The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. It’s important for daily fantasy players to know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
Updated as of Apr. 10.
Junior | 6’4″ and 250 Pounds | Born August 24, 1993 (Age: 24) | Projection: Rounds 2-3
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.67 sec | bench: DNP | 3-cone: 7.19 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.37 sec | vertical: 31.5 in | broad: 120 in
Taking a Brandon Weeden-esque path to college football, Hurst is a difficult prospect to evaluate, as he’ll be 25 years old before he takes a regular season snap in the NFL. Selected in the 17th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hurst spent 2013 and 2014 toiling away in the minor leagues before deciding to return to football, which he had played in high school. Hurst enrolled at South Carolina in 2015 and joined the Gamecocks as a 22-year-old walk-on. As a freshman he played primarily on special teams and caught only eight passes, but as a sophomore he was named a captain and became a core part of the passing offense, finishing second on the team with 48 receptions and 616 yards and breaking positional school records with those marks. In 2017 he was once again featured in the offense, ranking second with 44 receptions and 559 yards and even chipping in nine rushes for 30 yards and a touchdown.
But there are three issues with Hurst. First, he’s old, and he plays a physically demanding position that normally takes players at least a couple of years to master at the NFL level. By the time he fully learns the game, he might be too old to be more than a good (but not great) contributor. Second, he’s more of a move tight end than an inline player, and he’s not much of a blocker, which will limit his ability to be a an every-down player early in his career. Third, he wasn’t much of a scorer in college, with just three receiving touchdowns in three years. An All-SEC first-teamer last year, Hurst probably has the size and ability to develop into a red-zone threat and three-down player, but his upside as a future NFL producer is likely capped.
Photo Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports