A year ago in the NFL draft, the Raiders were excited to land Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst in the fifth round.
After the discovery of a heart condition dissuaded teams from taking Hurst high in the draft – he was considered to have first-round talent – the Raiders drafted him after further examinations of Hurst indicated he would be in no danger from the condition while playing pro football.
And, in his first season, Hurst came on strong.
The 6-foot-2, 291-pounder had 10 starts and played in 13 games, logging four sacks, three quarterback hits, a forced fumble, 31 total tackles and three tackles for loss.
Hurst drew praise for his progress from defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and was graded by the analytic website Pro Football Focus as the fifth-best defensive tackle in the AFC West behind No. 1 Shelby Harris of the Broncos, No. 2 Chris Jones of the Chiefs and a pair of Broncos at Nos. 3 and 4, Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko Sr.
Recently, too, Mark Chichester of Pro Football Focus pointed to Hurst as a player who is poised to take a big step forward in 2019.
"Hurst entered the draft as not only the highest-ranked interior defender in the (draft) class, but the third-highest player on our big board, so to say that the Raiders got a bargain when they selected him in the fifth round would be an understatement," wrote Chichester.
Chichester noted that once Hurst got acclimated and received more playing time, he thrived. He wrote that Hurst finished 50th among NFL interior defenders in the league in total grade, but that wasn’t a reflection of his potential, based on some of the plays he made as a rookie.
Wrote Chichester: "There were times when he reminded us of the player we saw at Michigan, and if he can replicate that more often in 2019, he could very well be the next big thing at his position."