Health issues hurt UM's Hurst on first day of draft

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was a near lock to be a first-round pick before an off-the-field health issue surfaced before the NFL Combine.

The idea of Maurice Hurst falling in the NFL Draft isn’t an outlandish one.

How far the All-American defensive tackle from Michigan actually drops is the bigger mystery.

Rated as one of the top five prospects in the draft at various points following his final season with the Wolverines, Hurst didn’t hear his name called on Thursday night as the first round was completed at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The reasoning has been well-documented as Hurst had an irregular EKG at the NFL Combine in March. It forced him to sit out the workouts and immediately raised concerns over where he might go in the draft.

Even after Hurst was cleared by doctors, many believed his stock had fallen and went from a sure first-round pick to on the verge of falling out of the first round. And early this week, ESPN analyst Todd McShay wrote that concerns over Hurst’s health could drop the 6-foot-2, 282-pounder to the third day of the draft during rounds 4-7.

More: Draft stock for UM's Maurice Hurst still up for debate

“Because of the nature of his heart condition, several teams have taken him off their board,” McShay wrote. “It’s a risk-reward issue, but he could fall into Day 3.”

Back in March, after going through pro day workouts at Michigan, Hurst said he didn’t think the issues would hurt his draft stock.

“I knew everything was going to be fine,” Hurst said. “I think (teams will) view me exactly the same as before. If you’re cleared, you’re cleared. It’s not really anything to look back on.”

The EKG irregularity was discovered during a routine medical exam while Hurst was in Indianapolis for the combine. He went through a similar issue at Michigan during his freshman year. A week later, he said, he was cleared.

While it seems clear his stock has been affected, how much impact it has on his production at the next level is another debate.

Kirk Herbstreit, a college football analyst for ESPN, said last week that Hurst is on his list of “sneaky” prospects because his status fell off.

“People better remember,” Herbstreit said. “Just turn the film on. He is quick. He’s a little undersized but makes up for it with his quickness, and he’s a playmaker. We’ve got these big guys, inside guys, and I’m telling you, Mo Hurst will be one of those guys.

“I don’t know where he’s going to go, my guess is somewhere in the first round, but he’s gonna be a guy next year everybody’s watching and he’s making plays in the backfield, and people are going to be going, ‘Who’s this guy?’ I think he’s slipping through the cracks and hopefully somebody, if he’s healthy and everything is OK, somebody is going to get a steal in my opinion with whoever picks him up.”

Hurst had the best chance of any players with Michigan ties to go in the first round. Western Michigan offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor was a long shot possibility but seems certain to go on Friday in the second or third round.

More: Michigan MAC stars eager for their NFL shot

Okorafor is expected to be the third WMU offensive linemen picked in the past three years with Willie Beavers (Southfield-Lathrup) going to Minnesota (fourth round, 2016) and Taylor Moton (Okemos) to Carolina (second round) last season.

Okorafor was one of four Broncos to take part in the NFL Combine. Cornerback Darius Phillips should get picked, most likely on Saturday, while running back Jarvion Franklin and tight end Donnie Ernsberger have outside chances to be selected.

Center Brian Allen is Michigan State’s best bet to get taken, likely somewhere in the last couple rounds, while center Mason Cole and linebacker Mike McCray are late possibilities for Michigan.

Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin and defensive end Joe Ostman also will be hoping to hear their names late in the draft.