The Minnesota Vikings' future at the quarterback position is at a crossroads heading into the 2020 season with Kirk Cousins entering the final year of his contract and a talented group of signal-callers available in this year's draft class.
In our latest installment of potential Vikings quarterback targets, we take a look at Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts, who was caught in a hard-luck situation at Alabama but rebounded to become one of the top passers in the nation for the Sooners.
Why the Vikings should draft Hurts
Hurts has been cast as this year's wild card in the NFL Draft thanks to his elite ability on the ground and a good but at times inconsistent performance in the passing game.
While he's more than an adept passer, he's been unfairly thrown into the same situation that Lamar Jackson was thrust into ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft. Where some people believed he should play another position such as wide receiver, Hurts can hold his own as a quarterback in the NFL.
One of Hurts' best traits is his accuracy with the football. In his four seasons, Hurts posted a 65.1% completion rate, but backed everything up completing 69.7% of his passes during his senior year at Oklahoma. With a steady base, he's usually able to get the ball out quickly, which could work great behind the Vikings offensive line.
Of course, the main attraction for Hurts is (in his words) an ability to "get freaky" in the open field. With 3,274 rushing yards during his college career, Hurts is a threat to defenses that attempt to take away the passing game and with a 6'1", 218-pound frame, he can also barrel it in from goal line or short-yardage situations.
With the added ability to extend plays when they fall apart, Hurts does enough with his arm that he can be an effective dual-threat quarterback in the NFL. While a Jackson comp is unreasonable, Hurts' ceiling could be quite high.
It would be remiss if we didn't talk about Hurts' character as a leader. After losing his starting quarterback job to Tua Tagovailoa in the 2017 National Championship game, Hurts stayed at Alabama for the 2018 season.
Where most players of his caliber would have either transferred or sulked, Hurts stayed ready and came in to lead Alabama to victory in the 2018 SEC Championship Game after Tagovailoa went down with an injury.
That seems like a cliche strength, but after Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, he immediately secured a leadership role and won the job before taking them to a berth in the College Football Playoff. No matter where he plays, it seems like Hurts just does what it takes to lead his team to victory.
Why the Vikings shouldn't draft Hurts
While there is a lot to like about Hurts on and off the field, there is a sense that he's a bit of an unfinished product. Although he put up big numbers with the Crimson Tide, things seemed to sputter at times and eventually cost him his starting job.
Part of the reason for this was a tendency to be reluctant throwing the ball and instead relying too much on his legs. There are times where Hurts puts his eyes down to scramble, which limits the ability to find an open receiver in a scramble drill to turn a short gain or loss into a bigger play.
Hurts also seems to wait until his receivers are completely open to make a throw. While he did a good job getting the ball to his playmakers at Oklahoma, he sometimes became a one-read quarterback, looking at his first read and then charging ahead to make a play.
While progressions seem to be his main Achilles' heel, it's something Hurts can improve on with good coaching. Going under a "whiteboard test" from NFL Network's Steve Mariucci, you can see Hurts understanding a play that was just described to him and understanding the variations and progressions that may occur when it's brought onto the field.
When the Baltimore Ravens took Jackson two years ago, there were plenty of skeptics. After Jackson dominated the NFL and won an MVP award in 2019, it may have opened doors for a quarterback like Hurts.
Hurts entered the draft process projected to be a third- or- fourth-round pick, but it wouldn't be surprising if he shoots up draft boards.
The Vikings should be interested in taking this plunge in the same fashion that the Ravens did with Jackson. Let Hurts learn under Cousins for a year and let him join an offense that already wants to run the ball frequently in 2021.