The best defensive tackle in the 2018 NFL Draft’s stock was in jeopardy after Maurice Hurst’s heart condition was flagged at the Scouting Combine. Thankfully, Hurst was given the all-clear and should now be back on track to be the first defensive tackle drafted in this month’s draft. Hurst is a three-down tackle capable of lining up all along the defensive line, impacting the game against both the run and the pass.
Over the last three seasons with Michigan, Hurst was extremely productive as a defensive tackle, totaling 31 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks between 2015 and 2017. As interior pressure becomes more and more important in the NFL, players like Hurst will continue to rise in value. Overshadowed by Bradley Chubb, Hurst is right there with Harold Landry as the next best defensive lineman in this year’s draft.
Hurst comes off the ball with outstanding anticipation and burst. It regularly looks as though he’s moving before anyone across from him has begun getting into their stance.
Lining up anywhere from 0-tech to 5-tech, Hurst has the lateral agility and short area quickness to work down the line and come through gaps one or two down from where he originally aligned.
One of Hurst’s best traits is his ability to split linemen and knife into the backfield. The combination of initial burst to shoot the gap and then the power to drive his legs as two helpless linemen converge on him is special.
There is no interior rusher in this year’s draft better at shooting through gaps than Hurst:
As an undersized defensive tackle, Hurst has terrific functional strength. He’s capable of ripping the lineman across from him and manipulating their direction in any number of ways.
As a testament to Hurst’s strength and ability, he had a number of snaps lined up as the nose tackle in the Wolverines’ 2017 matchup against Saquon Barkley and Penn State. Centers are completely overmatched against Hurst, and he’ll often get underneath them, jack them back and force runs outside.
Finally, Hurst displays the functional strength necessary to hold up at the point of attack, not just the flash plays in the backfield.
Hurst is able to chop linemen’s hands with great effectiveness, freeing himself up before getting off blocks with an excellent swim move. As a defensive tackle with outstanding short area quickness, Hurst will be crossing guard’s faces regularly and getting into the backfield; that combination of chop and swim will prove deadly.
Here, Hurst uses his hands to dodge the guard’s lunge before shooting into the backfield:
After disengaging and getting inside of him, Hurst has the flexibility and strength to work past the guard:
While the league’s old guard continues to cling to the idea of short defensive tackles being bit-players, Aaron Donald, Grady Jarrett and soon Hurst will continue to decimate offensive lines and quarterbacks. Hurst plays with great leverage and balance, able to regularly get underneath normal-sized offensive linemen and jack them back.
Here, Hurst pushes the lineman back into the wildcat quarterback’s path and then makes the tackle:
Hurst is never on the ground at any point in a play, pointing to his great balance. Here, Hurst is essentially parallel to the line with a guard engaging him, yet he maintains his balance and makes the tackle (ridiculous):
Despite consistently showing up in his opponent’s backfield, Hurst is a responsible gap defender against the run. He’s able to hold up and maintain gap integrity, before disengaging with ease and making the play on the ball carrier.
Overall, Maurice Hurst is a three-down defensive tackle capable of piling up individual stats while defending the run just as well. He’s going to consistently provide his team with pressure from the interior and is far and away the best defensive tackle in this year’s class. While Derwin James’ draft stock has seemingly corrected to top-10, Hurst may drop due to health concerns. If so, he represents the Seattle Seahawks’ best chance at acquiring blue chip talent at the top of the 2018 NFL Draft.