As the 2020 NFL Draft nears, the Green Bay Packers continue to do their research on prospects, and one position the team has seemingly focused on is quarterback. The Packers have reportedly spoken with several quarterbacks virtually during the last few weeks, and a new name is emerging as a potential option for general manager Brian Gutekunst: Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts.
Hurts, who came from Alabama as a graduate transfer before the 2019 season, has taken a fascinating trajectory towards the NFL. As a true freshman, he led the Crimson Tide to an appearance in the College Football Championship — a loss to DeShaun Watson and Clemson — then did the same as a sophomore but was pulled in favor of Tua Tagovailoa at halftime, down 13-0. Tagovailoa led the Tide to a comeback win, then won the starting job the next year with Hurts serving as his backup.
That led to the transfer to Oklahoma, where Hurts had a stellar senior season and returned to the College Football Playoff. His 69.7% completion rate ranked sixth in the country, while his 11.3 yards per attempt was tops among all quarterbacks. Hurts also finished second in college passer rating at 191.2, behind only Joe Burrow’s 202.0 value, and he added a whopping 1,298 rushing yards and an extra 20 touchdowns on the ground to his 3,851 passing yards and 32 TDs through the air.
Many draft analysts view Hurts as a late day-two pick, with Dane Brugler of The Athletic giving him a 3rd- to 4th-round value. That could put him in the Packers’ sights with their third-round pick, which at #94 overall comes near the end of the round. And with the draft just over a week away, the Packers’ connections to Hurts are growing.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Packers had a formal top-30 meeting set up with Hurts, and have spoken to him virtually after the COVID-19 pandemic forced team facilities to shut down. The Packers have spoken with other QBs, ranging everywhere from expected first-rounders like Tagavailoa to day-three options like James Morgan, but Hurts may be a particular target because of his possible fit in a Matt LaFleur offense.
ESPN’s Matt Bowen broke down the ideal match in a piece published Tuesday morning, expanding on why the Packers’ offense is the best landing spot for Hurts:
While Hurts needs to shorten his release, building out from LaFleur’s zone run/play-action system would allow the Packers to design a future game plan around Hurts’ ability to move. Boot, misdirection, RPOs, and scripted verticals could all be in the mix. Green Bay would be able to show the ball on outside-zone run action and rip throws to the middle of the field. Plus, with Hurts’ ability as a runner, the Packers could use the Oklahoma product on designed run concepts in addition to the second-reaction ability he brings to an offense.
Bowen notes that Hurts would obviously be a backup behind Rodgers to start, but says that the opportunity to develop behind Rodgers would be a great benefit. He adds that the Packers could even feature him in specific packages even with Rodgers around, potentially putting Hurts’ athletic ability to use.
If the Packers find day-one contributors in rounds one and two, a third-round selection on a quarterback would hardly be out of the question. Gutekunst seems willing to consider a quarterback at any point in the draft if the right one falls — remember that the Packers were rumored to have their eyes on Drew Lock, who nearly lasted to the 45th pick in 2019 — and Hurts’ fit
Perhaps an ideal situation would be for the Packers to trade back a few spots from 30, picking up another late third-rounder or early fourth in the process. They might then feel emboldened to make a run at Hurts, knowing that he probably would not help the team in 2020 but would come at only a modest cost.
The athletic ability and play style that Hurts brings looks like a good fit in Green Bay. The team is doing its research on him. And the draft value might be just right.