All-American Maurice Hurst from Michigan is likely to be the first defensive tackle taken in this year’s draft. Where will he land?
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the eight weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This week, we dive into the defensive line positions. Today, we look at Maurice Hurst, Jr. from the University of Michigan.
Maurice Hurst, Jr. spent all five of his college years at the University of Michigan, and made the very most of his experience. As a consensus All-American his senior year, Hurst collected 59 tackles (while being double-teamed for plenty of his snaps), 13 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and 5.5 sacks.
Hurst earned academic All-Big Ten status three seasons in a row. He gained impressive big-game experience in the Citrus and Orange Bowls and went head-to-head against quality NFL talent when he faced Ohio State and Penn State offensive lines each year.
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Hurst has football in his blood. His father, Maurice Hurst, Sr., was a franchise cornerback for the New England Patriots in the 1990s. Hurst played his high school football on the cold east coast and his college ball in the bitter midwest, so he has genuine football toughness to offer any team that takes him.
His academic success while starting for one of the premier football programs in the nation shows his maturity. Former-NFL coach Jim Harbaugh’s program has prepared him for the pros as well as any college team in the country can.
Hurst asserts his ability as an athlete on every down. At his recent pro day, Hurst posted an impressive 40-yard dash time among defensive tackles: 4.97 seconds. He also hit a 31-inch vertical jump.
Hurst uses his quickness to bounce from gap to gap and find the open space to burst through the offensive line, almost as if he were a running back heading in the opposite direction. He has possibly the quickest first step and get-off in this draft class, and takes advantage of his smaller frame with his ability to slither through the holes that the opposing offensive front gives him.
At six-foot-two, 290 pounds, Hurst has some size to be desired as an interior defensive lineman. If he faces most NFL guards head-on and gets locked up, he will be neutralized.
Another con for Hurst is his heart. Not metaphorically, but literally. An EKG at the NFL Scouting Combine pointed out a heart condition that prevented Hurst from competing. Hurst got cleared before his pro day, during which he told reporters that he had known about this heart condition since his freshman year with the Wolverines.
After being sidelined with this heart diagnosis at the combine, Hurst posted unimpressive numbers in agility drills during his pro day. These included an 8‘8” broad jump, a 4.62 second 20-yard shuttle, and a 7.74 second three-cone drill.
Maurice Hurst’s style of play as an interior defensive lineman makes him both an asset and a liability. Some plays, he will be overwhelmed by bigger, stronger offensive lineman and be pushed out of the play completely. In other moments, Hurst will be use his quickness and elusiveness to make big plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Hurst has a system-specifc skillset. If he is on a team that runs a 4-3 scheme, he can thrive as a three-technique defensive tackle. Putting him as a nose tackle in the A gap for a 3-4 defense will not do your team any favors.
He is a player that you want on your defense, because he can use his speed to make up for teammates’ mistakes and catch up to run plays and screens that take a longer time to develop.
Hurst will go in the late first or early second round of this NFL draft. The recent news about his heart condition will likely cause him to slide a bit below his initial projections. I still believe that he will be the first defensive tackle taken.
He would fit in best with the Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, or Tennessee Titans, who pick late in the first round and need a defensive tackle. Tampa Bay, Chicago, Miami, and Washington will be picking in the early-to-mid second round and will be looking to fill holes in their defensive line as well.
Edited by Brian Kang.
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