As the Senior Bowl enters full swing, my study of defensive tackles for the 2018 NFL Draft continues today with the electric Maurice Hurst from Michigan. Hurst actually was invited to the Senior Bowl and accepted, but pulled out at the last minute. While we won’t be getting a closer look at him in Mobile, I watched his film from games against Michigan State, Ohio State, and Indiana to get a clearer picture of his skillset.
Hurst is clearly a talented interior lineman with enormous athletic potential, but there are some concerns as well. Let’s dive right in.
DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Hurst has the makings of a great athlete. His burst is incredible—at times it looks like he was shot out of a cannon, blowing right past offensive linemen. Hurst has some ability to bend, and can also run and chase plays from behind. He’s strong at the point of attack and rarely gets driven back, even by double teams. That strength shows itself when he is in position to make a tackle—he has very strong hands and players rarely escape once he gets a hold of them.
Hurst generally plays with good leverage and is almost always the low man, which helps him blow through the line with ease. At Michigan, Hurst took snaps all over the DL, including 1T and 3T. He also has plenty of experience at executing stunts and twists and looks comfortable doing so. Hurst has the body type and athletic ability to play a versatile “Adrian Clayborn” role in NFL—lining up on the edge on base downs and sliding inside in passing situations.
Lack of ideal NFL size will be a significant knock. At 6’2, 280, Hurst will have to prove that he can take on NFL offensive linemen in run defense on the interior. That size disadvantage showed itself on tape as well—Hurst was too easily swallowed up by double teams and couldn’t consistently produce against them. Hurst has difficulty shedding blocks in general and will too often just sit on them if his initial rush fails.
Another knock on Hurst is his total lack of hand usage. It isn’t just unrefined—Hurst will often just put his hands up meekly and not even fight with an offensive lineman. He also doesn’t have many pass rushing moves in his arsenal, and is mostly reliant on his dominant speed and power to win.
Hurst has plenty of knocks, including a lack of ideal size, but his athletic ability will be coveted by teams. He has the potential to be an elite interior pass rusher and may have some ability to contribute on the edge, as well. That ceiling will likely elevate his stock into the late first round, with the Falcons having a pretty solid opportunity to add him if they choose.
Hurst is a raw player technically, but those things can be taught. His hands are clearly quite strong and, with a move or two added to his arsenal, the sky really is the limit for Hurst as a pass rusher. The bigger question mark is whether or not he can hold up on the interior as a 280-pound DT in run defense. He didn’t struggle there in college, and I was actually pretty impressed with his strength—he was rarely driven back, even by double teams, despite his smaller stature.
His future may actually be as a hybrid player, similar to what the Falcons had Adrian Clayborn do. Hurst is athletic enough to make plays on the edge and could be an asset there in run defense, while sliding over to 3T on passing downs to rush from the interior. It all comes down to how highly you value potential and athletic ceiling—Hurst has those in spades. You just have to be willing to accept the risks that come with drafting an undersized DT in the first round.
Grade: 1.5 (late first, early second)
What do you think about the potential of Hurst joining the Falcons? Are you sold on his athletic potential, or are you scared off by his lack of ideal size and relatively raw technique? Who are some other players you have your eyes on in the first round?