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Falcons player profile: TE Hayden Hurst

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We’re kicking off our Falcons player profile series with a look at the projected starters. We now move to TE, beginning with recent trade addition Hayden Hurst, who will be the presumptive TE1 in 2020.

NFL: New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in the depths of the offseason here at The Falcoholic, and there has been little to nothing in the way of interesting news in ages. So, we’ll have to make some content of our own in the meantime. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a new Player Profile series where we’ll take a look at each of the players on Atlanta’s roster. I’ll break down their measurables, past production, and try to project their 2020 season with the Falcons.

We’ll get things started with the projected starters. After a brief stop at FB, we move on to TE. The Falcons had some significant turnover at the position this offseason, with Austin Hooper departing in free agency and TE2 Luke Stocker cut for salary cap relief. Atlanta then added Hayden Hurst via trade and signed several free agents to compete in camp for depth roles.

Today we take a closer look at Hayden Hurst, who is expected to take over Hooper’s role as the primary TE for the Falcons in 2020.

TE Hayden Hurst

Age: 26 (27 during 2020 season)

Contract: $1.483M cap hit for 2020, rookie contract through 2021 ($1.73M APY), possible fifth-year option for 2022

Career Production: 28 games played, 4 games started | 43 receptions, 512 yards, 11.9 YPR, 3 TD

2019 Production: 16 games played, 4 games started | 30 receptions, 349 yards, 11.6 YPR, 2 TD

Previous Teams: Drafted in the 1st round (#25 overall) by the Baltimore Ravens (2018-2019)

Measurables:

The Falcons needed a new TE1 after allowing Austin Hooper to walk in free agency. With very little available cap space in free agency and a weak TE class in the 2020 NFL Draft, Atlanta’s options seemed extremely limited. However, the team managed to find an intriguing player in Baltimore’s Hayden Hurst, who was traded to the Falcons pre-draft for one of their two second-round picks. That’s fairly high compensation for a TE who, thus far, has been a complimentary piece—but because of the aforementioned lack of options, the terms of the trade made sense for both sides.

Hurst has first-round pedigree—he was drafted 25th overall by the Ravens back in 2018—and his talent has never been an issue. Instead, a combination of factors limited Hurst’s role in Baltimore. A preseason foot injury in his rookie season caused Hurst to miss the first four games of the season. In that time, the Ravens’ third-round pick, TE Mark Andrews, seized control of the starting job and never looked back. Andrews followed that season up with a tremendous 2019 as well, and Hurst never really had much chance to be anything more than a TE2.

Hurst is a good athlete at the TE position with tremendous hands and receiving ability. On 62 targets, Hurst has zero recorded drops. Despite his smaller role, Hurst was still decently productive with 30 receptions for 349 yards and 2 TDs in 2019. He also contributed 4 catches for 53 yards and a TD in Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Titans. While he’s no George Kittle, Hurst is a solid blocker who can function in-line if needed.

Whether Hurst is “worth” the second-round pick Atlanta traded for him is still TBD. But for a cash-strapped Falcons team that needed a potential immediate TE1, Hurst is arguably the best they could do. His low cap hits the next two seasons ($1.48M in 2020 and $1.98M in 2021) add to his value, including the potential for Atlanta to pick up Hurst’s fifth-year option for 2022.

Projection: I expect Hurst to start the season a little slow, but become one of Matt Ryan’s favorite targets by the end of the season. I’m projecting approximately 50 receptions for 600 yards (12.0 YPR) for Hurst, with around 5 TDs thrown in as well. Hurst is a better blocker than Hooper with superior overall speed, but he’ll need time to acclimate to Atlanta’s offense—and that will likely cap his ceiling in 2020.