Hayden Hurst was almost instantly pegged as a breakout candidate for the 2020 season after the Atlanta Falcons completed a trade with the Baltimore Ravens to acquire the former first-round tight end back in mid-March. Now, those feeling are likely only going to be intensified after his quarterback got to look under the hood to see what his new pass-catching weapon was like in action.
During a videoconference call with the media on Tuesday, Matt Ryan gave his first impressions of Hurst and the Falcons veteran quarterback held him in pretty right regard, saying he's one of the "fastest and most athletic tight ends I've ever played with." When you consider that Ryan has also played with the likes of Tony Gonzalez and Austin Hooper, who just departed this offseason, eyebrows should definitely be raised after that comment.
Hust does have the pedigree to really blossom into a legit top-flight tight end in the NFL. He was the first tight end selected in the 2018 NFL Draft after the Ravens took him with the No. 25 pick out of South Carolina, where he enjoyed a First-team All-SEC campaign during his final collegiate season. At the NFL level, Hurst played sparingly during his rookie season and was eventually buried on the depth chart behind fellow 2018 draft selection Mark Andrews. In those 28 regular-season games played for Baltimore over the past two years, Hurst totaled 43 receptions for 512 yards and three scores.
With the Falcons, those numbers have the chance to increase tenfold. Coach Dan Quinn's offense is very favorable to tight ends and Hurst is set to become the latest beneficiary. He is poised to take the place of Austin Hooper, who saw around 14.2% of the total targets in Atlanta's offense in 2019 even after playing in just 13 games. Hooper was second on the team with 97 targets and finished with 75 receptions for 787 yards and six touchdowns. All of that action is slated to go directly to Hurst, who'll slot right into that very desirable position.
The fact that he's also building up chemistry and confidence with his new quarterback should only make this transition that much more productive for the 26-year-old, who could start off the 2020 season already firing on all cylinders.