The NFL Scouting Combine is the unofficial start to the draft process for many casual fans, who will begin paying attention to the prospects linked to their team in any mock drafts. For Cowboys Nation, this unfortunately could mean seeing much less of Michigan Defensive Tackle Maurice Hurst in the first round. The best three-technique DT in this class, Hurst was diagnosed with a heart condition during the Combine’s medical checks and held out of all on-field drills.
Pre-Combine draft projections are not meant to have the same clarity as those that will follow this week’s events from Indy, as the Combine is such an important step towards learning about a draft class.
This news feels significant for the Cowboys though, as Hurst has been mocked to Dallas with the 19th overall pick more than any other player. Should Hurst have been able to perform in front of coaches and scouts this week, there is no reason why he wouldn’t continue to be mocked to the Cowboys.
I’ve personally been outspoken against the Cowboys using their first pick on any 3T-DT, particularly a player in Hurst that remains a second round grade on my 2018 NFL Draft Board.
All of this has to be put aside now though.
Maurice Hurst can garner inspiration from current Carolina Panthers DT Star Lotulelei through this difficult time. In 2013, Lotulelei was diagnosed with a similar heart condition to Hurst’s. The star interior lineman out of Utah remained a first round draft pick, sliding to the Panthers at 14th overall. He has missed only four games since being drafted, recording 141 tackles and 11.5 sacks through his ongoing five-year career.
In his Michigan career, Hurst totaled 13.5 sacks, putting himself on the NFL’s radar as one of the nation’s most disruptive defenders.
This scouting process can be such a cruel one. Before NFL teams pay the best college football players from a year ago millions of dollars to represent their franchise, they want to know everything about every player. This makes the medical checks at the Scouting Combine one of the most important steps in the entire process. While fans get excited about how far their favorite players jump, how fast they run, and how well they answer questions to the media, a lot is learned about a player like Maurice Hurst’s projection through the unfortunate finding of a heart condition like his.
Hurst will reportedly return to Indianapolis prior to the draft for further testing, joining any other prospects that ended up with “red flags” in their medical tests this week.