Hayden Hurst was the hand-picked tight-end replacement for Austin Hooper in Atlanta. He figures to settle into a role that landed Hooper 5.5 targets per game in 2018 and 7.5 targets per game in 2019. Hurst is just as tall and big as Hooper, but maybe a tad faster ... and, unfortunately, a whole lot less experienced. He's one to watch during training camp - if it becomes clear that Hurst fits into Atlanta's offense, he'll be the biggest tight end breakout candidate of the summer. Otherwise, he'll be a dart throw tight end to stream to begin the season. In either case he's worth a pick after 75th overall on Draft Day, making him a low-risk tight end with good potential.
Hurst thanked Matt Ryan for backing him during a virtual interview session with reporters Tuesday, per the tight end's personal Twitter account. The Falcons' franchise quarterback lauded Hurst, calling him a "mismatch problem" for opponents. Despite the ongoing pandemic, Hurst stated that he has been driving from his home in Jacksonville, FL to Atlanta in order to hold workout sessions with Ryan, and it appears the two have an instant connection. "I've been incredibly impressed with (Hurst's) work ethic," Ryan said Tuesday. "He fits in well with the group of guys we have." Hurst, a 2018 first-round pick who was buried on the depth chart in Baltimore, could be a profitable fantasy acquisition for 2020. Though he hasn't yet delivered on his lofty draft position, Hurst has an enormous opportunity to produce in Atlanta, where Austin Hooper racked up 146 catches and 10 touchdowns between 2018 and 2019 before departing to Cleveland during free agency.
The Patriots and Jaguars are interested in acquiring Hurst from the Ravens, Eugene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union reports reports. The 2018 first-round pick reportedly wants an opportunity to catch more passes, after averaging 28.6 offensive snaps and 2.4 targets per game in 2019. He may be underutilized in Baltimore, but Hurst's well-rounded skill set makes him a valuable backup to both Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle in the Ravens' TE-heavy offense. It's a luxury the team can afford for the time being, though an offer of an early draft pick or a starting-caliber defensive player might persuade the Ravens to sacrifice some TE depth for the potential to score a significant upgrade at another position. Jacksonville and New England are obvious fits for any pass-catching tight end that becomes available this offseason.
Hurst caught 30 of 39 targets for 349 yards and two touchdowns in 2019. Hurst showed significant improvement in Year 2 after a rookie year that was impacted by a foot injury. He commanded the fifth-highest target share on the team at 9.2 percent and proved to be a viable target downfield with an 8.6 aDOT and a 76.9 percent catch rate. While those are promising peripheral numbers, the fact that he was behind Nick Boyle in the pecking order for targets, even down the stretch, is not an encouraging sign. It's fair to argue that Baltimore misused Hurst considering that Boyle had worse advanced numbers in terms of aDOT, catch rate and drop rate, but Boyle isn't going anywhere with his new contract. Mark Andrews will remain the primary target at tight end in Baltimore, and there's a chance the offense funnels more targets to the receivers in 2020 if the team overhauls the position as expected. Hurst still has some upside, but it's too crowded of a tight end room to make him worth spending any sort of significant draft capital in standard redraft leagues.
Hurst caught both of his targets for 35 yards during Sunday's 28-10 win over the Steelers. Hurst led the Ravens in receiving Sunday in a game in which many of the team's primary starters were rested. He provided his biggest contribution midway through the second quarter, coming back to the ball on a 20-yard pass from Robert Griffin to set up a field goal. The Ravens will have a bye this week before taking on the Texans, Bills or Titans in the divisional round. Hurst caught all five of his targets for 89 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Bills and Texans this season.
Hurst caught one of three targets for nine yards Sunday against the Browns. The second-year tight end has just two catches for 28 yards since his breakout against the Bills in Week 14. Hurst could be in line for more target volume than usual in Week 17 if Baltimore opts to scale back Mark Andrews' snap count ahead of the postseason.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|4||10/06||@Green Bay Packers||14||6.78|
|11||11/22||@New Orleans Saints||8||6.12|
|12||11/29||Las Vegas Raiders||30||8.75|
|13||12/06||New Orleans Saints||8||6.12|
|14||12/13||@Los Angeles Chargers||11||6.25|
|15||12/20||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||23||7.63|
|16||12/27||@Kansas City Chiefs||21||7.32|
|17||01/03||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||23||7.63|
|3 Year Avg||31||22||256||2||12||11.64||37|