The search for the right NFL comparison for Jalen Hurts is a winding road.
He will not be forced to move to wide receiver — like converted college quarterbacks Brad Smith, Antwaan Randle El and Julian Edelman. He is a more accurate passer and more dangerous runner than first-round draft bust Tim Tebow. He doesn’t quite measure up in either dual-threat aspect to reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson.
The 6-foot-1, 222-pound Hurts, who transferred after three years at Alabama, will be the third Oklahoma quarterback drafted in as many years, but he won’t follow the lead of back-to-back No. 1-overall picks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. His path could go the way of do-it-all Taysom Hill or even Dak Prescott.
“Taysom Hill is considered the quarterback of the future in New Orleans,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Let’s realize what he’s done since he came out of BYU. Hurts can be a contributor as a rookie with those [Hill] types of packages that you can put in there. Regardless of who he goes to, you can have a great starter and still use Hurts in packages.”
In addition to spelling Drew Brees in certain designed situations, Hill factors in special teams, running back and wide receiver. He is a quarterback-in-training without being glued to the bench because his athleticism is too good to waste.
Kiper believes Hurts’ projected versatility — sounds befitting of the Patriots, right? — elevates his draft stock into the late second or early third round, over more traditional backups like Georgia’s Jake Fromm.
Texas Tech coach Matt Wells saw the same defining trait in Hurts at both schools.
“He possesses a ton of swag and a vibe that allowed the other 10 guys around him to play confident, to play free, to play to the best of their ability,” Wells told The Post. “Because there was a tremendous confidence that [uniform] No. 1 was the man.”
Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy is a former NFL scout who once projected Hurts as an NFL running back. But his opinion changed over the past two seasons, and when Hurts returned to Alabama for the Senior Bowl.
“He had a good week down here, and he threw it better than I’ve ever seen him throw it at the combine in terms of command and confidence,” Nagy told The Post. “He is ascending as a quarterback, he has great leadership skills and he is wired differently now — laser-focused and all-business. I’d compare him to Dak Prescott.”
The fourth-round draft steal? The 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year and two-time Pro Bowler? The $33 million-per-year QB?
“People questioned Dak coming out of college from a passing standpoint, and where Jalen is at he has probably even surpassed Dak then,” Nagy said. “I don’t see Jalen running down on punt and kickoff team. Now, if you had an open-minded, creative play-caller and he wanted to work Jalen into some roles right away, he’s athletic enough to do that.”
The durable Hurts was 38-4 as a college starter, transferring from Alabama after losing his job to projected top-five pick Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts threw for 9,477 yards and rushed for 3,274 more, accounting for 123 touchdowns and completing 65.1 percent of his passes with just 20 interceptions.
Two years after Jackson foolishly was asked to work out at receiver, Hurts wasn’t asked by any teams at the combine to change positions. But there are knocks on his decision-making and quick impulse to flee the pocket and risk injury.
“People say there are things [Hurts] needs to tweak, and he holds the ball,” Kiper said. “Bottom line is this kid produced and he is a great kid. He can go back to two big-time schools and be revered because of what he’s meant to those programs.”