There were plenty of people who took issue with the Raiders’ draft strategy this past weekend.
Critics believed top pick Kolton Miller, an offensive tackle, was taken much too high, thought the team bypassed more talented players in taking defensive tackle P.J. Hall in the second round and had no idea why Oakland needed another offensive tackle (Brandon Parker) in the third round.
But one selection in Round 5 Saturday could turn out to be a gem.
That’s when the Raiders traded up to get the third pick of the fifth round (140th overall), which they used to select Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst.
Hurst, 6-foot-1 and 292 pounds, was considered one of the top talents available in the draft at the end of last season. In fact, at one point he was rated the No. 3 talent overall by the analytic website Pro Football Focus. But when he was diagnosed with a heart condition at the NFL combine in February (reported to be an irregular heart beat), his stock plummeted. As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted, even when Hurst met with cardiologists from the University of Michigan and Harvard, who cleared him to resume football activities and prescribed medication, teams still were leery of his condition.
Though he was a stellar performer at Michigan, he dropped all the way into Day 3 of the draft, where the Raiders were able to get him. His presence on the inside of the defensive line could be a huge boost to the run defense and pass rush.
“It’s tough just thinking you’re one of the top players in the draft and having good tape and everything like that and just having to wait and see guys that you believe you’re better than go ahead of you,” Hurst told Gutierrez. “I mean, it’s tough. I’m just happy to be in the right place and be part of a great organization. I think I’m the best defensive tackle – one of them – in this draft, so obviously, I think highly of myself in that regard. But I’m just excited to have the opportunity … definitely a dream scenario for me to be a Raider.”
In his final year at Michigan, as a junior, Hurst had 34 tackles, including 11.5 or loss, and 4.5 sacks. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, who wrote a scouting report on Hurst, says his quickness on the snap could lead him to become a “disruptive penetrator” on the line of scrimmage.
“He’s got a get-off that is crazy fast, and if he gets with the right coordinator, he’s going to be tough to block,” one AFC scout told Zierlein.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie says he doesn’t see Hurst’s heart condition as being a problem.
“The fact is, he does have a heart condition,” McKenzie said. “But it is a situation where he’ll get checked every year. Right now, he’s good.”
Hurst will get his first chance to show the Raiders what he can do at rookie minicamp next week in Alameda.