Could Jalen Hurts actually rise up and be a first-round pick?

Oakland Raiders

It will only take one team to hold him in that high a regard, but could Jalen Hurts really become a first-round pick?

The Las Vegas Raiders seem inclined to move on from quarterback Derek Carr as soon as possible, and if they can do so this offseason, they will. Drafting a signal-caller is surely on the radar, and Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required) has reported the Raiders are “very high” on Jalen Hurts and could consider trading down to take him late in the first round.

The second of Las Vegas’ two first-round picks is No. 19 overall, and Jordan Love could be on their radar if he’s available and they stay put there.

But back to Hurts. In his lone season at Oklahoma after leaving Alabama as a grad transfer, he led the Big 12 in passing touchdowns (32) and finished second in the conference (eighth in the country) in passing yards (3,851) while completing 69.7 percent his passes (No. 1 in Big 12, sixth in the country).

Hurts has nailed the pre-draft process to this point, with stellar showings at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Draft Combine. But he has not been regarded as a first-round pick, with former teammate Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Love as the virtual surefire first-rounders. Hurts has been in the second tier of quarterbacks in this year’s draft class, with Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm.

The success he had at two upper-echelon college programs is a big point in Hurts’ corner, and with little NFL coaching to polish his game, his upside is immense. A tendency to hold the ball too long in particular could be a fatal flaw at the next level, but an ideal situation for Hurts would be to sit for a year before stepping in as the starter.

How early Hurts is drafted will partially be dictated by how quickly Tagovailoa, Herbert and Love go off the board. If all three are gone in the first half of the first round, Hurts may quickly be on the radar for teams picking late in that round. It’s hard to see the Raiders taking that leap on him at No. 19, but trading down looks like the move they’ve got in mind anyway.

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Hurts is hardly a surefire first-round pick right now. But he could rise into that conversation, perhaps as teams consider the value of a fifth-year option on him (assuming that stays a part of a new CBA). After all, it will only take one team to see him as worthy of a Day 1 pick for him to get there.

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