Bob Ford: Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts because Carson Wentz hurts

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PHILADELPHIA — It’s still early, but last week’s NFL draft looks good for everyone in the Eagles organization, with the possible exception of Nate Sudfeld.

Sudfeld signed a one-year contract last month, and it was assumed the team had settled on him (again) as the backup for Carson Wentz. That assumption was altered, however, when the Eagles surprised the world on Friday by taking Alabama/Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts with their second-round pick.

Howie Roseman said it was all very simple and understandable because the quarterback position is so valuable, and the organization is uniquely qualified to identify and develop them, and that’s why the Eagles are known as a “quarterback factory.”

It was a unique stand considering it came only eight months after the team had to cut its previous fifth-round pick, quarterback Clayton Thorson, at the end of training camp because he couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie.

As for Sudfeld, only $500,000 of his $2 million contract is guaranteed, and it could be the factory is contemplating more layoffs or at least a nice buyout package. Those can be attractive.

Hurts is a good candidate for employment at the factory, if only because he has some work to do on his game. He’s tough and strong and a great leader, but at the professional level, he will need to burnish some rough edges, particularly when it comes to decision-making and waiting out his progressions before taking off on the run.

Still, he’s a compelling addition, even if it bears the whiff of a copycat move, considering what New Orleans has done with gadget quarterback Taysom Hill, and the storm by which the versatile Lamar Jackson has taken the NFL.

Most observers would consider Hurts a more rational addition had he been acquired in the fourth round, but that’s figuring the 53rd pick in the draft is too high for a backup quarterback.

That figuring is right, of course, but here’s the thing: The Eagles didn’t draft Hurts as a backup quarterback. They think, with some reason, that he’s eventually going to be a starter. If you can get an NFL starter in the second round, that’s not a bad pick at all.

Roseman and the factory foremen can claim they’ll take the rookie and build a quarterback, and then, perhaps, box him up and ship him somewhere else for something of value. Every team needs quarterbacks, and the Eagles are apparently going to start turning them out like gumballs.

More likely, however, is the Eagles have taken a good look at their incumbent starter — $180 million or no — and decided that they don’t need a backup. They need another starter, and if they have to keep cycling through affordable newcomers to find one, that’s what they will do.

The injury aspect of Wentz’s career is not necessarily what defines it, but that is a big part of his story, and now more so than ever. He hasn’t had an injury-free season since his junior year of college, but the litany of wrist, rib, knee, and back ailments was capped in the January wild-card playoff by a concussion that knocked him out against the Seahawks. It was a bad one.

Wentz came to the sideline after completing the first-quarter series in which he absorbed a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Jadeveon Clowney. He sat on the bench next to backup Josh McCown and looked at a computer tablet branded along its border with the NFL Playoffs logo.

Wentz looked up. “Are we in the playoffs?” he asked McCown.

The team announced several days later that Wentz had cleared the concussion protocols and, if the Eagles had advanced, he could have played the next round. That made everyone feel a little better, and it might even have been true.

Also true, unlike other injuries that, once they are healed, do not necessarily lead to a recurrence, is that concussions become chronic, with the next one always easier to sustain than the last one. For a quarterback like Wentz, who is loath to throw the ball away, who likes to stand until the final progression has been exhausted, this is beyond worrisome.

Why would the Eagles draft a quarterback in the second round when they have other holes to fill and already have a franchise quarterback? Because they think they will need him, that’s why.

The better question concerns whether Hurts is the right guy, and there is no way to prove or disprove that at the moment. By the 53rd pick, the options weren’t good. Jacob Eason of Washington, Jake Fromm of Georgia, and Nate Stanley of Iowa — all bunched among the second tier of available quarterbacks — weren’t taken until the fourth, fifth, and seventh rounds, respectively. According to Roseman, Hurts wouldn’t have lasted the remaining 11 picks of the second round. OK, fine.

It will be up to the bosses in the factory to tinker with the machinery and get the product ready for production. Hurts will need to be up and operational if something else happens to Wentz.

When you look at the stakes involved, and the bold statement made in the second round of the draft, the boys at the plant better be prepared to work a few overtime shifts.


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