Napa, Calif. — More than three months after the NFL Draft, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is still a little bitter about how things played out.
Projected to be a sure first-rounder after his final season at Michigan, Hurst wasn’t selected until the fifth round amid questions about his health stemming from a heart condition that also got him sent home from the scouting combine.
Although Hurst said he first learned of the issue his freshman year in college, he was stunned not hearing his name called until the third day of the draft.
He’s still not fully over it.
“I don’t know if it ever goes away,” Hurst said. “It’s just something that’s always on your shoulder and something that you always have to carry with you. Just keep it there to push you harder.”
The Raiders are counting on Hurst and second-round pick P.J. Hall to improve an interior pass rush that was almost non-existent last season. Both rookies have gotten work in with the starting defense during practices and will get an extensive look when preseason games begin next week.
“They don’t want us to be rookies,” Hurst said. “They want us to come out and play right away and play effectively, and come out and just dominate and do what they expected us to do. Just be a vital part of this defense.”
Hurst had 12½ sacks in college, five coming as a senior when he was an All-American. With the Raiders, he’ll be part of a rotation up front that includes Hall and veterans Justin Ellis and Mario Edwards. Eddie Vanderdoes, a second-round pick in 2017 who started 13 games as a rookie, is recovering from ACL surgery.
To help accelerate his growth, the Raiders have had Hurst play against starting center Rodney Hudson and guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson. Hudson and Osemele were Pro Bowl picks last season while Jackson was an alternate in 2016.
“They throw a few crumbs every now and then,” Hurst said. “They don’t want you to beat them every time. But they’ve been extremely helpful. Every day I get to go to work I get to play the best guys in the country. That’s only going to make you better every day.”
Hudson said Hurst’s instincts made for a smooth transition.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” Hudson said. “Smart rusher. He’s always attentive and asks questions. He’s got a lot of God-given ability. He’s quick and he uses his hands well to be so young.”
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