Why The Detroit Lions Should Draft Defensive Tackle Maurice Hurst In The First Round Of The 2018 NFL Draft
Why A Defensive Tackle In The First?
Anyone looking at the Detroit Lions 2017 season can easily see how detrimental their poor defensive line play was to the defensive unit. Too often offensive lineman were free to engage the Lions linebackers because the defensive line failed to hold their gap and were taken out of plays. They got very poor production in the pass rush as well from their interior line, managing just six sacks on the year. Enter Maurice Hurst.
Some of the issue stems from critical injuries at the start of the season, where they lost defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and edge rusher Kerry Hyder for the year. Ziggy Ansah made a late season surge, but injuries held him back from making a serious impact on the Lions 2017 season. Still, the Lions do not have a starting caliber 3′ defensive tackle and Hurst fits that bill to a tee.
What Are Hursts Strengths?
What jumps out at you on film when watching Hurst is his ability to play with great leverage, his explosive first step, and how developed his hand fighting was already at the college level. His top tier technique has allowed him to succeed against the run and pass at the University of Michigan.
Hurst’s first step is very impressive. He is consistently the first person moving on the line, which leads to many blown up runs from the penetration he is able to create. Both of the highlights above from his tape against Michigan State University this season really illustrate this point. Hurst is also able to keep his inside shoulder free and crashes down the line very well.
This ability has led to many tackles for a loss for the penetrating defensive tackle. His play recognition is quite good as well. He has a natural feel for the flow of the play and was rarely out of position in 2017. He sniffed out many screens this season and is in constant pursuit of the ball carrier, even as offenders are breaking into the second and third tiers to the defense. His motor seems to always be churning.
Hurst can also rush the passer quite well. He already has multiple pass rush moves coming into the NFL, which is promising to see. He combines great hand fighting technique with really heavy hands at the point of attack. He stacks and sheds well against the run. But also has shown nice club, rip, and swim moves rushing the passer.
After he is free from the blocker, his athleticism takes over. Not only does he have a quick first step but he also has great short area burst. This helps him close quickly on running backs and quarterbacks once he sheds his blocker.
How Will He Fit In The Detroit Defense?
Listed at 6’2″, 285 lbs in college, Hurst looks like a 3′ penetrating tackle on paper. It is likely his best position in the Lions defense as well. His quick penetration is really disruptive to an opposing running attack and the Lions needed a play-maker in that area last season on their defensive line. He would be Detroit’s best pass rushing 3′ instantly and would likely be a day 1 starter at the position. His pass rush ability and hand fighting technique has Hurst as one of the more “pro-ready” players in this class.
What is still up in the air is exactly where they could use him. He appears too light on paper to play a 1′ in the NFL. However, under general manager Bob Quinn the Lions have really coveted versatility in their rookies. This could be another area of strength for Hurst as he has played the 1′ through the 5′ in 2017 and has shown the ability to succeed across all these alignments. But if he weighs in lighter than listed at the NFL combine it could limit this versatility.
All in all, the Lions would get a day 1 starter who is pro-ready and can play all three downs out of their 1st round pick. If Maurice Hurst is still available at pick number 20 in the 2018 NFL Draft, Detroit would likely be running to the podium to keep him in the state of Michigan for the next five years.