Former South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst is “probably all around the top tight end in this draft,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said Tuesday.
Herbstreit has plenty of experience seeing Hurst during the analyst’s work on college football, but he appreciates Hurst even more now that he’s doing NFL draft coverage for ESPN.
“I love Hayden Hurst,” Herbstreit said. “He’s a little bit more a true old-school tight end. I think he’s more physical at the line of scrimmage (than another top tight end prospect, Mark Andrews of Oklahoma). He’s fun to watch after he gets his hands on the ball, because he’s looking to hurt somebody. He’s looking to run over somebody. I just love his energy and athletic ability.”
Hurst caught 100 passes for 1,281 yards and three touchdowns in a three-year career with the Gamecocks. He gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the NFL draft early.
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Hurst, 24, spent two years as a minor league baseball player before joining South Carolina’s football team, and Herbstreit believes that experience will make Hurst better prepared than many NFL rookies.
“You go play minor league baseball and you’re on buses and around other guys trying to chasing dreams all day,” Herbstreit said. "It probably gives you a newfound respect and appreciation, and I think that’s why he plays the way he plays. He plays with energy. He plays with passion, and I think it has a lot to do with that baseball opportunity and how that went.”
The NFL draft will be held April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas, and Hurst could be selected as early as Thursday night’s first round.