Can Jalen Hurd become an NFL Wide Receiver?

Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Jalen Hurd story is well- documented. In case you haven’t kept up with it, it goes something like this:

Hurd is a former 5-star recruit and highest rated high school prospect in Tennessee, who eventually committed to the Vols as a running back. At 6’4 and 215 pounds, Hurd became the Vols leading rusher as a freshman. Starting over Alvin Kamara and John Kelly, Hurd broke out for 1,285 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2015.

Everything seemed to be going right for Hurd until 2016, when he announced that he would be transferring after a particularly rough loss on Halloween to South Carolina. Hurd sat out last season due to his transfer to Baylor.

Now a redshirt senior, Hurd has made a switch to wide receiver as his body type better projects for that position at the next level. Fitting next to a superb athlete at the position in Denzel Mims, the Baylor receiving core suddenly has enticing talent.

Hurd’s Development

Transitioning positions and compiling enough NFL-quality film in one season is no easy task, so Hurd’s development will need to be accelerated. Looking at Baylor's Week 1 matchup against Abilene Christian, Hurd has begun to show signs of advancement.

Hurd’s ability as a runner stems from his time in the Volunteers backfield, and it translates into space on the edge of the formation. Hurd’s shiftiness and contact balance is already showing signs of being lethal in space.

Running this slant route, it’s clear that Hurd has the necessary speed and acceleration for the receiver position. What sticks out about this play is Hurd’s hand placement on the catch. Actively (thumbs together) catching this ball in full stride is tough for most receivers, as it was placed at his stomach height, but Hurd effortlessly pulls it in.

Hurd had an early touchdown reception in the game, and the play was a nice look into his current strengths and weaknesses. In his stance, Hurd’s back leg is too straight and he can’t generate enough power off of it. In order to have a fast stem, he loads his legs and drops his hips on the snap. While it’s effective on this play, these small technique issues would haunt him at the next level as the speed of the game increases, throwing windows condense, and margin for error gets smaller.

Hurd stems the defensive back to the outside, but not at enough of an angle to turn his hips. At the next level, this will likely result in Hurd being contacted in his stem. However, Hurd does an excellent job of stacking the defensive back and maintaining his position as he gets vertical, a key aspect in allowing for clean catchpoints.

Hurd’s body control is evident on this play, as he's able to flawlessly flip his hips and position his frame towards the ball. He does a solid job of extending towards the ball and pulling it in towards his chest away from the defensive back, assuring the catch.

While Hurd is beginning to show flashes of developing as a wide receiver, there will likely be bumps and bruises along the way. Minor technique issues are to be expected, but the major factor in consistent improvement is eliminating making the same mistakes twice. If Jalen Hurd can accomplish this, his athleticism and natural feel for the game could get on NFL team’s radar come draft time.