurts will remain as a quarterback rather than change position like some have suggested but will have the opportunity to see the field immediately in certain situations. Much like the way the New Orleans Saints deploy gadget player Taysom Hill, the Eagles are reportedly attempting to replicate similar packages but “on steroids” (Yahoo Sports). With the Eagles expected to be over the salary cap for the 2021 season, the team is in win-now mode as they will be unlikely to retain all of their core players. With that in mind, this year’s draft cohort become all the more valuable especially those taken in the early rounds. The selection of Jalen Hurts becomes all the more confusing when there were likely players on their draft board who could have an immediate impact opposed to featuring in a handful of plays.
The Eagles have of course completely backed Wentz and have claimed to be a quarterback factory set on developing players. They understand the importance of having a capable backup more than anybody so you can somewhat forgive the Eagles pick especially when considering Wentz’s injury history. However, there is no way drafting a quarterback in the second round could not have hurt Wentz.
Quarterback competition can be healthy for any team and it remains to be seen if Hurts’ collegiate success can carry over into the NFL. Regardless of the transition, Wentz will want to start the season hot as he now has a legitimate threat waiting in the wings to takeover his job. Although this may be unlikely to happen in the next couple of years, the intent shown by the Eagles to add starting calibre quarterbacks to the roster must give him cause for concern. With such a demanding fanbase and a team built to compete for another championship, Wentz now has a reason to start looking over his shoulder if things do not go according to plan.