Browns draft profile: Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns could use another difference maker on the defensive line, which is why the team could be taking a hard look at Michigan’s Maurice Hurst.
The Cleveland Browns have made a solid investment in the defensive line the past two seasons.
The club selected defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah in the second round and Carl Nassib in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and then went all in last year with defensive end Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, along with defensive tackles Larry Ogunjobi (third round) and Caleb Brantley (sixth round).
That young nucleus showed promise last season, especially in the run game as the Browns finished second in the NFL by allowing just 3.3 yards per carry. Despite that success, the defense still struggled to stop the pass, finishing the season with just 34 sacks and allowing 28 touchdowns, which ranked 26th in the league.
When healthy, Garrett and Ogbah can be a terror on opposing quarterbacks. Ogunjobi and Brantley flashed at times last season, but the defensive line could use another disruptor, especially at the defensive tackle position.
Which is where Michigan’s Maurice Hurst could enter the picture.
Hurst, who is 6-foot-2 and 292 pounds, played in 41 games for the Wolverines, finishing his collegiate career with 130 tackles, 32 for loss, and 13.5 sacks. While Pro Football Focus ranks Hurst as the No. 1 defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, that comes with the caveat that he has to play the three-technique in a four-man line to be effective.
Hurst is also effective enough against the run to be a boost to the defense, as PFF points out in its annual draft guide:
"Hurst is the cream of this defensive tackle crop. There isn’t another interior player that can come close to his production as a pass-rusher in college and everything on tape suggests it will translate to the NFL. His size will give teams pause, but at no point in his college career was it ever a serious issue against the run — he still ranked 14th nationally in run-stop percentage. Hurst is a consistently dominant force whose only real question marks have little to do with his on-field performance."
It is the off-field questions that are a little bit scary when it comes to Hurst.
At the annual NFL Scouting Combine in February, league doctors flagged Hurst after an irregular electrocardiogram test, which kept Hurst from participating in the various drills with his position group.
Hurst later said the same thing happened during his playing days at Michigan. He was eventually cleared to participate in Michigan’s Pro Day after visiting doctors at Michigan and Harvard, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, and has not been asked by the league to go through another medical evaluation, according to Ian Rapoport at the NFL Network, so that is good news for Hurst.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every team will agree or be comfortable with Hurst’s medical condition. The Browns have Hurst on their list of players to meet with prior to the draft, and if their medical team likes what they see, Hurst could be in play for the team come draft weekend.
The big question is what is the right spot to select Hurst? Selecting him at No. 4 might be a bit too high, especially if North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb is still available, but even with his medical questions, Hurst is not going to fall into the second round.
If the Browns like what they see with Hurst but pass on him at No. 4, general manager John Dorsey might need to use some of his stockpile of second-round selections to move back into the first round to select Hurst.
Next: Browns QB woes will end soon
Draft Chubb at No. 4 and maneuver into a position to also select Hurst, and suddenly the Browns have a defensive line rotation that could terrorize opposing quarterbacks for years to come.