Maurice Hurst was diagnosed with a heart condition at the NFL combine three weeks ago, which makes him one of the riskiest picks in this year’s draft. So why did I give him to the Detroit Lions in my latest mock draft?
Two reasons, mostly, the first being there’s still a month to go till the draft and it remains to be seen how NFL teams ultimately view Hurst’s health.
I saw Hurst working out locally two weeks ago in anticipation of his pro day Friday at Michigan. He ran. He did other timing drills. He did a circuit in the weight room. He declined an interview at the time, but he anticipated being cleared to play after another doctor visit last week when additional testing was to be done.
He said his agent would release a statement then about his condition. (His agent, Patrick Collins, has not responded to follow-up inquiries about Hurst’s health).
Hurst isn’t the first player to have a heart condition detected at the combine. Star Lotulelei was diagnosed with the same issue in 2013, the heart scare later was attributed to a virus. He fell to 14th in the draft, but just signed his second NFL contract last week with the Buffalo Bills.
Nick Fairley had what one high-ranking personnel executive told me was “a similar issue” to Hurst in 2011, when he (like Lotulelei) was expected to be a top-five or so pick and fell to 13th in the draft.
Fairley is now out of the league because of his condition. But the team that took him on draft night? None other than your Detroit Lions.
Hurst isn’t as good an NFL prospect as Lotulelei or Fairley, and certainly every team will view his medicals differently. The Lions have undergone a regime change since they drafted Fairley, though much of their medical staff remains in place.
I don’t know how the team currently views Hurst’s health, but I do know its biggest need — well, second biggest after tight end — is at the defensive tackle position that Hurst played so well during his time at Michigan.
That’s the second reason I gave Hurst to the Lions at Pick No. 20: Position need and value.
In my first mock draft, I gave the Lions defensive end Harold Landry, who played for current Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni at Boston College.
I still think Landry would make a fine pick. It’s incredibly difficult to find good, dependable edge rushers, and the production he showed during his 16.5-sack junior season can’t be ignored.
Hurst, while not as statistically dominant, was a force in the middle of the Wolverines defense, and his ability as an inside rusher should translate well to the NFL. He’s not the biggest defensive tackle, and his lower frame is far from the most powerful. But he’s incredibly quick and relentless, as his 12.5 sacks the last three seasons showed.
In the NFL, Hurst should be a three-down player because of his pass-rush ability. He’s not the true nosetackle the Lions have been seeking for Matt Patricia’s defense, but he would play Day 1 at a position the Lions undeniably need help at — perhaps starting alongside A’Shawn Robinson — and he’s good enough to have an impact a rookie.
Hurst’s future remains up in the air right now, and perhaps we’ll get clarity on that later this week.
If everything checks out, he’d make a fine and welcome addition to the Lions with the 20th pick of the first round. If it doesn’t, well, it’s a good thing there’s still a month till the draft.
Contact Dave Birkett: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Download our Lions Xtra app for free on Apple and Android!