Raiders: Maurice Hurst on the verge of breaking out in 2020

Raiders (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)
Raiders (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images) /

Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive tackle Maurice Hurst could break out in 2020

The Las Vegas Raiders landed what was considered to be one of the steals of the draft back in 2018 when they selected Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst in the fifth round.

The former Wolverines standout was considered a likely top-10 pick in his class before a pre-draft heart issue tanked his draft stock with many teams taking him off their boards entirely.

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The Raiders were evidently not only of those teams.

Hurst was finally picked up with the 140th overall pick in the draft — roughly 130+ picks later than he was originally projected to be selected. However, no one knew what his future would hold.

The talent was obvious, but Hurst’s health issues were clearly enough to force teams to rethink their draft strategies.

That being said, the heart problems that concerned teams leading up to the draft have yet to be an issue through his first two seasons. And in the famous words of Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, let’s “knock on wood” that these issues never surface again.

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Hurst has enjoyed a mildly successful start to his NFL career, but it hasn’t been the dominant beginning that many analysts likely projected. Instead, the 25-year-old has been a fixture in the Raiders’ defensive line rotation, but he’s yet to truly break out.

That could be set to change in 2020, however.

Hurst played some of the worst football of his brief career throughout the first half of last season. In fact, his 56.1 Pro Football Focus grade from Weeks 1-8 ranked 96th out of 110 qualified interior defensive linemen

His run-defense grade a stunningly low 48.8 grade placing him 105th at his position. Not an ideal start for a player who many had high hopes for heading into the season.

But Hurst managed to completely turn his season around in the second half.

The Raiders saw the best of Maurice Hurst in the second half

From Weeks 9-17, Hurst was a completely different player scoring an 82.7 grade from PFF, good for eighth-best in the NFL at his position. Perhaps even more impressive was his stellar 83.1 pass-rushing grade which ranked fourth.

The only three players to finish ahead of him? Aaron Donald, Kenny Clark, and Chris Jones. That’s quite the accompanying cast of players.

Hurst closed the season playing some of the best football of his brief NFL career and even though many of those snaps didn’t result in sacks — he finished the year with just 3.5 — his improvements as an interior rusher were evident.

Given another offseason of development, Hurst could be poised to break out in 2020 as he carries over the momentum he built up in the second half of last season.

Playing alongside rising star Maxx Crosby and the maturing Clelin Ferrell, Hurst could complete a very impressive collection of homegrown defensive linemen. Throw in Dallas Cowboys signee Maliek Collins and there’s a ton of potential in the trenches on defense.

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Hurst showed signs of future stardom in 2019, and look for him to take the next step towards greatness in 2020.