Thomas Dimitroff made a bold move early in free agency and it was not a signing. The Falcons traded for tight end Hayden Hurst, the former first-round pick from the Baltimore Ravens who fell down their depth chart and never returned.
For Falcons fans, the decision was confusing. Hurst has never lit up the stat sheet and turns 27 before the start of the season. A second-round pick feels expensive. However, there is a lot more to a player than their game stats, so we reached out to Vasilis Lericos of Baltimore Beatdown, SB Nation’s Baltimore Ravens hub.
First, some background on Hurst.
The Ravens selected Hayden after trading back in the first round of the 2018 draft to serve as a primary target for former quarterback Joe Flacco. His rookie season was derailed by a stress fracture in his foot that allowed third round rookie Mark Andrews to establish himself as the featured receiving tight end. When Lamar Jackson took the reins from Flacco in 2018, Hurst initially displayed chemistry with the 2019 MVP, but Andrews emerged as Lamar’s go-to playmaker in training camp and their strong connection resulted in a terrific Pro Bowl season for Andrews last season.
Hurst still sounds a bit like an unknown. Thanks to the injury and Joe Flacco, Hurst never got rolling in 2018. MVP Lamar Jackson better utilized him, but the offense remained heavily reliant on the run game. Jackson threw for only 3,127 yards, so you would not expect any tight end to put up Austin Hooper numbers. There will obviously be more chances for Hayden with Matt Ryan typically throwing for an extra 1,500 or so yards per year.
Hurst flashed talent during his time in Baltimore, his 61-yard score was instrumental in securing a hard fought road victory over Buffalo last December, but ultimately he did not have a route to a larger role with blocking tight end Nick Boyle also crowding the depth chart. The terms of the trade represent fair value for both teams. Baltimore will presumably use the draft picks to bolster other positions that can make a greater impact than their third tight end and Hayden should blossom with increased playing time.
Ravens fans must be happy to unload Hurst for a second-round pick due to his diminished role. Whether or not if that is fair value depends on your point of view, but Lericos is clearly not as down on Hurst as many fans appear to be.
In terms of strengths to his game, Hurst has excellent hands and breakaway speed, he can uncover against man coverage and is an adequate blocker. Due to his time as a minor league baseball player, he is old for a third year player, potentially limiting his upside, Hayden will turn 27 before the 2020 season. This trade should be viewed as a win-win for both franchises, we fully expect Hurst to thrive in the Falcons offense.
This feels like a gamble for Thomas Dimitroff that could pay off big. Tight ends usually take a few years to really shine. If Hurst can make the same jump Hooper did at millions less, the Falcons will look like geniuses. If Hurst is slow to adjust, using that second-round pick on Hurst instead of a rookie may get everyone fired.