SB Nation’s Mocking the Draft has had the Atlanta Falcons snatching Maurice Hurst, the Michigan defensive tackle, for what seems like months. Hurst was flagged for a potential heart issue at the NFL combine, which left his pro status in question. He was reportedly cleared by multiple doctors, and did not have a followup medical check with the NFL. That suggests he is fully healthy.
Hurst is another player who could ultimately go higher than people anticipate. Hurst creates a lot of pressure working up the middle and splitting gaps.
The Atlanta Falcons are in a tough spot. Tackles that can pressure are a rare commodity. For every Grady Jarrett you find on day three, there are multiple busts that teams reached for on day one. Getting a run plugger you hope to develop as a pass rusher is a great recipe for success. There’s a terrifyingly small difference between a Pro Bowler and bust.
So far in this mock, Vita Vea heads to the Miami Dolphins at pick 11, Da’Ron Payne goes to the Charges at 17, leaving the Falcons with a little bit of a talent drop.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Falcons are a team I considered for a trade up to get Hurst, but the price may be too high for a move. Instead they could take Bryan, who isn’t quite as good but can do many of the same things at defensive tackle.
Bryan has been a popular pick for the Falcons, but I’m not sure if he’s a Dan Quinn guy. He’s an interesting athlete that has been compared to JJ Watt. Watt transferred to Wisconsin and put up 11.5 sacks and 36.5 tackles for a loss in two seasons after playing tight end at Central Michigan. Bryan had 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss over three seasons.
There is definitely a lot of upside there, but the first round sure feels like a reach to me. Defensive tackles usually takes a few seasons to improve over being a liability, and Bryan’s path to being an impact player may be longer than normal. Should the Falcons drop their first pick on Bryan in the hopes he puts it together by 2020? I’m not convinced, and in fact, I still have a bad taste in my mouth from Atlanta’s last workout warrior that needed a lot of development.