The Lions have completed two joint practices with the Raiders. Some players shined, others not so much. We discuss that and who we'll be watching in the preseason opener. The Detroit News
Napa, Calif. – Maurice Hurst is looking like a steal for the Oakland Raiders. Not that should surprise anyone.
You would have been hard-pressed to find an analyst who didn’t view former Michigan defensive tackle as a first-round prospect before a heart condition, revealed at the scouting combine in early March, sent his draft stock plummeting.
Despite being cleared by Michigan and Harvard cardiologists, Hurst tumbled all the way to the fifth round. The player Pro Football Focus had previously called the best in the draft ended up being the 12th defensive tackle off the board when he was selected by the Raiders No. 140 overall.
During the trying process, Hurst never believed he would go undrafted. To counter the disappointment, he leaned on family and friends, a steady source of stability away from the field.
And now that he’s in Oakland, he’s using his draft-day freefall as motivation to prove the other 31 teams made a mistake repeatedly passing him up.
“Yeah. I use it as motivation every day,” Hurst said. “I come out here, you always have something to prove whenever you come out of the field.”
Hurst said he’s not currently on any medication for his heart and has no physical restrictions.
Beyond the medical evaluation, the other pre-draft knock on Hurst was his size. At 6-foot-1, 292 pounds, he’s undersized for the defensive tackle position. But the Raiders haven’t asked him to pack more weight on to his frame.
And from the early reports from Oakland’s camp, he’s proving to be the same, explosive interior force he was for the Wolverines the past three years.
“He’s been well-coached at Michigan,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s polished. He’s got a great motor. It’s why we traded up to get him. He’s exactly what we thought he was. He’s going to continue to get better."
Gruden also highlighted the developmental value of Hurst having to battle with the Raiders’ talented interior offensive line – Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson and Kelechi Osemele – each day in practice.
The trio have been stingy with the tricks of their trade, according to Hurst.
“They throw a few crumbs every now and then,” Hurst told reporters earlier in camp. “They don’t want you to beat them every time, but they’ve been extremely helpful. There are no better guards in the game than those guys. Every day I go to work against the best guys in the country. That’s only going to make me better.”
In addition to his teammates, Hurst has also been able to soak in some knowledge from Raiders legend Warren Sapp, who spent some time working with the Raiders defensive line prior to the team’s first joint practice with the Detroit Lions.
“That was awesome,” Hurst said. “That was my favorite player growing up. So being able to get to talk to him and get to learn from him these past couple days, has been everything I could imagine and more. He’s the greatest D-tackle to play the game, and just to get to learn from him, get to pick his brain, has been awesome.”
Hurst is just part of a revamped defensive line, along with fellow draft picks P.J. Hall and Arden Key, who are expected to be the foundation of Oakland’s defense for years to come. The group will get their first chance to showcase the potential on Friday night, when the Raiders host the Lions for the preseason opener for both teams.
Lions vs. Raiders
What: First preseason game for both teams
When: Friday, 10:30 p.m.
Where: Oakland Alameda Coliseum
TV: Fox 2, NFL Network
Line: Oakland by 3