There is no obvious coaching connection from Hayden Hurst in Baltimore to Atlanta in 2020, but the need for a tight end was real after the loss of Austin Hooper to the Cleveland Browns in free agency.
There’s really nothing of consequence to evaluate yet from the Baltimore Ravens perspective, since the haul for the former first-round choice is draft picks, so we’ll look exclusively at how he fits in with the Dirty Birds in 2020.
A quick summary of Hurst’s career shows a foot surgery that derailed his rookie season in 2018 and fellow second-year tight end Mark Andrews overtaking him on the depth chart prior to the 2019 campaign. Hurst, despite entering his third year in the league, is set to turn 27 in August, although he’s mostly untested as a pro.
Hooper saw 97 targets in 2019 and 88 the prior year, albeit in a different system. Somewhere in that range can be expected for Hurst, provided he stays healthy. A pass-catching tight end from South Carolina, Hurst’s blocking skills are nothing to turn your nose at, either. He is more of an effort guy, but the same could be said for Hooper and not be too far from the mark.
Competition for touches will be a factor of concern, as it was with Hurst’s predecessor, but 80 targets would place him 12th among 2019 tight ends. For comparison, Travis Kelce led the way with 136 looks. It also works in Hurst’s favor in a relative sense. He has no history as a top weapon in an offense, and no one knows 1) if he could hold up to it 2) if he has the mental makeup for in-game pressure at this level. Hurst won’t have to worry about either of those things in Atlanta. He’s efficient and able to strike down the field (8.7 yards per target ranked 7th), so those factors alone make this an intriguing opportunity.
In 2019, 20.6 percent of his snaps came from the slot, and Hurst ranked sixth in the league with a 90.6 percent reception rate for catchable passes, according to PlayerProfiler.com.
Fantasy football outlook
“Sleeper” will be a term thrown around a great deal for Hurst, and he’s in a unique opportunity to produce borderline TE1 numbers each week with a fraction of the involvement of some positional peers. Casual fantasy football players aren’t as likely keen to his best attributes — reliable hands, body control with large frame (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) — and that can be used to your advantage.
Hurst is a fair gamble after two years of limited action (43 total catches, 512 yards, three scores). There are smart gambles in fantasy football drafting plans, and there are foolish risks. All signs point to Hurst being the former this upcoming selection season. Draft him as a No. 2 with upside in conventional formats, and he has slightly greater worth in non-PPR settings.