2018 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Maurice Hurst looks like next great pass-rushing DT
The Michigan senior has wreaked havoc and distanced himself from other defensive tackle prospects
Maurice Hurst played with an assortment of NFL-caliber defenders during his long tenure at Michigan, and in his final season in Ann Arbor, he finally got the chance to start. And boy has he ever grasped the opportunity to shine in the spotlight.
The Wolverines defensive tackle has now logged 13 tackles for loss with 5.5 sacks on the year. In fact, he's made a tackle behind the line of scrimmage of some kind in all but two games this season.
With the NFL now a quick-passing league, the defenders closest to the ball -- yes, that would be the defensive tackles -- are becoming increasingly more valuable, a good development for Hurst's draft stock.
1. Derwin James, S, Florida State
James had a lull in the middle of this season, and Florida State's underwhelming 2017 has caused this uber-talented safety to kind of fly under the radar. While he's proven to be capable of filling the weakside linebacker role as a strong safety earlier in his Florida State career, he's thrived in coverage this season, thereby rounding out his game. His size, athleticism and versatility will make him a tremendously valuable player in today's NFL.
2. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
I've realized Chubb is the most complete defensive front-seven player in this draft class. Arden Key recently jumped Chubb in my rankings, but he's dealt with an array of injuries and runs more hot and cold than the NC State superstar. Chubb isn't Myles Garrett, partly because Myles Garrett is a rare specimen. Chubb is a rock-solid run defender and a speed-to-power pass-rusher with a fair amount of moves to beat offensive linemen. He's low on flaws.
3. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Nelson is a people-mover on the interior, and he has some of the best awareness I've seen at the guard position from a prospect. Good luck confusing him with a stunt or delayed blitz. His run-blocking is ahead of his pass-blocking, but that's basically because he's absolutely lights out paving lanes for ball-carriers.
4. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick didn't play in Alabama's 56-0 trouncing of Mercer. The Crimson Tide didn't need Fitzpatrick. He's still the premier cornerback/safety in the 2018 draft class, but his injury is obviously worth monitoring.
5. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Nice way for Barkley to end his career at Beaver Stadium. With adequate blocking, he was the best player in college football once again. Imagine that. Leading into the win over Nebraska, Barkley struggled and Derrius Guice went on a tear, which narrowed the gap between the two runners -- I had Guice slightly ahead of Barkley before the season -- but Barkley's receiving ability keeps him ahead of Guice for now.
6. Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Oklahoma
Not the best game for Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense against Kansas. Yeah. Kansas. Anyway, Brown dominated as you could have probably guessed he would. He's a tall bulldozer blocking for the run and is a capable left tackle protecting the blindside.
7. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Smith's coverage ability is what sets him apart from the other linebackers in this class, although he's an outstanding, powerful run defender too. It's not that he's just athletic. It's that he knows how to maximize his athleticism while covering tight ends, running backs and receivers downfield. Not to mention, he's a no-nonsense blitzer too.
8. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Jackson's rapidly climbed in my rankings, and it's been due to consistently awesome quarterback play. That simple. As I mentioned Syracuse came after textbook movement in the pocket and laser-like accuracy down the field. And the arrow is pointing up on his development., the Louisville quarterback is really impressive before you even consider what he can do with his legs. A few of his 14 completions against
9. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Hurst cannot be blocked at the collegiate level. I've come to that conclusion. Run play, pass play, misdirection, Spider 2 Y Banana ... doesn't matter. And it's like every interior offensive linemen knows he's going to fire off the ball like a rocket, but it doesn't matter. His first step is just too quick. He's in the Geno Atkins mold.
10. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Sutton had one reception for 35 yards in SMU's loss to Memphis. That reception was a contested-catch touchdown in which he demonstrated his athleticism and length by diving and extending his arm to get into the end zone. Sutton's presence has been beneficial to teammate Trey Quinn's monster season. The quiet game for Sutton is a bit concerning, but not enough for a major slide.
11. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Guice is running like a man possessed for the Tigers. Metaphors aside, it's really just that Guice is fully healthy now, and he looks like a souped-up version of his 2016 self, which is frightening. While he only averaged 4.0 yards per carry against Tennessee, some of his cuts were as vicious as ever.
12. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Major fall for Rudolph after an abysmal effort against Kansas State. And it's not as if one game was the sole reason he plummeted. He has been shaky over the past month, and while a shoulder injury was likely a factor, he'd been gaining zip on his throws and Oklahoma State was relying on the pass more and more leading into this game. His arm strength is the biggest question mark for his pro potential.
13. Arden Key, DE, LSU
Another injury for Key, which is a bummer. When something isn't nagging him, he's ferocious off the edge and has bend not typically seen in edge-rushers of his size. I wouldn't be surprised if he's shut down for the rest of the season, which would put an end on a productive but ultimately strange Tigers career for the first-round lock.
14. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, Oklahoma
Okoronkwo was back on his game against the Jayhawks. But yeah, it was against the Kansas Jayhawks, not exactly a football program churning out NFL-caliber offensive linemen on a regular basis. Not every team will love Okoronkwo. And that's fine. But for the teams that want a dynamic, stand-up edge-rusher who can adequately sink into a zone or run to the flat in coverage, he'll be a high priority.
15. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Where did the drops against Kansas State come from? Washington went for 159 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches against Kansas State but dropped three passes. There's plenty to like about his game, his greatest strengths being his long speed and ball-tracking abilities.
16. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Love doesn't appear to be 100 percent recovered from his ankle injury, and he still ran for 101 yards (with a 57-yard score) in the rivalry-game win over Cal. I've yet to hammer down a comparison for the Stanford stud, but I know it'll ultimately be an NFL runner with the power to crush home runs often.
17. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Miller takes over as my No. 2 offensive tackle ahead of Chukwuma Okorafor and Mike McGlinchey. While watching Josh Rosen on Saturday night, I repeatedly noticed Miller devouring USC pass-rushers and getting out in front of Bruins run plays that resulted in big gains. At 6-foot-8 and 310 pounds, he's a long, relatively lean offensive tackle who flourishes in pass protection.
18. Ronald Jones, RB, USC
Miss on Barkley, Love, and Guice? No worries, RB-needy NFL team. Grab Jones, and you'll have an electric speed back with blue-collar skills between the tackles. When Jones is running well, the USC offense hums. He powered his way to 122 hard-earned yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in the win over UCLA.
19. Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
Jackson's gaining on Fitzpatrick as the best cornerback in this class. He's not the size-speed specimen Fitzpatrick is, but he might be better from a technical standpoint, and he sure as heck knows how to make a play on the football. If I had to choose between a cornerback who was a blanket in coverage but had no awareness or ball skills or a cornerback with poor coverage skills who routinely made plays on the football, I'm taking the latter all day. Jackson is a fluid coverage guy and is hyper aware.
20. Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
Okorafor didn't have his best game against Northern Illinois on national television. Not a world-ender. He allowed a sack, which is rarity. Other than that, his outing was rather "clean." Okorafor could use some more anchoring strength, and that's OK. Most collegiate offensive linemen do. His measureables and athletic skills are off the charts.
QB Josh Rosen, QB Sam Darnold, OT Mike McGlinchey, OT Connor Williams, OLB Dorian O'Daniel, WR Deontay Burnett, DE Clelin Ferrell, CB Denzel Ward, WR Anthony Miller, TE Mark Andrews, WR Michael Gallup, LB Kendall Joseph, DT Derrick Nnadi, RB Damien Harris
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