When the Ravens selected tight end Hayden Hurst with the 25th overall pick in the 2018 draft, it was seen by many as a surprising move. Calvin Ridley, the consensus top-ranked receiver, was still on the board and seemed like a logical pick.
However, Ozzie Newsome opted to draft Hurst instead and address a clear need at the tight end position. At 6’4, 245 with sure hands and route-running ability, Hurst profiled as an NFL-ready pass-catcher.
He was expected to immediately step into a sizeable offensive role and potentially challenge Nick Boyle for the starting tight end spot. Hurst looked solid in preseason action before suffering a foot injury towards the end of August.
Upon having surgery to repair a stress fracture, Hurst’s original recovery timeline was three to four weeks, which would have set his season to begin in Week 2 or 3. However, his recovery ultimately took longer, he did not return until Week 5 against the Cleveland Browns.
Since taking the field, Hurst has yet to truly break out and produce at the level of a first-round pick. Through five games, Hurst has turned 10 targets into four catches, 57 yards and a touchdown.
Given the presence of the three other tight ends on the roster, all of which receive playing time, Hurst has not been asked to play a significant role. He’s seen no more than three targets in any of the five games he’s suited up for.
While Hurst was nursing an injury early in the season, Mark Andrews developed into the Ravens best pass-catcher at the position. Andrews has been a consistent weapon in the passing game this season, recording 21 receptions for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
Ideally, both rookie tight ends would work in tandem with each other and create a new element for the Ravens offense. Thus far, Andrews has produced but Hurst has yet to get up to speed.
While it’s somewhat disappointing that Hurst has not put up better numbers, it’s far too early to hit the panic button. Hurst simply hasn’t had a large workload and other than a late drop against the Saints, he’s yet to make any significant mistakes.
Hurst has showcased some nice blocking ability, and he’s seen an uptick in usage recently. Over the past two games combined, Hurst has caught three of five targets for 50 yards, which makes up almost his entire production on the season.
Although it came in garbage time, Hurst caught his first career touchdown pass against the Panthers. Interestingly enough, it came from Lamar Jackson, not Joe Flacco. Hurst and Jackson hooked up for a touchdown in the first preseason game, as well.
Could a quarterback change potentially boost Hurst’s stock? Given the chemistry shown between the two first-round picks, it's certainly possible. Regardless of whose under center, however, Hurst has the potential to build upon his recent increase in production.
Hopefully, the Week 10 bye helped Hurst become more acclimated in the offense. As he continues to get more reps and game snaps, Hurst figures to become more comfortable and the game will slow down for him.
It’s been a slow start to Hurst’s rookie season. Whether or not he can pick things up over the next several weeks remains to be seen. If he can build some momentum heading into the home stretch, it only figures to improve the Ravens offensive outlook.