Should the Falcons trade Hayden Hurst before the NFL trade deadline?

With the emergence of rookie Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst has been deemed obsolete. Will the Atlanta Falcons trade Hurst before the deadline?

Hayden Hurst has been nothing more than a solid tight end. So, when the Atlanta Falcons selected a generational player at the position in the 2021 NFL Draft, the writing was on the wall. Will the Falcons trade Hurst ahead of the 2021 NFL trade deadline?

Why should the Falcons trade Hayden Hurst?

Just four years removed from being the No. 25 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Hurst could be on his third team in the NFL by Wednesday. The former South Carolina star was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens. Yet, a third-round pick from the same class, Mark Andrews, quickly stole the show and the TE1 job in Baltimore. Thus, the Ravens shipped Hurst off to the Falcons for a package that included a 2020 second-rounder (turned into J.K. Dobbins).

Hurst hauled in 43 of his 62 targets in his two years with the Ravens. He turned that into 512 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 21 first downs. So, he was pretty efficient on limited touches. How would Hurst perform being the lead tight end in Atlanta? Not great. In his first and only year as the de facto TE1, Hurst generated 571 yards and 6 TDs off of 56 catches at a 64% catch rate. Those aren’t terrible numbers by any means, but not the stuff of legends, either.

Hurst’s life as a TE1 did not last long

As a result, the Falcons declined his fifth-year option this offseason (worth $5,428,000 against the cap next year) and drafted Florida’s Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall selection.

Moving back into a TE2 role, Hurst has struggled in 2021. He’s caught 16 passes for 138 yards and 1 score. Yet, he’s fumbled 3 times, losing 1. Hurst is 28 years old (just turned this August), and the physical talent is still there at 6’4″ and 245 pounds — he recorded a 4.67 40-yard dash during the 2018 NFL Combine. But Hurst has never reeled it all together, and it doesn’t seem like he will ever live up to his first-round billing.

However, draft “busts” are rarely the fault of the player. Rather, it is the fault of the front office for reaching on a player and not evaluating him properly. Rant aside, Hurst is a trade piece for the 3-3 Falcons, who are nowhere near a playoff-caliber squad. Trading Hurst to a team that could utilize him while simultaneously acquiring future draft capital is the best option for all parties involved.

Potential landing spots

Which of the 31 other NFL teams should target Hurst?

Baltimore Ravens

Would the Ravens make a move for their former first-rounder? It’s not likely, but this is the NFL, so nothing is 100%. TE2 Nick Boyle is on the injured reserve, leaving Eric Tomlinson and Josh Oliver behind star Mark Andrews. A reunion with Hurst would alleviate some of the pressure from Andrews and give Lamar Jackson an inexpensive weapon to target.

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers just lost one of his favorite weapons, not named Davante Adams, on Thursday Night Football. With Robert Tonyan heading to IR with an ACL tear, the Packers would be wise to bolster the position. Marcedes Lewis is an astounding 37 years old, and second-year TE Josiah Deguara plays the H-back role. Hurst could easily slide in and take over as Rodgers’ safety blanket.

Minnesota Vikings

Irv Smith Jr. suffered a season-ending injury before the season even started, and Ben Ellefson will join him on IR after re-aggravating an injury in practice last week. That leaves Tyler Conklin, Chris Herndon, and Luke Stocker at the position for Minnesota. Conklin is far and away the TE1 for the Vikings, but if he were to miss time, they would be a hot mess. Enter Hurst, who can be an excellent TE2 and reliable TE1 if/when needed.

Tennessee Titans

With Julio Jones, A.J. Brown, and Josh Reynolds manning the receiving corps and Derrick Henry strapping the team on his back in the RB room, do the Titans even need tight ends? Of course, especially in their offense. Tennessee’s run-heavy approach requires TEs who can run block while also being threats in the receiving game.

Hurst has never been an impressive run blocker, but he can hold his own. Anthony Firkser, the team’s current TE1, lines up in the slot and out wide more than inline. He can maintain that role while Hurst kicks inside and leads the way for Henry off the edge and corralling passes from QB Ryan Tannehill.

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