*Editor's note: This is the seventh and final prospect profile on who the Falcons could select with the 26th overall pick in the first round. *
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons have one of the league's most talented rosters, but there are a few positions that they may target with the No. 26 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
At the forefront of those positions is defensive tackle. The Falcons lost starter Dontari Poe in free agency, and they have not opted to re-sign Ahtyba Rubin or Courtney Upshaw at this point, although that doesn't indicate they won't in the future. The return of Jack Crawford from injury will be a welcome one, but it's clear the Falcons need to add depth and talent along the interior of the defensive line.
Michigan's Maurice Hurst is a player who has seemingly moved all over the place during the pre-draft evaluation process. He's seen as a defender with first-round talent, but tests at the NFL Combine revealed an underlying heart condition that may have some teams spooked. Just this week, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay reported that some teams have taken Hurst off their board entirely, and he may slip to Day 3 of the draft.
All it takes is one team to believe his heart condition – the same one that Bills defensive lineman Star Lotulelei has played with – is not career-threatening. If a team comes to that conclusion, he offers a lot of upside.
"The prototypical 3-technique defensive tackle, Hurst offers a pass-rushing toolbox that no other interior player in this class can come close to matching," writes Pro Football Focus's Michael Renner, who has Hurst as the top-rated defensive tackle prospect. "His four-year career of grades is unlike anything we've ever seen at the defensive tackle position, proving his durability and sustainability at the position."
If the Falcons are looking for an interior defender who can get upfield and collapse the pocket on passing downs, Hurst proved he could do that consistently in college. In his final three seasons at Michigan, Hurst registered a combined 31 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
On tape, Hurst shows a great initial burst and ocassionally beat opposing linemen with his get-off alone. When he does engage with a blocker, Hurst displays a great motor and quick hand movement to continue his surge towards the quarterback.
Against the run, that quickness also benefits Hurst. At 6-foot-1 and 292 pounds, Hurst doesn't have the size to consistently anchor in his gap against bigger linemen or double teams, but he does a good job of gaining the advantage at the snap with his initial burst. What separates Hurst from a player like Taven Bryan – who also possesses a great get-off – is his ability to keep his eyes in the backfield and find the ballcarrier to make the play.
While getting upfield, Hurst doesn't run himself out of the play.
via GIPHY Barring nothing truly worrisome about his health status, Hurst could be a strong asset to the Falcons' defensive line and has the penetrating, upfield style to fit into the scheme. Should medical concerns push Hurst into Day 2 or even Day 3 of the draft, the possibility to select a first-round talent with a lower-risk pick would still remain.