It’s clear that the Eagles never got over waiting too long and missing out on Russell Wilson in the 2012 draft, even though they ended up that year drafting Nick Foles, who eventually won the only Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.
If Jalen Hurts turns out to be Russell Wilson, then this is a good pick, but if Hurts does that as an Eagle, it will mean Howie Roseman’s signature move as a general manager, the trade-ups to draft Carson Wentz in 2016, will go down as a gigantic waste. The front office sees taking Hurts 53rd overall as exercising an abundance of caution. I see it as undercutting the quarterback you have been working to establish as your team leader and the future of your franchise. Maybe it’s both.
The Philly vibes around Wentz haven’t really been good since his 2017 knee injury and the Foles-led playoff run to the Super Bowl. When Wentz stayed healthy through 16 games last year, and pretty much willed the team to the playoffs surrounded by practice squad guys, I thought he might have gotten this perception problem straightened out. Then came the Seattle playoff game, the Jadeveon Clowney hit, and the game-ending concussion.
It would be an exaggeration to say that by taking Hurts in the second round, the brain trust has jumped off the Wentz Wagon in mid-journey, but it certainly has slid one foot toward the edge of the buckboard. Every game in which Wentz is less than perfect, and Hurts comes in for a Taysom Hill-like first-down run or rollout pass, the next day will be Christmas for Philly sports talk radio. This is a situation the Eagles desperately wanted to get out of toward the end of the Foles era. Now they’ve pushed “restart.”
Then there is Wentz’s perspective on this, not what he’s going to say publicly, but what he has to be thinking and feeling. They’ve set him up for a bonanza of second-guessing while failing to use the second of their only two draft picks in this year’s top 100 selections for anything that will help him lead the team to another Super Bowl.
The Eagles can soft-pedal it all they want, but if they are right about Hurts’ potential, they have started the clock on Wentz’s eventual departure, while asking him to lead the locker room and win them a Super Bowl in the interim. If they’re wrong, they’ve wasted a second-round pick on something that will only cause discord. This just doesn’t seem destined to end well.
Setting aside however good Jalen Hurts could be as a player, the most dubious aspect of this pick is how adamant Howie Roseman was after the first round about holding onto his draft capital. The Eagles presumably hoarded their second-round pick instead of trading up for CeeDee Lamb the night before using their most valuable pick on Day 2 to take a backup quarterback.
Hurts’ development at Oklahoma was noteworthy, and he’s done a lot of winning in college football. He’s a true dual-threat quarterback and should be a capable playmaker pretty quickly. It was still a little early in the draft for him to go, though.
If Hurts becomes what the Eagles hope, they will have a quarterback controversy. They might view it as a win-win, but this is a win-win in the same way that you “win” if you’ve got great car insurance when you hit your mailbox on the way out of your driveway.
If Wentz is who the Eagles hope he is, Hurts will be a gadget player whom they might be able to trade for a pick down the road. If that’s the case, there were certainly players with more value down the line. LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton could have battled for a Day 1 starting job. He went eight picks later. Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims, who had an impressive Senior Bowl, went six picks later.
While teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos did everything they could to surround their young quarterbacks with as much firepower as possible, the Eagles ceded the chance to help Wentz, and instead created a potentially troublesome dynamic in their locker room.
I can’t really question the evaluation. On talent and character alone, the second-round selection doesn’t appear to be that great of a stretch. Hurts has obvious tools. He has a solid arm, good footwork, and can make many throws. His athleticism is an added bonus. He was a winner at both Alabama and Oklahoma, although he certainly benefited from the strength of the programs.
But accuracy was an issue, as was reading defenses, and he struggled with pro concepts. There was a considerable projection that the Eagles had to make in whether Hurts could adapt to the NFL. They can certainly limit the offense if he ever needs to jump in for Carson Wentz in his rookie season, but there are many scouts and analysts who feel he needs significant time to develop.
If the Eagles had drafted Hurts in the fourth round, it would have made more sense. But the second round is a lot for a backup, who won’t likely be the backup in his rookie season, and more importantly, a lot when you take into account the Eagles’ other needs.
The Eagles’ argument is that they value the quarterback more than other teams and that it has paid off in dividends. There is an obvious truth to that. But they’ve had as many misses as hits in quarterback evaluation and development. They can’t be given the benefit of doubt simply because Nick Foles had a miracle run in place of Wentz.
My biggest problem with the pick, though, is that it came just one year after you gave your then-26-year-old quarterback a franchise contract extension. As I wrote the other day, the Hurts pick was unprecedented -- in relation to Wentz -- in the NFL’s salary cap era. Wentz’s injury history can’t be ignored. But would Hurts really have been the difference in last year’s playoff loss had he replaced Wentz rather than Josh McCown? Maybe in four years? That argument lacks teeth.
I get that the schedule is increasing to 17 games in 2021. I understand the value of the position. But I wouldn’t have messed with Wentz. He’s entering what should be his prime years. You should be expending your draft capital on weapons to help him succeed on offense. Jalen Reagor was a fine pick. The Eagles took some later-round gambles at receiver. And they even traded for Marquise Goodwin. But did they acquire any receiver this offseason they can honestly hang their hats on?
The answer is no. That doesn’t mean Reagor won’t have an impact as a rookie. Or that Goodwin will stay healthy. And the Eagles still have DeSean Jackson, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, and maybe Alshon Jeffery. But that’s a lot of wishing and hoping.
I lied. I wasn’t brief.
I always feel uneasy when I agree with my longtime friend and colleague Marcus Hayes. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often.
But we’re both on the same side of the Jalen Hurts argument.
I’m astounded that many Eagles fans are panning the second-round selection of the dual-threat quarterback.
Did 2017 not convince any of you of the absolute importance of having a legitimate backup quarterback?
Carson Wentz is a talented quarterback. But the fact of the matter is, he’s played a total of nine snaps in the Eagles’ six playoff games over the last three years. Nine freaking snaps.
Sure, they could have gone out and signed somebody like Joe Flacco or brought back 40-year-old Josh McCown and hoped his hamstring stayed in once piece, or just rolled the dice with Nate Sudfeld.
And sure, they could have used the 53rd pick in the draft on an edge rusher like A.J. Epenesa or Josh Uche or doubled-down at wide receiver and taken Denzel Mims or Van Jefferson. And maybe a couple of those guys will turn out to be terrific players or maybe they’ll all be busts.
But the Eagles took Hurts, a versatile player with a strong arm and 4.5 speed who threw and ran for 5,200 yards and 52 touchdowns last season and whose teammates in two top-of-the-line college programs absolutely loved.
They took him because Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs was absolutely right when he said the most important player on a football team is the starting quarterback and the second most important player is his backup. They took him in the second round because he wouldn’t have been there for them in the third. At least one team, the Baltimore Ravens, was poised to take him with its third-round pick (No. 71).
To the people who are worried about the effect drafting Hurts is going to have on Carson Wentz’s psyche, to the people who think it makes no sense to draft a quarterback in the second round after you just gave Wentz a mega-bucks contract, a couple of things.
Wentz probably will get occasionally annoyed by questions about Hurts because certainly no one ever was going to ask him whether he was looking over his shoulder at Sudfeld, or what he thought of the coaches designing packages for Nate, which they almost certainly are going to do for the versatile Hurts.
But Wentz is a big boy. He’s dealt with a lot in his four years with the Eagles and I’m pretty sure he won’t wilt from the prospect of competition from a rookie quarterback. Frankly, I think disrupting his comfort level a little will make him a better player.
As for the $128 million contract Wentz signed last June, while it includes $107 million in guarantees, only $66 million was guaranteed at signing. The other $41 million are rolling guarantees that won’t be completely guaranteed until after the 2022 season.