Perhaps the most talented tight end heading into the 2018 NFL Draft would be Hayden Hurst of the South Carolina Gamecocks. Even though the offense was in a state of transition during the first few years of the Will Muschamp era in Columbia, Hurst certainly shined for South Carolina as the best tight end in the SEC in 2017.
He was an insanely productive player in his three years in Columbia. Hurst had 100 catches for 1,281 yards, but only three touchdowns. Had South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley not been an underclassmen, maybe we could have seen Hurst haul in 1,000 receiving yards in a season? Then again, maybe not, but he will be the best tight end in this draft class coming out of the SEC.
If any tight end goes absurdly high in the second round, it would be Hurst. He is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds and could be a total mismatch in the receiving game. If he’s anything close to an O.J. Howard or an Evan Engram coming out of the SEC in year one, then that high of a draft pick could be worth it.
Really the only knock on Hurst coming out of South Carolina is that he’ll be in his mid-20s as rookie. Keep in mind that he played Minor League Baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization out of high school. Hurst could be a productive NFL tight end right away, but he’ll need to pop sooner rather than later. How did the Denver Broncos’ 2017 first-round pick in left tackle Garett Bolles turn out in year one?