Separation Quickness – Necessary athleticism and smooth cuts in order to separate. At his best at horizontal cuts and working to use his size and length over the middle. For his lack of experience at wide receiver, his ability to accelerate on those horizontal breaks is encouraging to the projection of his route running as a whole.
Ball Skills – Natural hands and extension at the catchpoint. Seemingly a smooth transition of positions because of his easy ball skills. Adjusts to off-target throws with ease with the refined hand usage of a seasoned veteran, but at his best when asked to high-point passes and extend over his head. His ball skills and hands are another impressive aspect considering the lack of experience at the position, as he suffered from few drops on the season.
Speed/Burst – Smooth runner with speed stemming from his days as a running back. Change of direction is solid, but doesn’t have elite vertical burst. Better long speed than explosiveness, but can really build up and hit a top gear.
Route-Running – An area where Hurd is still developing is his technical savvy as a route runner. He has an innate ability to stack defensive backs, which is an advanced aspect in his route running. However, his stance and start needs refinement, as he takes time to load his legs and get into his route. There are technique issues in his stem as well, as he can open his chest and raise his shoulders before his breaks. With his vertical and horizontal cuts, there is potential. However, the key to unlocking his ceiling in this regard will be cleaning up his technique before his breaks, which could come with more experience at the position. Operating against a lot of zone coverages has given him proper experience finding windows over the middle, which projects to be a plus in his game.
Contested Catch – While not asked to perform in many contested catches as a receiver, he has shown potential in the limited number of reps. From his first game in a Baylor uniform, he showed the high point traits and ability to win through contact. With his long, strong frame and natural ball skills, he could become a high point stud. The necessary body control to flip his hips and position his frame accordingly to the path of the football is there to consistently win contested spots.
YAC – Thrives in space, setting up blocks and gliding past them. Speed to turn the edge and get up the sideline in a hurry. Has the field vision to avoid potential tacklers and pick up yards in small spaces. Contact balance from his days as a running back is strong, especially when operating against defensive backs. Flawlessly transitions from receiver to runner. Size, speed and strength all necessary to translate as a ball carrier to the next level.
Releases – With the majority of his reps coming from the slot against Big 12 defenses, his ability on releases has rarely been seen. January’s Senior Bowl will be a major test for Hurd to get off of press coverage, especially in 1 on 1 drills. With his lack of experience facing press coverage in game action, it’s likely to be an area where he initially struggles. However, he possesses the near perfect frame to be able to dominate in this area, with his combination of size and long arms.
Blocking – A lot of high effort in this regard, showing proper burst and energy. There are a lot of raw tools to work with in this area, but it is also an aspect to his game that needs refinement. Too often, Hurd doesn’t break down and buzz his feet while working into blocks. Rather, he attempts to launch his shoulder in defensive backs, often to minimal success. Once again, better technique could come with experience as he has the natural tools to be dominant in this area as well.
Competitive Toughness – There is little doubt that Hurd is a tough, hard-working player. Going through a position change and playing at a new school, Hurd did everything Baylor asked of him this season. This included playing running back and taking shots when needed, despite the fact that he moved to receiver to prolong his future playing career with less wear and tear on his body. Works hard on the field, fighting and producing even in the waning moments of clear losses.
Athleticism/Size – There are few wide receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft with a better combination of physical profile and raw athleticism than Jalen Hurd. At 6’4 and 229 pounds with length in his arms, he is built similarly to Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A former high school all-american and productive SEC running back, Hurd easily possesses NFL athleticism and will likely prove so at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine.
BEST TRAIT – Athleticism / YAC
WORST TRAIT – Stalk blocking technique
RED FLAGS – Was arrested at Tennessee for underage consumption of alcohol
With a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, it feels like an NFL team will fall in love with Hurd’s ability and take him in the middle rounds. Few prospects have changed positions as seamlessly as Hurd, and he fits the mold of an NFL wide receiver on a physical profile and athleticism basis. The natural tools that he has showed on his tape in his lone season as a wide receiver, and could reach new heights in the NFL.
As far as usage in the NFL goes, Cordarrelle Patterson’s season in New England is the place to start. With the ability to be used as a running back in a pinch, and thrive on outside zone and sweep concepts, Hurd can help a team’s running game. However, with a developing game as a wide receiver, he projects as a “big slot” who can win either up the seam or on the edge in space.