After a brief stint in the MLB, TE Hayden Hurst has risen up draft boards and become one of the top tight ends available in the 2018 draft class.
Hayden Hurst originally followed a different path on his way into professional sports. Choosing baseball over football, Hurst was selected in the 17th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2012 MLB draft. He played two years for the Pirates before he opted back into football, enrolling at South Carolina and walking on to the football team. While his first year was essentially non-existent, Hurst made a name for himself in 2016. He started all 13 games for the Gamecocks and finished the season with 616 receiving yards. He followed that up in 2017 with another 559 receiving yards. The effort earned him first-team All-SEC honors and has him pushed him forward as one of the top prospects at his position in this draft class.
Weight: 250 lbs
School: South Carolina
Hayden Hurst is one of the most intriguing athletes at his position in this draft. South Carolina moved him all over the field, giving him action at both tight end and out wide. Showed good feet and acceleration in and out of his routes. Did a nice job gaining separation from linebackers. Has some of the best hands in the draft class, rarely dropping a ball thrown his way (dropped 1 of 100 receptions). Is physical after the catch, breaking tackles and gaining further yards. Doesn’t shy from contact, before or after the catch. Often lowers his shoulder rather than running out of bounds or dropping to the ground. Has improved as a blocker through his time as a Gamecock and should continue developing (as a blocker) once in the NFL. Has all the physical tools and mental makeup to make an immediate impact.
*Below is a video from NFL.com‘s Lance Zierlein, showing what Hurst can bring to an NFL offense
The stroll through the MLB cost him two years of development at the college level, he’s 24 years old and will likely not grow much outside of what he already is. While the production is there in terms of receiving yards, only caught three touchdown passes over his collegiate career. Will have to show that he is a capable redzone target that can help an offense score, rather than just gaining chunks of yards at a time. Technique will need to improve as a run blocker.
He is a man among boys, both on the field and in the locker room. He plays with a fearless tenacity, demonstrating a strong willingness to do whatever is needed by the team. His combination of size, athleticism, and reliability in the passing game make him an intriguing option for any team looking for help at the position. His impact on the field will grow as he improves as a blocker and further extends his route tree. Hurst should see snaps early on in his professional career, lining up all over the field. He should be viewed as a late-first round pick.