By Dylan MacKinnon
The Eagles shocked fans and media when at pick 51 they selected their eventual replacement for Jason Kelce. They drafted Cam Jurgens, the 3 year Center for Nebraska. Many balked at the idea of using a 2nd round pick on a center who won’t even play in his first year. And while those critiques have merit, it’s worth getting to know the player himself. So let’s take a look at Cam Jurgens, and if he really can be the next Jason Kelce.
Much like Jason Kelce, Cam Jurgens did not start his football career as a center. In fact, he played o snaps on the offensive line before he arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska. In High School, he played Tight End, Line Backer, and Punter. He was ranked as the 7th best TE in the 2018 class. But Scott Frost saw a better role for Jurgens. After redshirting his freshman year due to injury, Jurgens made the move to center, and it worked in a big way. He went on to start 3 years in college and became the 2nd center drafted in this year’s draft.
He may play center now, but he still moves like a tight end. When you see the way he moves downfield to continue to make blocks for the ball carrier, it may remind you of the man he is set to eventually replace. He has exceptional quickness for a center. Bruce Feldman even named him to his annual “Freak List,” where he ranks the most athletic players in the draft. He competed in track and field in High School finishing as a State Champion in Discus 4 times and Shot Put 4 times. Jurgens even beat the personal best mark of his eventual coach at Nebraska Scott Frost. And it was Frost who saw something in Jurgens, that made him switch Jurgens to Center.
“He’s just an exceptional athlete — an exceptionally explosive athlete. I just think, after watching him while that his body type fits that. I can’t wait to see it.”- Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost
He is still a bit new to playing Center. I mean he only converted to the O-Line 3 years ago. But he took to it fast. It did not take him long to get up to a suitable weight for a Center. And while there were of course bumps along the way, including some issues snapping the ball early on, he was a natural.
“At the end of the day, I loved the switch. Within a week of being in the O-line, I was like, why was I ever a tight end? I was tired of running down the field to not get a ball thrown my way. I love hitting dudes, so to be able to do that every play, that’s my stuff.”
In over 1000 snaps, he allowed only a single Sack in college. He also allowed just 4 QB hits, and 29 QB hurries.
Got the Kelce Stamp of Approval
But don’t just take my word for it when I compare him to Jason Kelce. You can hear it from Kelce himself. He reacted live to the pick with Adam Lefkoe for Bleacher Report. The revelation, Jurgens was Kelce’s hand-picked eventual replacement for him. Kelce dubbed Jurgens his “favorite player in the draft,” and called Jurgens the player he would most compare to himself.
For the last three years, the Eagles have been using Jason Kelce to study film of center draft prospects.— Adam Lefkoe (@AdamLefkoe) April 30, 2022
“Of all the centers that have been compared to me…this is the guy. It’s him.“
Cam Jurgens was Kelce’s favorite player in the draft 👀🦅
For those who cant listen to the audio of what Kelce said, here is the transcript.
“Yeah, I knew we were taking him. So, this is my favorite player in the draft. I’m not just saying that because we picked him. The Eagles have been using me to, like, evaluate some of the centers that have been coming out. And of all the guys that I’ve looked at for the past two, three years … out of all the guys compared the most to myself, this guy is him. He is so athletic, so fast. You see him out in space. He runs, he’s a natural athlete. You see the fluidity. He played tight end, a position convert. He’s been playing offensive line for two years. 4.92 [second 40-yard dash], 1.7 [second 10-yard split], 7.19 three cone. This guy is a freak athletically. He has the best chance to be a difference-maker at the center position. I like this kid a lot, I really do.”
To hear Kelce himself compare Jurgens to himself, and to say that this was his pick to replace him, certainly does a lot to convince me Jurgens can be that guy. Perhaps the only person whose opinion on this player I’d care more about is Jeff Stoutland, who also greenlit the pick. And Jurgens for his part is excited to learn under both Kelce and Stoutland. He played under a Stoutland protégé at Nebraska, Greg Austin, who coached under Stout for seven years.
“So, a lot of this stuff is a little bit of carryover, and getting to learn from Coach Stout now, it’s a dream come true because it’s stuff I’ve been doing already. I’m excited to keep learning, get to go learn from him with all the incredible guys he’s coached in all of his years in the NFL and get to learn from Kelce and Lane Johnson and all those guys along that line. I don’t know if there’s a better spot for O-linemen to land than Philly to get to learn from Coach Stoutland.”- Cam Jurgens
Areas for Improvement
As said earlier, Cam Jurgens is still learning how to be a center. He came a long way really fast, but he is still inexperienced. He was called for six penalties this past season, with many of them being holding calls. Jurgens is also too aggressive at times, taking himself out of position to make the block. But these are both technique issues. If anyone can coach him up, it will be Stoutland and Kelce.
Some also question his power. He is not the ideal size for a center. Though similar things were said about Kelce coming out and were said about first-round pick Tyler Linderbaum. Many felt Kelce would be overmatched vs bigger bull rushers. Jump to 2022, and he is a 4-time All-Pro, and will one day be entering the Hall of Fame. Not to say these concerns are not merited, but we have seen centers overcome size concerns and still dominate. His overall athleticism gives him all the tools to do just that. Coming to a team that already plays to the strengths of a smaller quicker center seems like the best possible result for Jurgens.
And while a 2nd round pick redshirting is certainly not ideal, it will give him time to learn and watch under the legendary center and O-Line coach he was to learn from.
Was it Poor Value in Round 2?
There is no getting around the context of this pick. They used a 2nd round pick on a Center who won’t play this year. Taking centers this high if they will play could be argued is a reach. They took one who will be a backup in year one. Despite the fact they currently have only one starting outside corner, and 1 Safety. They had desperate needs, but instead made a pick that likely won’t help them this year. For some, that will automatically make this a bad pick. And they are not wrong to think so.
The Eagles were in the same position last year and took Landon Dickerson and Milton Williams. Fans eventually stomached that when they saw Dickerson play, but the initial reaction to the pick was very similar to the reaction to this Jurgens pick. Missing out on a cornerback on days 1 and 2 two years in a row, could bite the Eagles in the regular season if they don’t find a way to add a second starting corner at some point this offseason.
You can love the player, but still take issue with how the second round went for the Eagles. This feels like a luxury pick. Issue is the Eagles may not be able to afford a Luxury Pick with all the other needs they have. It is like someone buying a really nice car, when they don’t even know if they can afford the grocery bill the next week.
What the Experts Say
“Jurgens has above-average movements skills with explosiveness in his upper half and rare range to reach and cut off pursuit angles. Though he shows core strength when engaged, his overaggressive and undisciplined tendencies lead to negative reps. Overall, Jurgens lacks the brute power to easily control defenders, but he is a twitched-up athlete with play quickness and competitive toughness that will translate to the NFL. He is the round two version of Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum and will grow into a starter for a zone-based offense.”
“Center prospect with a lack of desired measurables and position versatility that could cap his draft value. Jurgens is quick with above-average athleticism but needs to harness his energy and play with better control in the early stages of the rep to improve his strike zone and success rate. He’s a bit of a leaner in pass protection and could struggle to find his anchor against rugged bull rushers. He can play in a variety of run schemes and has backup talent.”
If Jurgens is as good as his ceiling says he will be, then 5 years from now we may all feel much different. The Jason Kelce seal of approval is hard to argue against. Replacing Kelce with someone capable of doing all the things Kelce has done for the team makes sense on paper. Forget the context for now, and just look at the player, this has a chance to be a very good pick. It just may take a while for it to look like one. And for now, it leaves the Eagles in limbo as to what they will do at S and CB.