©Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

I cannot help but think of Dallas Clark when I look at Hayden Hurst. The South Carolina Gamecocks’ tight end just ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which only helps his stock and positioning. Hurst figures to be one of the first tight ends off the board in a year that boasts a bumper crop at the position.

If you read any of the many online analysts, Hurst figures to come off the board somewhere between 20th and the end of the second round. With good speed and the ability to catch the ball across the middle and in traffic. If he is as productive as Clark was in the Indianapolis Colts’ offense during this career, the team that selects him could have a steal, a player we will talk about for years.

Hurst, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews and South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert could all hear their names called in the first 32 selections. Throw Penn State’s Mike Gesicki into the mix and this group is loaded.

Per thephinsider.com, Hurst had an impressive performance in front of scouts and NFL officials in Indianapolis. His numbers stack up with Andrews, who is considered the best prospect at the position.

“Hurst and Andrews both had very solid and similar workouts for the day,” Brandon Carusillo writes. “Both ran a 4.67 40-time, and both jumped about the same height of 31 inches (Hurst jumped about a half inch higher). Hurst added a 4.37 20-yard shuttle, while Andrews ran a 4.38. The rest of their workouts weren’t as similar, but still in the same ballpark, with Hurst showing a bit more athleticism.”

That athleticism may find Hurst at the head of the pack by the time teams announce their first draft pick. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Hurst’s hometown team, could bring him home. But being a “hometown” guy may not be the best thing for Hurst, as much will be expected of him. The Jaguars re-signed Marcedes Lewis and have Ben Koyack and James O’Shaughnessy on the roster. He would be another weapon to help Blake Bortles this coming season.

In Todd McShay’s most recent Mock Draft, he has Hurst going to the Pittsburgh Steelers with their top pick.

Hurst caught 100 passes for 1,281 yards and three touchdowns. In 2017, Hurst caught 44 passes for 559 yards and two scores.

“Hurst is a big (6-4, 250), athletic target who can contribute immediately,” McShay wrote of Hurst. “A former pro baseball player, Hurst has good ball skills and can help stretch the seam for Ben Roethlisberger and that potent Pittsburgh offense. He’s also a good blocker.”

Wherever Hurst lands, he could have an immediate impact on the field. His steady numbers at South Carolina prove he is ready for the next level. And like Clark, who used his skill set to carve out a long NFL career, Hurst could be the same version, 2.0.

Whoever grabs him will have a star in the making, even from the moment he steps onto an NFL practice field.

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