We’re on the brink of the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, which means we’re due for a new first round mock draft from ESPN’s Mel Kiper. Kiper is one of the biggest voices in national media coverage surrounding the draft thanks to his wealth of experience.
You can find all of Kiper’s picks by following this link (ESPN Insider required).
As for the New Orleans Saints, Kiper connects them to a new face in the first round discussion: South Carolina Gamecocks tight end Hayden Hurst:
I mentioned Hurst at pick No. 19, and he’s trending toward being a Day 1 pick and the first tight end off the board. He’s a well-rounded tight end who didn’t get a ton of targets in the South Carolina offense. One thing to note: because Hurst spent a couple of years playing minor league baseball, he will be 25 when he plays his first NFL game. That shouldn’t be a demerit, however, as he has the tools to be a premier tight end in the league. New Orleans brought in Coby Fleener in 2016 to try to replace the production of Jimmy Graham, but that didn’t work out and the Saints could release him this offseason. Drew Brees needs a No. 1 tight end
It’s tough to argue with Kiper’s reasoning, though I’m not sure the 25-year old Hurst is the move here. Hurst is maxed out physically and I’m not sure how high his ceiling will be in the NFL. But I do think he has some great tools to work with given his height-weight-speed profile (listed at 6-foot-5, 250-pounds with a rumored 4.6-second 40-yard dash) and baseball background. Check out how well he maintains his composure with a defender draped all over him to reel in this one-handed catch:
Hayden Hurst with the white hot focus of 1000 suns. pic.twitter.com/UZvsMD3u2c— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) January 19, 2018
Even though he’s older than you’d like, Hurst could provide the receiving threat the Saints need at tight end. He led the SEC in receptions at tight end last year (41) and posted a season-high mark in air yards (93) against the famed Georgia Bulldogs defense and linebacker Roquan Smith, so he must be good. I’m just not sure I’m on board with Kiper’s suggestion to draft him in the first round.
South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst finished the 2017 season with 0 drops pic.twitter.com/XkbO2p3LDc— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) February 20, 2018