Breaks tackles downfield; gets yards after contact
Tough to get on the ground
Tracks the ball well
Adjusts well to the ball
Finds the soft spots in zone coverage
Fearless in the middle of the field
Age; will be a 25-year old rookie
Summary: In every NFL draft, there are some late-blooming prospects who end up becoming in-demand players. That will be the case this year with Hurst, as he is a special athlete who had a late start in football. Hurst will be a 25-year old rookie in the NFL because he played professional baseball in the minor leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization out of high school. He reportedly had a fastball that sat in the 90s. After ending his baseball career, Hurst went to South Carolina and quickly established himself as a special tight end.
In 2016, Hurst made 48 receptions for 616 yards with one touchdown. In 2017, he totaled 44 receptions for 559 yards with two touchdowns. He also notched a rushing touchdown and did a nice job of blocking.
Hurst has the potential to be a three-down starter at the next level. He is a phenomenal athlete who presents serious mismatch problems for a defense. Hurst has big size and leaping ability to make catches even when he is covered by a defensive back. He also has the speed to separate, and that can be seen with linebackers being incapable of running with him. Safeties also can struggle to run with Hurst and keep him from getting open. With his frame and speed, Hurst is dynamic receiving threat for a tight end.
Hurst has reliable hands and is tremendous after the catch. He runs through tackles and gets yards after contact downfield. He is superb at working the middle seam with quickness to get to the second level. With good route-running and his speed, Hurst can consistently get open. He tracks the ball well, adjusts to passes with fluid athleticism, and is a real red-zone threat. With his athletic upside, Hurst's best football is in front of him as he should improve as he gains experience.
As a blocker, Hurst has size and strength with the ability to win his blocks. He gives an effort and was a contributor to the Gamecocks' rushing offense. His blocking should improve with pro coaching.
Sources from a lot of teams have a lot of praise for Hurst. Area scouts and national scouts have raved about Hurst having rare speed, athleticism and size. They think he has a first-round skill set but that the age factor is what could push him to the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. One national scout thinks that Hurst still could go in Round 1 because this is not a deep tight end draft and there are teams that are in need of a mismatch weapon at the positions. Hurst looks likely to be taken in the top-64 selections.
Player Comparison: Zach Ertz. Hurst and Ertz are almost identical in size and have similar athleticism. Both possess speed and agility to go with their frames. They also have blocking ability to go along with being receiving threats. Ertz was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and Hurst could easily go in that round in 2018.
NFL Matches: Pittsburgh, Miami, Baltimore, Green Bay, New England, Jacksonville and Houston
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Hurst in the first few rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. Perhaps the highest that he could hope to go would be to the Steelers at the end of the first round. Pittsburgh needs a tight end upgrade and is in win-now mode, so Hurst's age may not be an issue for the organization.
In the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, there are a lot of potential landing spots. Miami needs a three-down starting tight end as Julius Thomas is just a role player. Baltimore also needs a tight end upgrade as Ben Watson is ancient for an NFL player and Maxx Williams hasn't panned out yet.
The Packers need a starting tight end. Martellus Bennett didn't last one year in Green Bay, while Richard Rodgers is entering free agency. Green Bay could use a receiving upgrade over Rodgers. Even if he's re-signed, that wouldn't eliminate Hurst as a potential second-round pick. Bennett signed with New England, but he's clearly a declining player. The Patriots have two second-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and could consider Hurst as a tight end to pair with Rob Gronkowski. Hurst would give New England some scheme protection if Gronkowski gets injured again.
The Jaguars could use a long-term starting tight end as Marcedes Lewis turns 34 after the 2018 NFL Draft. If Hurst were to slide to Round 3, he could be a great value for the Texans early in the third round. Houston needs more receiving talent at tight end.