With guys like these for Matt Ryan to work with, other players seem to slip under the radar.
In a recently published article, Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox took the time to go through all 32 teams and name their secret weapon for the 2021 season––most of whom are overlooked and have yet to be named to a Bowl or All-Pro nod.
For the Atlanta Falcons, that player is tight end Hayden Hurst.
Knox dives in on his reasoning for choosing Hurst, who has constantly been overshadowed:
Tight end Hayden Hurst was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2018, but he quickly slipped below the radar. Outperformed by tight end Mark Andrews, Hurst became a role player and was traded to the Atlanta Falcons last offseason.
With the Falcons selecting Kyle Pitts fourth overall in April, Hurst could again be headed for a somewhat obscure role. However, this doesn’t mean that he won’t be a key cog in the offense.
For one, Hurst is a capable receiving tight end. He showed that last season, when he racked up 571 yards and six touchdowns. He is also going to help create mismatches by allowing Pitts to move away from the tight end spot. The Falcons have made it clear that Pitts won’t be shoehorned into a single role.
“Not sure I’ve seen the same set or Kyle Pitts line up in the same place twice,” The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz tweeted during minicamp.
Expect Hurst to have a significant impact in 2021 even if he doesn’t regularly highlight the stat sheet.
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Hurst Will Have a Chance to Make Big Plays
Despite the Falcons drafting an immediate starting tight end in Kyle Pitts, Hurst will have his chance to shine alongside the Gator product.
In fact, Falcons TE coach Justin Peelle is certain that a multiple tight end formation is what head coach Arthur Smith will be calling in Atlanta.
“If you look at coach Smith’s past, he’s a multiple tight end, multiple personnel grouping,” Peelle said, via Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Both of those guys, I’m fairly confident, will be on the field at the same time.”
As the Titans OC last season, Smith had four tight ends who played more than 200 snaps and the most frequent formation he used was 12 personnel (which consists of one running back and two TEs).
Peelle has been following Hurst’s progress since the 2018 draft and has been in complete awe of his transformation from baseball to football in a short amount of time.
To recap: Hurst was following his MLB dream as a pitcher until he developed the “yips” and was unable to use his throwing arm. Determined to not give up, he picked up the football for the first time in years and walked on at the University of South Carolina.
“Hayden has gotten better,” Peelle said. “You can see his growth as well, getting better, constantly getting better. He’s a guy that plays with tremendous effort. It’s important to him, very unselfish. … You can see him just getting better.”
Hurst Is a “Man on a Mission”
After a below-average season which resulted in the Falcons passing on his fifth-year option, Hust made some offseason changes to his routine.
“This year was big for me, adding the diet to my routine as well,” Hurst said via AtlantaFalcons.com. “I’m down to almost eight percent body fat right now. I’m definitely a man on a mission this year. I have a lot of reasons to play a little bit harder.”
Among those reasons could be the fact that he has some new competition in the Falcons’ first-round draft pick this year. It could also mean he has a lot to prove if he plans on inking a new deal with the Falcons next year.
Whatever it is that has been fogging Hurt’s mind, he’s made it clear that he’s not letting anything stop him from having a successful 2021 season.
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