Remember Hayden Hurst? Just days ago, it was announced that he would be joining the Falcons, and that news was swiftly overlooked because Dante Fowler and Todd Gurley joined up and justifiably took away his headlines.
But you know, we’re talking about a man who has to replace Austin Hooper, who was a tremendous player fresh off a great season. I thought I’d see what happened if we compared Hooper and Hurst’s 2019s as directly as possible.
This one’s fairly simple. We’re just going to run Austin Hooper’s excellent 13 games in 2019 against Hayden Hurst’s rate through 16.
16 games, 97 targets, 75 receptions, 869 yards, 11.6 yards per reception, 5 touchdowns, 77% catch rate
13 games, 97 targets, 75 receptions, 787 yards, 10.5 yards per reception, 6 touchdowns, 77% catch rate
What you’ll note, eerily enough, is that Hurst (at the rate he was going) would’ve wound up with the same number of receptions, targets, and therefore catch rate. Hooper would’ve had more touchdowns, and Hurst would’ve had more yards, had this held. The “Hurst could be as good as Hooper” takes, while seeming scorching hot at first, are borne out by the numbers.
The difference, of course, is that Hooper produced as he did in 13 games, and Hurst has yet to come close to that production in real life, where it legitimately matters. He was also playing for a completely different football team, which is also relevant. What these numbers provide is little more than a tantalizing suggestion of what Hurst could be an in offense where he’s a valued contributor rather than an afterthought.