For the final preseason edition of this series, undrafted rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns is featured after making the Jaguars’ 53-man roster on Saturday. The rookie out of Miami emerged after injuries to Allen Robinson, Cecil Shorts and Tandon Doss (and a suspension for Ace Sanders) created opportunities for players further down the wide receiver depth chart. Even though Robinson should return to the team shortly, Hurns has carved out a role with the Jaguars and potentially on fantasy rosters as well.
Beginning his career at Miami exclusively on special teams, Hurns only showed up on the stat sheet with four tackles in 2010. He became a factor on offense in his sophomore season, starting seven games and totaling 31 receptions for 415 yards and four touchdowns. After missing all of 2012 spring practices following surgery to repair a torn labrum, Hurns seemingly regressed as a junior with 28 receptions for 314 yards and four touchdowns. However, he appeared to have fully recovered in 2013 as he led Miami with 62 receptions for 1,162 yards (a strong 18.7 yard-per-reception average) and six touchdowns. Among his collegiate accolades as a senior, Hurns was named to the 2013 All-ACC Second Team, attended the East-West Shrine Game, and set Miami’s single-season record for receiving yards.
[inlinead]Despite this excellent season in which Hurns became the go-to receiver for the Hurricanes and was touted as a potential day two draft pick, Hurns fell to the ranks of the undrafted before joining Jacksonville as a priority free agent. Less-than-impressive results at the NFL Combine likely contributed as he posted a 4.54 40-yard dash, 10-foot broad jumpand 31-inch vertical leap, none of which even cracked the top 15 at his position. Nonetheless, following the draft Hurns was widely recruited (including by Houston and Dallas). He chose Jacksonville given his familiarity with the offense (the new offensive coordinator, Jedd Fisch, was his former offensive coordinator in Miami) and potential for opportunity at the wide receiver position.
For those less concerned about metrics than intangibles and production, there is a lot to like about Hurns. A strong route runner, the wide receiver was utilized as an outside threat, in the slot and out of the backfield on his way to accumulating his record for receiving yards in 2013. Though his 40-yard dash time was not impressive, he is quick off the line of scrimmage and has a knack for finding ways to get open. He has a strong catch radius thanks to his long arms and good hands, and although he has a lean frame Hurns is considered an effective blocker downfield. He also has a reputation for a high motor and strong work ethic, and is gaining trust as both of Jacksonville’s top quarterbacks were targeting him throughout the preseason. Chad Henne and Blake Bortles have been vocal about their appreciation for what Hurns can do, each using the term “very reliable” when describing how they feel about targeting him.
Detractors primarily focus on how his thin frame will be ineffective at the NFL level, subjecting Hurns to being pushed around and injury prone, the latter being a label developed following ailmentsto his hand, his head (concussion) and the aforementioned shoulder surgery. He also has a tendency to lose focus on the field, trying to make a big play before the ball is in his hands.
Silencing his critics, in preseason action Hurns led the Jaguars in receiving with 14 receptions for 232 yards (best in the NFL) and a touchdown. He has displayed consistency, indicating that though many preseason standouts do not continue their success in the regular season, he may be an exception. Continuing to catch what is thrown at him (he only dropped one catchable pass in preseason action) and running strong routes will be to his benefit.
While many reports have Hurns listed at 6’3”, his official height at the Combine was just over 6’1”. Still, this makes him the second-tallest wide receiver on the Jaguars’ roster (behind only the 6’3” Robinson). With the taller Allen sidelined, Hurns joins tight end Marcedes Lewis as the tallest red zone targets on the roster. Head Coach Gus Bradley indicated that Hurns’ play against Jacksonville’s top cornerbacks in training camp, and subsequently against opposing teams’ top defenders in preseason games, has earned him regular season playing time.
Familiarity with the offense will undoubtedly help Hurns transition to the NFL, and he has indicated that other players (including veterans) have asked him about the “new” playbook. Between this knowledge and his versatility within the offense, Hurns has smartly put himself in a spot to succeed. If he continues to outperform Marqise Lee, a second round pick, his fantasy value will get a big boost as well. From solely a special teams player at Miami to becoming their all-time leader in receiving yards, Hurns has exceeded expectations throughout his career and there is no reason to think he will be stopping now.
As you may expect, until recently Hurns was completely off the radar in fantasy leagues. He was not selected in DLF’s August mock drafts and does not make the ranks of the top rookies at wide receiver or overall. Yet. If he can add some muscle to his frame and prove he can stay healthy at the NFL level, Hurns is a solid dynasty stash. For comparison’s sake, I would likely choose to acquire him over last week’s featured player, Devin Street, though I would rather have August sixth’s featured player, John Brown. If you are in a league with 12 teams and 25 roster spots (or more), make sure he is rostered or find a spot for him at the end of your bench.