How much does the NFL Combine matter? Whether you think it’s relevant to actual football or not, it matters a great deal, and a good showing during workouts can significantly bolster a player’s draft stock. The 2020 Combine has been no exception, with multiple players doing themselves big favors.
Here are five players who helped themselves in a big way and may be looking at a higher draft spot than before thanks to their work at the Combine.
5. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Hurts probably won’t go early in the draft, but his NFL Combine performance has probably convinced people that he deserves to be a quarterback. While he ran the fastest 40 of all quarterbacks, the real headline is that he showed real proficiency as a passer and looked the part of a quarterback. That may make him a Day 2 pick, and it should be enough to ensure that he gets a shot at playing quarterback at the next level, which is what he always wanted.
Jalen Hurts has been somewhat overlooked heading into what is considered a loaded quarterback draft, but the former Oklahoma star’s stock is trending in the right direction.
Hurts had a reputation for being an inconsistent passer while in college at Oklahoma and Alabama, but he impressed teams with his throwing ability at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller said Hurts has improved his throwing mechanics so much that he is almost “unrecognizable.”
Hurts is projected to go somewhere in the middle rounds. He’s not considered to be in the top tier with players like Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jacob Eason and Jordan Love, but he could sneak into the second round if he continues to impress over the next two months.
While Hurts was a dual-threat player in college, no NFL teams have asked him to work out at a position other than quarterback. Hurts threw for 3,851 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season and added another 1,298 yards and 20 scores on the ground.
Quarterbacks get drafted much earlier than expected every year, and it would not be a surprise if Hurts becomes the latest to continue that trend.
Lamar Jackson taught teams a valuable lesson at the NFL Scouting Combine when he was coming out of Louisville, and Jalen Hurts may benefit from that this year.
Despite media speculation that some teams may ask Hurts to work out at a position other than quarterback in Indianapolis, Tom Pelissero of NFL reported on Wednesday that Hurts has only been asked to participate in QB drills.
If any team asked Hurts to take part in wide receiver or running back drills, he would likely decline. And after seeing what Jackson was able to accomplish with the Baltimore Ravens last season, why wouldn’t he?
Hurts is not as fast or athletic as Jackson, but he was very much a dual-threat quarterback at Oklahoma last season. He threw for 3,851 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions and added another 1,298 yards and 20 scores on the ground. He’s certainly capable of making plays with his legs, but he was a quarterback all throughout college and won at two of the top programs in the country in Oklahoma and Alabama. There’s no need for him to change positions.
We all know how bad certain talent evaluators looked when they said Jackson would be a wide receiver in the NFL, and Lamar’s MVP season should help put an end to some of that positional change talk for players like Hurts.
K’Lavon Chaisson may have been part of a dominating win over Oklahoma on Saturday, but that does not diminish the LSU linebacker’s respect for Jalen Hurts. Not even close.
In fact, Chaisson on Twitter called Hurts the “most disrespected QB in college football history”.
Hurts took Alabama to the national championship game as a true freshman, then was benched for Tua Tagovailoa in the title game the following year, sat behind Tua as a junior, and then transferred to Oklahoma as a senior and became a Heisman Trophy finalist. Hurts also led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.
Despite all his success and accomplishments, many probably do not view Hurts as elite. He was an excellent college quarterback, but he is not on the level of say Joe Burrow or Kyler Murray, and Bama thought he wasn’t as good as Tagovailoa. But none of that takes away from how well liked Hurts is, including by some of his opponents.
Jalen Hurts posted a dominant performance against a conference foe on Saturday, but he’s not resting on his laurels.
The Oklahoma quarterback posted a picture of himself working out after Saturday’s game with a simple caption: “Starving.”
Hurts threw for 415 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 70 yards and a score despite sitting out the fourth quarter due to the lopsided nature of the Sooners’ 55-16 win over Texas Tech. The only downside of his Saturday performance came in the third quarter when he threw his first interception of the season. His first half was downright dominant, and he continues to establish himself as a major Heisman Trophy contender.
The work ethic Hurts is showing here is just more evidence that the questions that followed him from Alabama are being answered quite authoritatively.
Jalen Hurts continues to silence his critics after another dominant first half for the Oklahoma Sooners.
Hurts put up 308 yards of passing in the first half of Saturday’s game against Texas Tech, and added 60 yards on the ground as well. He put up three total touchdowns.
Some of his best plays weren’t even the scoring ones. Hurts showed off his once-questioned arm strength during the first half on one huge throw.
He also showed off his elusiveness with his legs, at one point deking two defenders so badly that they crashed into each other.
At one point, Hurts had accumulated 239 passing yards on just six completions, good for an average of 34.1 yards per pass.
Hurts may not be the Heisman favorite — Tua Tagovailoa, his former Alabama teammate, will have something to say about that. However, he’s only increasing his chances of being a contender with every dominant week he has.
On a related note, given the success he’s had with so many different quarterbacks, no wonder Lincoln Riley may be so in-demand as an NFL head coach.
The college football season is nearing the quarter mark, and the race for the College Football Playoff is in full swing. So is the race for the Heisman Trophy, with a talented group of players — primarily quarterbacks — who have already put themselves in contention for the sport’s most prestigious individual trophy.
Here are the five players who have distinguished themselves the most in the early going in the Heisman race.
5. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Fields has been every bit as good as the Buckeyes hoped he would be and then some. The Georgia Bulldogs transfer has thrown for 13 touchdowns in his first four games and rushed for six more, and has yet to be intercepted. Fields’ Heisman credentials will really be burnished when he faces better opposition. He hasn’t faced a top 25 opponent yet, but if he can rip apart the likes of Penn State and Wisconsin later in the season, he’s likely to get a more serious look.
4. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
One of the two preseason favorites for the award, Lawrence hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts in 2019. His fifth interception gave him one more than he threw all of last season. The fact that it’s come while facing one real quality opponent is worrisome. Two of those picks game against Georgia Tech, for instance — a team that lost to The Citadel. Clemson doesn’t have another ranked opponent on its schedule for the rest of the regular season, which may prove a hindrance to building hype. That fact may also allow him to pad his stats and restore his preseason momentum, which could help his case.
3. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Hurts looks much better than the quarterback who started for two years at Alabama. Three games into his Oklahoma career, he’s thrown nine touchdowns to no interceptions, and he has two 150-yard rushing games. With 1,253 total yards through just three games, Hurts is dominating. He has tougher tests to come, which will tell us more. Hurts is a known commodity on the rise, though, which could absolutely help him as we get toward the end of the season.
2. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Has anyone exceeded expectations more than Burrow? He’s thrived in LSU’s new offensive scheme, and he looks like one of the nation’s most dominant quarterbacks. He’s completed over 80 percent of his passes, and his touchdown volume is remarkable. He’s already thrown for 17 touchdowns, one more than he had in all of 2018, and he’s limited himself to two picks. He also has the most impressive single-game performance to date of any of the top contenders, going for 471 yards and four touchdowns against a quality opponent in Texas, with a lot of home field advantage working against him. He’s leapfrogged most everyone else at this point, and if this keeps up, he could top Heisman rankings soon.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
It’s simple for Tagovailoa: he was one of the preseason favorites for the award and has done nothing to diminish his status. If anything, he’s enhanced it: 18 total touchdowns, no interceptions, 1,300 yards passing in four dominant games. The caveat applies here too, as his two most difficult games have been Duke and South Carolina, with tougher tests to come. Tagovailoa has shown in the past that he’s up to them, though, and he may be impossible to dislodge after coming up just short a year ago.
Nick Saban spoke with the media on Monday, two days after Alabama’s season-opening 42-3 win over Duke. The Crimson Tide head coach talked about former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts’ successful debut at Oklahoma and sounded genuinely happy for his former QB.
Saban said he did not get to watch Hurts’ game against Houston because he and his staff were busy working, but he heard Hurts played well and is “really happy” for the quarterback.
Oklahoma beat Houston 49-31. Hurts went 20/23 for 332 yards and three touchdowns passing. He rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns.
Hurts was at Alabama’s program for three seasons before leaving for Oklahoma as a graduate transfer. He led the Tide to the national championship game as a true freshman. One of his best moments came when he led Bama to a comeback in the SEC Championship Game last season as the backup to Tua Tagovailoa. That performance made Saban emotional.
Jalen Hurts made his Oklahoma Sooners debut on Sunday during the team’s season-opening game against Houston, and he was impossible to miss.
Hurts had a bright red look on his feet due to the color of tape he used around his ankles and cleats.
Pretty much everyone else for Oklahoma was wearing white cleats or white with some red on them, so Hurts stood out on the field. The shade of red for the tape he used was also much different from the Sooners’ shade of red, causing some annoyance for fans with sports uniform OCD.
Hurts, the senior graduate transfer from Alabama, led Oklahoma to a touchdown on their opening drive. He completed two passes on the opening drive, including the TD pass to Jeremiah Hall. He showcased his legs on his second drive, rushing four times on the possession, which ended with a missed field goal attempt.
Lane Kiffin may no longer be coaching Jalen Hurts, but he still has his former quarterback’s back.
Kiffin was quoted in a story published by The Athletic’s Jason Kersey on Monday regarding Oklahoma’s decision to name Hurts their starting quarterback for the season (Kiffin was Hurts’ offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2016).
The last two Heisman Trophy winners have come from the Sooners’ program, which means Hurts is walking into a great situation. However, there is a belief based on what he did at Alabama that Hurts is not as good of a passer as Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
“Not to sound disrespectful, but I think those questions are ridiculous,” Kiffin told Kersey regarding questions about Hurts as a passer. “For people to ask if he can throw the ball well enough to be efficient … well, look at his freshman year. Coming out of high school, this was not a kid who they had in quarterback camps ever since he was little. This was an old-school quarterback that hadn’t had a ton of coaching. He wasn’t in all those camps and had quarterback coaches his whole life. As a freshman, he had a lot of explosive pass plays.”
Hurts passed for 2,780 yards, 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions as a freshman in 2016. He led Alabama to the championship game, where they lost to Clemson. He threw for 17 touchdowns and just one interception the following season but was benched in the national title game for Tua Tagovailoa, who kept the starting job last year, leading to Hurts’ transfer.
Expecting Hurts to match what Murray and Mayfield did is unrealistic, but maybe there’s more to him than what he was able to show at Alabama the past three years. If anyone can bring the most out of him, it’s probably Oklahoma and Lincoln Riley.