Josh Kendall

Mel Kiper thinks Hayden Hurst is going high in NFL draft

South Carolina tight end prospect Hayden Hurst could be as high as the 19th overall pick of the NFL draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said Wednesday.

“Hayden Hurst is a first-rounder,” said Kiper, who has covered the NFL draft for 35 years. “Maybe he gets into the late first round. I think New Orleans would be a good fit for him (with the No. 27 overall pick).”

Kiper compared Hurst, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, to former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller, a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder who had 592 catches for 6,569 yards in 11 NFL seasons.

“Excellent hands, versatile, just a great kid, very humble, well-spoken,” Kiper said of Hurst.

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. The draft will be held April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.

Hurst and South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert are the two best tight ends in the draft, and Hurst’s stock is helped because he’s a good blocker, Kiper said.

“He’s an inline blocker, which very few of these guys do know,” Kiper said. “He’s unique to the position now.”