*Name will be put into title in a few weeks for easier searching, but I want FFM subscribers to see and be able to react to these first/ahead of the public.
2020 Very Deep Sleeper (S5, E1) -- WR Jalen Hurd, San Francisco
We start out the 2020 Very Deep Sleeper (VDS) season with a guy who I did VDS report on last season, which is doubly rare – rare that I would do a rookie in the Very Deep Sleeper series and rare that I do a repeat on a player. I think the only other repeat VDS player I’ve offered up is Darren Waller (2016 and 2019…how’d that workout last year?).
Why Jalen Hurd for a second time…and why the ‘leadoff’ VDS report of the 2020 season? The case I want to continue to make is – Hurd is one of the most unique fantasy/football players in the entire NFL and he’s in the hands of one of, if not thee best offensive mind in the NFL (Kyle Shanahan). And he wasn’t just a random flyer player the 49ers grabbed – they took Hurd #67 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft when most thought he’d be a day three or even undrafted free agent type player coming off a wild college career.
Hurd’s football career overview…
2013: A five-star high school recruit at running back.
2014: A running back for Tennessee, leading the team in rushing as a freshman
2015: #4 in the SEC in rushing with 1,285 yards with 12 rushing TDs.
2016: Was splitting time with Alvin Kamara. Had a strained relationship with coach Butch Jones for two years. Midseason, late in a game, Hurd covered up a concussion and went back into a game and got in trouble for it. Jones wanted Hurd to lie about what happened (according to Hurd) and the whole thing blew up and Hurd decided he had enough of Butch Jones and left the team in the middle of season – which was, obviously, very bizarre and hurt his draft stock at the time.
2017: Transferred to Baylor.
2018: Converted to wide receiver (logical for a 6’5” athlete) and was a WR/RB for Baylor. He was the 2018 Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.
2019: Drafted #67 by the 49ers. Fractured his back and missed time late in training camp and went onto the PUP list and he tried to get back to the active roster/2019 season but was put on I.R. in October.
How many 6’5”/225+ pound guys do you know who are high end WR talents/college producers at the WR position in a major conference but were also top rushers in THEE power conference for a few seasons?
When I saw tape of the 49ers camp in 2019…I watched Hurd playing WR but also taking a lot of carries from WR and some at tailback. It’s possible, had Hurd not gotten hurt last preseason…maybe he would’ve been the breakout WR for the 49ers, not Deebo Samuel in 2019? Deebo is/was good, but he wasn’t a top 10 rusher in the SEC in the past…nor was he ever a tailback…nor is he 6’5”/225 pounds.
Jalen Hurd is a freak of nature for the NFL…with a world of possibilities.
Now, I can just write about these things…but I think it’s better if I make the Hurd pitch with visual aids. You’ll need to invest 6-10 minutes of video watching for this next part. It’s important to get to know the player.
Take 3-5 minutes to get a feel for what Hurd looked like at tailback for the Tennessee Volunteers back in the day: https://youtu.be/2FYyXc3N7hk
Not flashy as a tailback, but solid and powerful…and remember – he’s 6’5”/226 working as a tailback. He has a lot of size/length/power (23 bench reps at the Combine). He was a power runner at 6’5”/226, not a speedster.
I’d encourage you to watch all of this YouTube…it’s his Baylor highlights; his one season at WR. Him working as a legit receiver and then note the video time he was working at tailback in the same season: https://youtu.be/79WToPycmbE
Jalen Hurd is the ultimate ‘mismatch nightmare’.
What if they line him up at tailback but he then goes out of the backfield running a route at 6’5”/226…whose covering him, a 6’1” slower linebacker? A 20+ pounds smaller and 6’0” safety? Try to put a cornerback on him and he mow him over with the ball in his hands as a jet sweep runner or off a bubble screen. You can’t effectively guard Hurd because if you put a stronger/more physical player on him, because Hurd can go finesse with 4.4-4.5 speed and huge reach/length. If you put a big corner or safety on him, then you get Hurd a bubble screen or jet sweep or handoff and let him blast a smaller SAF or weaker tackling CB.
What do you think is going to happen in the Red Zone and in goal line situations for the 49ers offense with Hurd?
Isn’t Hurd the 49ers best power back in short yardage? Look at the size of his competition for being the goal line back:
6’5”/230 = Jalen Hurd
6’1”/235 = Kyle Juszczyk
6’1”/210 = Tevin Coleman
5’10”/205 = Raheem Mostert
5’9”/205 = Jerick McKinnon
Isn’t Hurd the most dangerous wide receiver for the 49ers in the end zone/red zone? Look at the size of the WR depth chart around him:
6’5”/230 = Jalen Hurd
6’1”/190 = Kendrick Bourne
6’0”/215 = Deebo Samuel
6’0”/200 = Brandon Aiyuk
5’8”/180 = Trent Taylor
Hurd enters 2020, possibly, as the 49ers goal line weapon and Kittle alternative end zone threat in the passing game…on top of all the mismatch opportunities he brings between the 20s as well. Hurd has a chance to be the most shocking player of the 2020 season.
It’s not all rainbows and puppy dogs. There are ‘risks’…
Hurd is coming off a fractured back…that doesn’t sound good. He’s back working out with the team/Jimmy G. already. Which is good news. A back fracture sounds worse than it is…but it is a thing that happened last year.
Hurd is not an athletic marvel. He supposedly has 4.4 speed, but I think it’s more high 4.5s+…but that’s not bad for a 6’5”/226 sized human. His superpower is not speed and agility -- it’s enough speed/agility in a 6’5”/226 power package.
Hurd has a lot of talented weapons around him to compete with…it won’t be easy. Deebo took over as a top WR target and ran up a storm on jet sweeps last year. Deebo stole some of Hurd’s role (potentially)…and Deebo will be back in 2020, either by Week 1 or by like Week 4 worse case. George Kittle also exists as the main target. Hurd just doesn’t walk in and have the offense built around him.
Hurd plays in a lower volume passing game…a more run oriented team, with Hurd as mostly a WR – but Hurd may be a big part of that run game.
What if Hurd takes 5+ carries a game, leads the team with 5-7 rushing TDs as the goal line weapon, catches 3-5 passes a game and adds another 3-5 receiving TDs. He’s a strong fantasy sleeper anywhere near that production for 2020…especially in non-PPR.
You know what else Hurd might do if needed? Be a radical tight end move in a year or two. If all else fails…it’s at least in the range of possibilities for him. Deebo Samuel isn’t moving to tight end, nor is Brandon Aiyuk, etc. Hurd could, if needed...maybe.
Might the 49ers waste this opportunity like the Panthers have done with Curtis Samuel for years? Perhaps. However, seeing Hurd in camp last year – I saw him working in the run game from the WR position. I do not feel the 49ers are blind to this possibility of Hurd as a radical swiss army knife. You saw the forerunner of it with Deebo Samuel in 2019…Kyle Shanahan is not stupid.
Jalen Hurd is (as of this writing) the #89 ranked WR for 2020 season on FantasyPros…#52 for a high and #134 for a low. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are trading/ranked way ahead of him – despite the fact that Aiyuk is a rookie and Deebo may not be there for Week 1, and Hurd might be the main WR/starter/target for the team Week 1…with a year under his belt.
I love all the possibilities with Hurd for Fantasy 2020…and I especially love the price it costs to take a look. He’s almost not drafted in most 15-16-man roster redrafts/12 teams.
*My 2019 Very Deep Sleeper report on Hurd…