DT Maurice Hurst Raiders “X Factor” In 2020

The Las Vegas Raiders selected Maurice Hurst in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Heading into the 2020 season, the defensive tackle could be their X-factor.

Although the Raiders 2018 draft class has brought less than stellar returns, Hurst has shown steady progress in his first two years in the NFL. His total pressures went from 11 two seasons ago to 38 in 2019 even though his sack totals remained the same at four. Also, he’s outplayed fellow draftee P.J. Hall, and can even make the case he’s the organization’s best pick in that year’s draft.

There’s no reason to think Hurst can play even better this upcoming season. Especially after the Raiders offseason addition of defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who should be able to max out Hurst’s potential.

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Raiders have placed Hurst in Position to Succeed

Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus recently ranked all 32 NFL teams ahead of the 2020 season. In his article, the writer signal’s every organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and x-factor. In the case of the Raiders, Linsey believes Hurst is their secret weapon.

Regarding Hurst, Linsey wrote that the tackle’s strong finish in 2019 should carry over to the 2020 season. Furthermore, his performance over the second half of the season was one of the league’s best among players at his position.

Since PFF began charting college football in 2014, Maurice Hurst remains the highest-graded interior defender from an FBS school. He was dominant at Michigan. Obviously, health concerns caused him to slip in the 2018 draft, and Hurst hasn’t exploded onto the scene yet in the NFL. The signs are there for a breakout in 2020, though. His 83.1 pass-rushing grade from Week 9 through the end of the 2019 regular season ranked fourth among interior defenders behind Aaron Donald, Kenny Clark and Chris Jones.

When it comes to the Raiders defensive line, it’s easy for Hurst’s name to be lost in the shuffle. First, because defensive ends and linebackers usually get more recognition than their defensive tackle counterparts. Players like Hurst make everybody’s job easier and unless a play finishes in a sack by a defensive tackle, their work will likely go unnoticed.

Second, the fact the Raiders added Maliek Collins and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli in conjunction with last year’s rookies can easily make Hurst an afterthought in all talks about the team’s key players in 2020. Unless Hurst receives any accolades this upcoming season, it will hard for him to become a household name. Nevertheless, he has an important role in Las Vegas defensive front and has shown he can perform it well.

Hurst was solid in his second year with the Raiders. He will have the chance to be even better in his third season and who knows? He may put himself in a position to cash in once the season is over. After all, that’s when all players can start engaging in contract talks.

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Top Photo: Cary Edmonds/USA TODAY Sports

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