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2021 Fantasy Outlook: TE Hayden Hurst

What should fantasy owners expect from Hayden Hurst in 2021?

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It’s been a long offseason, but we’re finally closing in on the 2021 NFL season, which means that fantasy leagues are being renewed and drafts are beginning to take place. In this series where we look at what specific Atlanta Falcons can do for your fantasy football teams in 2021, we are quickly moving down the roster. We’ve already discussed wide receiver Calvin Ridley, quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Mike Davis, wide receiver Russell Gage and tight end Kyle Pitts, which you can read up on by selecting the hyperlinks.

Today, we will be discussing tight end Hayden Hurst. Hurst has had an interesting path to Atlanta, as he was traded to the Falcons along with a fourth-round pick in 2020 in exchange for 2020 second and fifth-round picks. Hurst was expected to slide right into Austin Hooper’s role, that being the lead tight end in this passing game, and was asked to replace a player who enjoyed two consecutive Pro Bowls with the Falcons before signing with the Cleveland Browns during free agency.

Hurst’s first season with the Falcons was decent. Ultimately, he was was unable to replace Austin Hooper’s 2018 and 2019 production, but in fantasy football terms he’s a top-10 tight end. It speaks volumes how overall thin the tight end position is in fantasy football that someone with 6 touchdowns and 571 yards could be in the top-10, but here we are.

Enter 2021, and things very likely won’t improve for Hurst. The Falcons, following a regime change, selected the generational talent tight end Kyle Pitts in the 2021 NFL Draft with the fourth overall selection. Pitts is expected to immediately become an offensive weapon in the new offense and likely take a lot of the target share from Hurst. Also factoring into what the Falcons may think of Hurst is that they decided to not pick up his 2022 fifth-year team option. It seems likely that this will very well be Hurst’s final season in Atlanta.

In all, when it comes to the fantasy side of Hurst, value is very minimal out of the gate. Is it possible that Hurst’s role will be larger than expected? Sure, anything is possible. But in fantasy football we deal with what will likely happen, which is Hurst being a low-end TE2. Arthur Smith’s offense will include a heavy dose of two tight end sets and Pitts’ athleticism will allow him to play out wide from time to time.

With that being said, Hurst’s current ADP is 256 and I would avoid drafting him, unless you have an extra bench spot and want a backup tight end on your roster. He’ll be a better real life asset for this offense than a fantasy one. As thin as the tight end position is, Hurst could still end up cracking the top-15 if things go his way in 2021, but you’ll want to target options with more obvious paths to major targets this year.