During the early part of the pre-draft process, the general belief was that Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst would hear his name called sometime during the first round on April 26. But after the 6-foot-2, 292-pounder, who had 61 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2017, was red-flagged for a heart condition at the combine, Hurst’s status as a Round 1 pick was called into serious doubt.
However, as Aaron McMann reported for MLive, Hurst was cleared in time for Michigan’s pro day, and Wolverines defensive line coach Greg Mattison insisted that Hurst’s combine scare was nothing that NFL teams need concern themselves with long-term.
“They all know I was in the NFL,” Mattison said, “and I know what that is. I said, ‘Whoever gets him is going to be a lucky team.’ If I didn’t think that, I would never do that to some of the NFL coaches. I’d be honest with them. And I think my players know that, that I’m going to be honest with whoever asks me. I’m very excited about his opportunities.”
It appears that at least some in the draft community agree. After a post-combine dip, Hurst is making a push back into Round 1 in some mocks. That includes the latest one from Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, who recently projected Hurst to the Detroit Lions at pick No. 20.
“I don’t know how the team currently views Hurst’s health, Birkett said, “but I do know its biggest need — well, second biggest after tight end — is at the defensive tackle position that Hurst played so well during his time at Michigan. That’s the second reason I gave Hurst to the Lions at Pick No. 20: Position need and value.”
Alistair Corp of SB Nation believes that Hurst could also be in play for the Seattle Seahawks two picks earlier. “Overall,” Corp said, “Maurice Hurst is a three-down defensive tackle capable of piling up individual stats while defending the run just as well. He’s going to consistently provide his team with pressure from the interior and is far and away the best defensive tackle in this year’s class. While Derwin James’ draft stock has seemingly corrected to Top 10, Hurst may drop due to health concerns. If so, he represents the Seattle Seahawks’ best chance at acquiring blue chip talent at the top of the 2018 NFL Draft.”
As one AFC scout told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, if you’re a team looking for a penetrating, gap-shooting three-technique tackle, Hurst just might be the guy for you. “He’s only going to play for 4-3, upfield teams as a three-technique,” the scout said. “That’s the only place that works for him. He’s got a get-off that is crazy fast and if he gets with the right coordinator, he’s going to be tough to block.”
Zierlein, for his part, agrees. “Hurst is an upfield three-technique who gets out of the blocks ahead of his competition as soon as the starter’s pistol goes off,” he said. “His ability to come out fast and low should create opportunities to become a disruptive penetrator, but he has to prove that he has the strength to play through redirect blocks and hold up against NFL interior linemen.”
Stephen White of SB Nation is a big fan of Hurst’s explosiveness, but he also expressed concern that Hurst occasionally takes plays off. “With his quickness and power,” White wrote, “Hurst ought to be a game wrecker in the league. And hey, he might well go early in the first round. But for me, Hurst’s effort issues, along with the fact that at he checked into the combine at “only” 6’2 and 282 pounds — which might limit his scheme versatility — mean I’d probably wait until near the end of the first round at the earliest to take him. Nothing personal, I just like dudes who hustle all the time. And who knows? Maybe Hurst will get to the NFL and get paired with a great line coach who pulls his best effort out of him consistently. I really hope one does, because that Hurst, I’d pay good money to see play on Sundays.”
From an IDP perspective, it may actually be something of a blessing that Hurst appears pigeon-holed as a three-technique on a four-man front—that’s the defensive tackle spot that usually affords the most fantasy value. Hurst has the potential to be a good one, too — he might not have the sky-high ceiling Aaron Donald did entering the NFL (who does?), but he has the talent to post solid tackle numbers and mix in 6-8 sacks.
That kind of production could eventually land Hurst well inside weekly starter territory in IDP leagues that require defensive tackles, and it might even get Hurst in the low-end DL2 conversation in “standard” IDP formats.
That probably isn’t happening right away though. In an ideal landing spot (like Buffalo, Atlanta or New Orleans) there could be enough snaps and potential to make Hurst worth a late look in deep IDP leagues – especially ones that require defensive tackles.
However, the reality is that while Hurst is a talented youngster with a bright future (if he stays healthy and taps into that potential) who may well be a Round 1 pick, the odds of him making a big statistical dent as a rookie isn’t especially good.
And as such, in most “standard” IDP redrafts, Hurst will likely go undrafted.