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2018 NFL Draft Prospect – Hayden Hurst

After a quiet freshman season that saw him reel in just eight catches for 106 yards, South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst enjoyed two productive seasons in 2016 and 2017. He caught at least 44 passes in both seasons, finishing with a total of 92 for 1,175 yards. He only managed three touchdowns in this collection, however. But it’s perhaps telling that his two scores in 2017 accounted for 11 percent of the total receiving scores for the whole team.

In 2017, his 44 receptions were the second most on the Gamecock’s roster, as were his 559 receiving yards. All told, his career tally of 1,281 yards ranks as the most by a TE in school history. His final season saw him catch at least three passes in 10 games, including each of his last six. His best game of the season came against Georgia. Against the Bulldogs, he caught seven passes for 93 yards.


Hurst was not exactly a TD machine during his college career. In this regard, he cannot compare with his peers like Mike Gesicki (28.13 percent touchdown share) Mark Andrews (17.39 percent) and Christopher Herndon (15.38 percent).  But taking away the touchdowns, it is notable that Hurst enjoyed a greater share of his teams receiving yards.

Hayden Hurst 20.0%
Mark Andrews 19.2%
Christopher Herndon 15.1%
Mike Gesicki 14.9%

However, it would be wrong to suggest that his apparent end zone allergy is something that can be ignored out of hand. As we will see shortly, most of the leading TEs in the NFL visited the end zone a lot more often in college than Hurst has managed.


At 6-foot-5, Hurst is the same height as many of the more prominent TEs already in the NFL. Below you can see how he compares in the major categories against these players.1

Height Weight 40 Yard Dash College Games College Recs College Yds College TDs
Zach Ertz 6’5 249 4.76 37 112 1434 15
Tyler Kroft 6’5 246 4.75 34 70 901 5
Hunter Henry 6’5 250 4.67 35 116 1661 9
Travis Kelce 6’5 255 4.63 35 59 875 10
Jared Cook 6’5 246 4.49 36 73 1107 7
Austin Seferian-Jenkins 6’5 262 4.56 38 146 1840 21
Cameron Brate 6’5 245 28 91 1381 18
Julius Thomas 6’5 246 4.68 11 29 453 2
Hayden Hurst 6’5 250 4.73 31 100 1281 3

Hurst played fewer games in college than everyone above except for Julius Thomas and Cameron Brate. The really concerning aspect – a running theme for all TE prospects this year – is speed.

While the above 40-yard dash time is only an estimate, the need for speed cannot be understated in a modern TE. In his article regarding the combine drills that matter most for the position, the first indicator Kevin Cole looks at is the 40 time.


Speed was also vitally important in determining if a prospect had a chance to become a viable NFL starter in the prospect model created by Phil Watkins.


Hayden Hurst is currently the TE7 on the CBS draft ranking, while the folks at NFL Draft Scout actually have him as their TE3 behind only Andrews and Dallas Goedert. Draft Scout has given him a second- to third-round grade. There may be some slight concerns regarding his age, given that he will be a 25-year-old rookie when the season starts. His second- to third-round projection is echoed in the Dynasty Command Center Rookie Draft Guide.

“Big tight ends that can catch and block typically translate well to the NFL…While (Hurst) doesn’t have elite athleticism, he has the size and ball skills teams covet in the early rounds.”

There are certainly teams in need of assistance at the TE spot who could benefit from having Hurst on their rosters. An ideal situation would seem to be for Hurst to land on a team behind an established TE who is perhaps more of a receiver than a blocker. This would enable Hurst to see some snaps as the second TE, while not being expected to become the focal point of an offense.

A team like the Eagles, which will probably release Brent Celek and lose Trey Burton to free agency, would be a nice fit. The Eagles at present do not have a Day 2 selection, and unless he falls, he’s unlikely to land with the Super Bowl champions. But how about the team that lost the Super Bowl? Now there’s a thought…


  1. His 40-yard dash time is an estimate from NFL Draft Scout and is the median time suggested.  (back)

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