The Philadelphia Eagles selected Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night, a stunning move for a team with more pressing needs.
Philadelphia hoped it filled a big void in the first round, taking TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor with the 21st overall pick. But the team passed on other receivers and defensive players to add Hurts at No 53.
"Quarterback is the most important position in sports," Eagles executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman said. "We have shown how we feel about Carson by our actions, by the amount of picks we put into him, and we showed it by the contract extension. We believe this is the guy to lead us to our next Super Bowl championship. But for better or worse, we are quarterback developers. We want to be a quarterback factory."
Hurts transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma and became a Heisman Trophy finalist last year when he threw for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns.
“The opportunity to go there, be part of the organisation, it’s surreal,” Hurts said about playing in Philadelphia. “It’s an opportunity to grow, learn and be the best quarterback I can be. I’m ready to go to work. I’ve always been about the grind.”
Hurts will provide insurance for Carson Wentz, who started 16 games last season and led the Eagles to the NFC East title but was knocked out of a wild-card playoff loss to Seattle with a concussion.
Wentz, the No 2 overall pick in 2016, helped Philadelphia secure the NFC's No 1 seed in his sophomore season but tore two knee ligaments and watched Nick Foles lead the Eagles to the franchise's first Super Bowl title. Wentz injured his back in 2018 and Foles stepped in again and led the team to a playoff win.
Roseman said he spoke with Wentz about picking Hurts earlier in the day. Wentz, who finished third in NFL MVP voting in 2017, signed a $137m contract extension last season.
“We think Carson is a phenomenal player and nobody is going to be looking at a rookie quarterback taking over for a Pro Bowl quarterback who was on the cusp of being an MVP,” Roseman said.
Hurts, 6ft 1in and 218lbs, led two elite programs to the College Football Playoffs and put up big numbers both passing and rushing. His passing accuracy and consistency were the biggest questions entering the draft.
Hurts went was 38-4 as a starter, including 26-2 for the Crimson Tide and was the Southeastern Conference player of the year as a freshman. Then he was benched at halftime of the national championship game against Georgia, with Tua Tagovailoa leading the comeback victory and ultimately winning the starting job for the 2018 season.
While only one quarterback, Hurts, was taken in the second round of the NFL draft Friday, the guys who haul in passes were everywhere.
Starting with the top two selections on day two – Clemson's Tee Higgins to Cincinnati and Southern California's Michael Pittman to Indianapolis – seven wideouts were drafted. Add that to the six who went in the opening session, and it set an NFL record through two rounds.
The NFL these days is built on passing offenses. This draft is loaded with outstanding pass catchers. Many teams had both Higgins and Pittman rated as top-32 talent.
So the Cincinnati Bengals held firm atop the second round by grabbing Higgins to catch Joe Burrow’s passes. The pair worked out together heading toward the draft.
And Higgins idolises Bengals star receiver AJ Green. “I actually model my game after him,” Higgins said. “Man, it’s crazy. I was just talking about this to my good friend – I could end up with the Bengals and be his teammate one day. Now that this moment is here, it’s surreal.”
In addition to finding what they hope will be their franchise quarterback in LSU’s Burrow with the first overall pick, the Bengals (2-14 last season) added a threat who can make the spectacular reception.
Pittman takes his 6ft 4in, 224lb frame to Indianapolis. The Colts had no first-rounder, and they quickly gave new quarterback Philip Rivers a target in Pittman, whose father also played in the NFL.
“I think they brought me in to make an impact right now and they have Philip Rivers, who I think is a Hall of Famer,” Pittman said. “I’m happy I get to start with like a Hall of Fame quarterback.”
Two positions barely or not addressed at all in the first round got some attention directly after Higgins and Pittman were selected. Georgia’s D’Andre Swift became the second running back chosen, by Detroit. LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the only RB who went in the opening round, last to Super Bowl champions Kansas City.
Swift is a dynamic playmaker unlike anyone the Lions have had in the backfield in years – maybe since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who retired in 1998.
Four more running backs went in the round. Safety was ignored on Thursday, but immediately was addressed by the Giants in round two with Alabama’s Xavier McKinney. New York’s secondary has been a sieve.
"He also has that ability to be a quarterback on the back end, a signal caller for the defense," coach Joe Judge said. "He fits the mold of a smart, tough, fundamentally sound guy we are looking to build with."
New England finally surfaced with the 37th overall spot after trading out of the first round. Coach Bill Belichick was nowhere in sight – his dog appeared to be manning his laptop – as the Patriots chose Kyle Dugger, a safety from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. Dugger not only was the first player not in FBS to be selected, but only the second from a non-Power Five conference. Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, who went 26th overall to Green Bay, was the other.
After a record 15 of the 32 players in the first round came from the Southeastern Conference, another 10 SEC players came off the board in round two. And that’s not including Hurts, who transferred to the Big 12 for his final season.
Other teams making their initial selections Friday night saw:
- TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock going to Houston
- Chicago adding a 10th tight end to its roster in Cole Kmet of Notre Dame
- Another Irish player, wideout Chase Claypool, a Canadian, to Pittsburgh
- Florida State's Cam Akers to the Rams, who had released their standout running back, Todd Gurley last month, with Gurley surfacing in Atlanta
- Buffalo adding to an already solid defense with Iowa end AJ Epenesa, one of the Big Ten’s outstanding defenders
33. Cincinnati, Tee Higgins, wr, Clemson
34. Indianapolis (from Washington), Michael Pittman Jr, rb, Southern Cal
35. Detroit, D’Andre Swift, rb, Georgia
36. NY Giants, Xavier McKinney, s, Alabama
37. New England (from LA Chargers), Kyle Dugger, s, Lenoir-Rhyne
38. Carolina, Yetur Gross-Matos, de, Penn State
39. Miami, Robert Hunt, ot, Louisiana-Lafayette
40. Houston (from Arizona), Ross Blacklock, dt, TCU
41. Indianapolis (from Cleveland), Jonathan Taylor, rb, Wisconsin
42. Jacksonville, Laviska Shenault Jr., wr, Colorado
43. Chicago (from Las Vegas), Cole Kmet, te, Notre Dame
44. Cleveland (from Indianapolis), Grant Delpit, s, LSU
45. Tampa Bay, Antoine Winfield Jr, s, Minnesota
46. Denver, KJ Hamler, wr, Penn State
47. Atlanta, Marlon Davidson, de, Auburn
48. Seattle (from NY Jets), Darrell Taylor, de, Tennessee
49. Pittsburgh, Chase Claypool, wr, Notre Dame
50. Chicago, Jaylon Johnson, cb, Utah
51. Dallas, Trevon Diggs, cb, Alabama
52. LA Rams, Cam Akers, rb, Florida State
53. Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts, qb, Oklahoma
54. Buffalo, AJ Epenesa, de, Iowa
55. Baltimore (from New England via Atlanta), JK Dobbins, rb, Ohio State
56. Miami (from New Orleans), Raekwon Davis, dt, Alabama
57. LA Rams (from Houston), Van Jefferson, wr, Florida
58. Minnesota, Ezra Cleveland, ot, Boise State
59. NY Jets (from Seattle), Denzel Mims, wr, Baylor
60. New England (from Baltimore), Josh Uche, lb, Michigan
61. Tennessee, Kristian Fulton, cb, LSU
62. Green Bay, AJ Dillon, rb, Boston College
63. Kansas City (from San Francisco), Willie Gay Jr, lb, Mississippi State
64. Carolina (from Kansas City via Seattle), Jeremy Chinn, s, Southern Illinois
65. Cincinnati, Logan Wilson, lb, Wyoming
66. Washington, Antonio Gibson, wr, Memphis
67. Detroit, Julian Okwara, de, Notre Dame
68. NY Jets (from NY Giants), Ashtyn Davis, s, California
69. Seattle (from Carolina), Damien Lewis, g, LSU
70. Miami, Brandon Jones, s, Texas
71. Baltimore (from LA Chargers via New England), Justin Madubuike, dt, Texas A&M
72. Arizona, Josh Jones, ot, Houston
73. Jacksonville, DaVon Hamilton, dt, Ohio State
74. New Orleans (from Cleveland), Zack Baun, lb, Wisconsin
75. Detroit (from Indianapolis), Jonah Jackson, g, Ohio State
76. Tampa Bay, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, rb, Vanderbilt
77. Denver, Michael Ojemudia, cb, Iowa
78. Atlanta, Matt Hennessy, c, Temple
79. NY Jets, Jabari Zuniga, de, Florida
80. Las Vegas, Lynn Bowden Jr, wr, Kentucky
81. Las Vegas (from Chicago), Bryan Edwards, wr, South Carolina
82. Dallas, Neville Gallimore, dt, Oklahoma
83. Denver (from Pittsburgh), Lloyd Cushenberry, c, LSU
84. LA Rams, Terrell Lewis, de, Alabama
85. Indianapolis (from Philadelphia via Detroit), Julian Blackmon, s, Utah
86. Buffalo, Zack Moss, rb, Utah
87. New England, Anfernee Jennings, lb, Alabama
88. Cleveland (from New Orleans), Jordan Elliott, dt, Missouri
89. Minnesota, Cameron Dantzler, cb, Mississippi State
90. Houston, Jonathan Greenard, lb, Florida
91. New England (from Seattle via Houston and Las Vegas), Devin Asiasi, te, UCLA
92. Baltimore, Devin Duvernay, wr, Texas
93. Tennessee, Darrynton Evans, rb, Appalachian State
94. Green Bay, Josiah Deguara, te, Cincinnati
95. Denver (from San Francisco), McTelvin Agim, dt, Arkansas
96. Kansas City, Lucas Niang, ot, TCU
97. Cleveland (from Houston), Jacob Phillips, lb, LSU
98. Baltimore (from New England), Malik Harrison, lb, Ohio State
99. NY Giants, Matt Peart, ot, Connecticut
100. Las Vegas (from New England), Tanner Muse, s, Clemson
101. New England (from Seattle via NY Jets), Dalton Keene, te, Virginia Tech
102. Pittsburgh, Alex Highsmith, lb, Charlotte
103. Philadelphia, Davion Taylor, lb, Colorado
104. LA Rams, Terrell Burgess, s, Utah
105. New Orleans (from Minnesota), Adam Trautman, te, Dayton
106. Baltimore, Tyre Phillips, g, Mississippi State