ALAMEDA — The Raiders made their most eye-opening pick of the entire draft on Day 3, grabbing Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst in the fifth round.
Hurst, a clear-cut Round 1 prospect based on talent alone, plummeted due to a heart condition. He was forced to leave the NFL Combine early because of an irregular EKG. Shortly after the Raiders traded up 19 spots to take Hurst with the 140th pick, the former Wolverine emphasized on a conference call with Bay Area media that his health shouldn’t be a concern in the future.
“I was a little surprised just because I was cleared through Harvard and Michigan, but every team can’t bring you in and do their own tests and formalize their own opinion. I’m just blessed to be a Raider,” Hurst said when asked Saturday for his reaction that teams reportedly removed him from their draft boards. “I’m ready to go right now, so just show up to rookie mini-camp just like everyone else and just go through things as everyone else would.”
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie doubled down on that.
“He’s good,” the GM said. “He does have a heart condition, but it’s a situation that he’ll get checked every year. But right now, he’s good.”
In 46 career games at Michigan, Hurst recorded 34.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 134 total tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, three passes defended and one blocked field goal. Widely considered the best defensive tackle in the draft if not for his heart condition, Hurst was frustrated he fell so far.
“It’s tough just going into it thinking that you’re one of the top players in the draft and having good tape and everything like that,” he said. “Just having to wait and see guys that you believe that you’re better than go ahead of you, I mean it’s tough. But I’m just happy to be in the right place and part of a great organization.”
Hurst, who never missed a game in college, insisted nothing has changed with his heart condition since the conclusion of his college career. He’s expected to be on the field in Alameda Friday for the start of rookie mini-camp.
“It’s money. I’m just upset and disappointed teams decided not to pick me,” Hurst said. “But a team got a great player for very little. I’m very excited to be a part of the Raiders organization.”
The Raiders took six defensive players and three offensive ones, beginning Day 1 by trading back from the 10th pick to select UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller at No. 15. With the No. 79 pick they acquired in that trade, the Raiders traded for Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant to cap off Thursday night. Day 2 began for the Raiders with Sam Houston State defensive tackle P.J. Hall at No. 57, North Carolina A&T offensive tackle Brandon Parker with the first pick of the third round and LSU edge defender Arden Key at No. 87 in the third.
Miller figures to start at right tackle and provide insurance for Donald Penn on the left side, while Bryant is an over-the-top threat who will see plenty of time in Derek Carr’s receiving corps. Hall, who stands less than 6-foot-1 yet blocked 14 kicks in college, could factor on an interior pass rush that lost Denico Autry in free agency and added Hurst in the draft. Parker adds depth to an offensive line that clearly didn’t have enough of it, if Jon Gruden and McKenzie’s picks are any indication. Key, whose checkered past is reason for concern, could be something special rushing the quarterback if he stays on the right path.
“Football things? Football is not the question,” Key said Friday. “Everybody knows, talent-wise, if we’re just talking talent, top-five pick. Automatic.”
The Raiders continued their trend of taking players with risks upon selecting Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson in the fourth round at No. 110 overall. He damaged his meniscus in a private workout with the Lions recently and required surgery. Nelson, who didn’t intercept a pass in college but broke up 21 last season alone, said he’s two weeks into a six-week recovery period and will be fully healthy by fall camp. McKenzie called Nelson a “pretty good little corner who can play nickel.” He considers Nelson a “two-for-one deal” in that he can play multiple positions in the defensive backfield.
The Raiders traded picks 159 and 185 to move up to 140, where they selected Hurst. The next selection came without controversy (shocker!) when Oakland added Florida punter Johnny Townsend in the fifth round. Townsend will likely start for the Raiders, though UC Davis product Colby Wadman is also on the roster. Oakland plucked Washington linebacker Azeem Victor in the sixth round as a potential special teams component who also comes with a spotty record. Victor was suspended for last season’s opener for reportedly failing a drug test, started five games, then was suspended indefinitely for a DUI charge in early November.
“As far as character, we’re not gonna condemn these kids for mistakes,” McKenzie said. “And we’re not gonna lower our standards. Ever. We feel like we have a great system in place to help guys who have fallen, but if they’re willing to stand up, own it and get better within themselves, we’re gonna give ’em a shot.”
Oakland rounded out its 2018 draft by picking Oklahoma State wide receiver Marcell Ateman with the 228th pick and trading 2016 second-round defensive lineman Jihad Ward to the Cowboys for return specialist and receiver Ryan Switzer. In all, the Raiders made seven trades over three days (the last one not including a draft pick) and drafted nine players while acquiring two more in trades.
Now let the fun begin.
Source: East Bay Mo Hurst the most intriguing pick in hectic Raiders draft