The Raiders have long lacked a dominant presence on the interior of their defensive line. Luckily for Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden, there should be two talented defensive tackles available when the team drafts at ten overall.
One of those players is Michigan’s Maurice Hurst. The First-Team All-American has been an anchor for one of the best defenses in the nation recording 10.5 sacks in two seasons with the Wolverines.
But after being held out of workouts at the NFL Combine due to a heart condition that was detected at Michigan, there are questions regarding Hurst’s health. Should the Raiders roll the dice and draft arguably the best pass rushing interior defensive lineman the 2018 draft has to offer? The Silver and Black Pride staff weighs in.
Tyler Green (@TylerGreenSB)
Talk about a tough decision. If healthy, Maurice Hurst is a top-ten talent and one of the best pass rushers in the entire draft despite playing defensive tackle. Adding an interior defensive lineman of Hurst’s caliber would immediately improve the entire defense as Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin would be freed up off the edge.
Hurst is also a great scheme fit for the 4-3 defense that Paul Guenther prefers. With an outstanding combination of burst and leverage, I compared the Michigan standout to Pro Bowler Geno Atkins who saw his best seasons under Guenther back when he was defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.
That being said, Hurst’s health is a major concern. While he was medically cleared by doctors to participate in Michigan’s pro day, there is no guarantee he will be cleared by every team. With so many talented players that will be available at the tenth pick, the Raiders would be better off playing it safe and drafting a prospect with less risk.
Maurice Hurst had 5.5 sacks last year for Michigan, which had one of the better defenses in college football. Since their offense was unbearably awful, it’s the only way they stayed in any games. That total is a lot for a defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald, and one might think, hmm, that’s what the Raiders need!
But that would be a mirage. Hurst isn’t some big, hulking defensive tackle who powers his way into the backfield through double teams. Hurst is a 280-pound speed rusher who uses quick reflexes and insane reaction time to catch interior linemen off guard. He struggles against strong, big linemen who swallow him up with blocks, and he’s not strong enough to shed those blocks. He also isn’t great against runs right at him. Isn’t that what the Raiders have lacked for years, a huge run-stuffing defensive tackle? Hurst isn’t that.
Hurst’s one skill is pass-rushing, and the Raiders do need that, but not in the first round. He’d be a reasonable target in Round 2, assuming the Raiders don’t take Vita Vea here.
BD Williams (@BDWilliams18)
Hurst grades out high as a prospect after posting 4 years of production at Michigan. Hurst lived in the backfield in college and will make an instant impact as a gap shooter for an NFL team utilizing a single gap scheme. Hurst uses superior hand placement and leverage to defeat blockers and is the closest thing we’ve seen to Aaron Donald out of Pittsburgh a few years ago.
I make it a habit to bet on guys who showed mastery of technique before they even get to the professional level and you can’t watch Hurst without noticing he wins with a variety of moves. We all know Reggie McKenzie isn’t shy about guys with an injury history and if Hurst’s heart issue checks out I would be surprised if he fell past Oakland at 10. Hurst fits what Gruden wants (interior rusher) and what Guenther needs (3-Technique) so there is no doubt a place on the team for him.
Ryan Lipton (@Rytime98)
The Raiders have seen almost no pass-rush production from the interior of the defensive line in recent memory. The team has its space eater and run stuffer in Justin Ellis but still doesn’t have a consistent threat in the middle to provide pressure and free up space for Mack, Irvin and Mario Edwards Jr.
Assuming Hurst’s heart is good to go, he is one of the most talented players coming out of college. He would fill an immediate need in the interior as he tallied 15 sacks and 67 hurries during his three years at Michigan.
Hurst is a little undersized, but has seemingly bulked up to 292 pounds and has an incredible burst and motor that should translate well into Guenther’s 4-3 defense.
Levi Damien (@LeviDamien)
Ah yes. Probably the toughest guy to predict in this year’s draft. I’ve seen him mocked anywhere from the top five to not in the first round at all. It all surrounds the status of his heart, which had him pulled from combined workouts, but then cleared for his pro day. All I’ve heard since then suggests that he’s fine.
I’m going to assume for the sake of this argument that he is. Even though it wouldn’t matter one way or the other if the Raiders pick him, they’ll be mocked relentlessly because of previous injured or soon-to-be injured top draft picks such as DJ Hayden, Karl Joseph, and Gareon Conley. To be honest, I have gone back and forth in my mind between Vea and Hurst. Vea is a monster who can anchor the middle of the defensive line, but Hurst is more of the 3-tech inside pass rusher the Raiders defensive line desperately lacks. Can’t argue with the pick if they made it.
Should the Raiders draft Maurice Hurst?
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