Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
(percentile rank among all TEs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.67 seconds (76th)
Vertical: 31.5 inches (33rd)
Broad: 120 inches (81st)
3-cone drill: 7.19 seconds (38th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.37 seconds (48th)
A dominant high school pitcher, Hurst was on the fast track to the major leagues.
But his path to pro ball had one major hurdle — a case of the yips. That story is meticulously detailed by Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report.
It’s a lengthy read but one worth the time. Here’s an excerpt that sums up Hurst’s current mindset.
"I understand now what it's like to be at the bottom. I don't judge a lot anymore. I don't make fun of things. I know what it's like to go through something there is no explanation for. What I went through I wouldn't wish on anybody. I dug myself out of it and put myself in this position. Everything I've been through in my life has made me who I am. So I have no regrets."
Maturity. Prospective. They’re edges Hurst should have on most prospects. After all, the 2015 walk-on will turn 25 years old in August.
That’s important context to remember, as Hurst mainly faced 19 or 20-year-olds. Still, what he accomplished in college football must be applauded.
The Jacksonville native was named a team captain as a sophomore.
"He earned it day to day with his work ethic, drive and competitive edge," HC Will Muschamp said via Bleacher Report. "With him, all of those things are off the charts."
Hurst wasn’t just a locker room guy. Playing all over the formation, he racked up 92 catches over the past 2 years. 19 of them came from the slot in 2017, per Pro Football Focus.
South Carolina even gave Hurst a handful of carries. (You’ll see one in the clip below.) Clearly, the coaching staff thought highly of his ability.
Ask Hurst, and he’ll say his best attributes are speed and route running. His 40-time (4.67) is solid, while the tape certainly shows a functional athlete. And don’t question his hands — Hurst has just 1 career drop, per NFL.com.
Let’s take a look at how he turns those traits into production.
Games watched - Michigan, Arkansas, Missouri, USF (2016)
Top fantasy TEs -- like Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and Evan Engram -- boast amazing athleticism. Hurst isn't in their class. But as the lack of drops indicate, he's a reliable receiver.
In the clip below, he adjusts nicely to a difficult ball...
When in contested catch situations, Hurst excelled. Per PFF, he snagged 7 of 11 targets under those conditions. Here are a pair...
Hurst showed an ability to beat linebackers and safeties in coverage. In the Missouri game, he scored once but had 2 would-be TDs washed out on poor throws. This seperate clip shows him gain separation up the seam...
Here, Hurst gets behind the defense and seals the deal with a TD...
As promised, here's Hurst as a ball carrier. In total, he racked up 11 career carries for 39 yards and 1 score.
Age clearly isn't a selling point for Hurst. Again, he turns 25 in August.
But it shouldn't exactly be used as a weapon against him. Hurst played just 1 year of high school football before pursuing a pro baseball career. He walked on at South Carolina in 2015 and didn't transition to TE full-time until 2016.
Through that lens, perhaps there's some untapped potential. His college tape already showed a strong all-around skill set as a receiver -- most notably his trusty hands. Hurst also displayed a willingness to get involved as a blocker.
A potential top-50 pick, Hurst should have opportunities for future mid or low-end TE1 numbers.