Rookie Rundown: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

Rookie Rundown: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

NFL Draft

Rookie Rundown: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

(Jeff Blake, USA TODAY Sports)

A 2012 draft pick of MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates, South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst’s first love didn’t materialize as a professional career path. He spent two years playing first base in the Gulf Coast League prior to walking onto the South Carolina football roster in 2015. Hurst would split time at wide receiver and tight end, catching just eight balls on the year.

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 250 pounds
40 time: 4.67 seconds

As a sophomore, however, his collegiate career took of in a big way. The Gamecocks featured Hurst as a regular element of the offense in 2016. He produced school records for a tight end with 48 receptions for 616 yards on the year but scored just once.

Hayden Hurst stats (2015-17)

YEAR
REC
YDS
AVG
LNG
TD
2015
8
106
13.3
47
0
2016
48
616
12.8
47
1
2017
44
559
12.7
62
2

Despite being extremely athletic and a dangerous weapon down the field, Hurst hasn’t managed to develop into a scoring threat. In fact, it is a little alarming he hasn’t found the end zone more than three times in his past 100 receptions.

Pros

  • Plus athleticism for his position — displays quickness and ability to run the seam
  • Can move all over the field, lining up in line, out wide and in the slot
  • Some of the best hands you’ll find among tight ends (one career drop)
  • Plays fearlessly, particularly in traffic, and doesn’t shy from contact to gain yardage
  • Mature and coachable — first sophomore voted team captain in school history
  • Effective release off the line from three-point and standing stances

Cons

  • Turns 25 years old as a rookie and probably has maxed out as a player.
  • Needs to improve in-line blocking ability but likely will not ever be a dominant blocker
  • Struggles to separate from defenders on breaking routes. Tends to tip off the route, resulting in defenders jumping the play.
  • A sheer lack of scoring prowess has to be of concern. Can be removed from game plans easier than desired.
  • Inconsistent production and didn’t show drastic improvement as a junior

Fantasy outlook

It is tough to watch Hayden play and not think of former Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark. Both players thrived racking up yardage after the catch and played bigger than they measured. The in-line blocking deficiencies also stand out as comparable traits.

Nevertheless, expect Hayden to be a late first-round placement or an early selection in the second stanza. His most likely landing spots include the New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

In the right situation (New Orleans, Seattle, Miami), Hurst could step in and contribute almost immediately. Projecting down the line, what you see is probably what you will get in terms of career growth. We’re also talking about a player whose long-term utility is capped at maybe eight to 10 years. Tight ends rarely contribute meaningfully in their rookie years. Evan Engrams of the world are exceptions, not rules. In 2018, Hurst is a No. 2 tight end with matchup utility.

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