Gone are the days of the “undersized” interior defensive lineman. A recent trend of NFL success has taught us that if you can consistently fight in the interior; height, weight and arm length are minor details. Notice the mockdraftable webs of Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, Grady Jarrett, and Gerald McCoy. The bigger their web, the better they performed in comparison to every other player at their position to go through the combine. Notice how poorly they faired in terms of height, weight and arm length. McCoy is the only one to be above average compared to his peers in any of those categories.
Aaron Donald fell below the likes of Blake Bortles, Justin Gilbert, Eric Ebron and Greg Robinson in the 2014 NFL draft due to their superior measurables. Geno Atkins slid into the fourth round. Jarrett into the six. McCoy was easily behind Ndamukong Suh solely because of Suh having superior measurables. Sometimes talent and ability beats measurables. This is a warning for those who think that Maurice Hurst deserves to fall in the draft because he is a “tweener”, or an undersized defensive lineman. Height and weight does not mean what it used to, and it is not a reason to knock his ability heading into the draft.
The fact of the matter is that the league is evolving. Shoving defenders into the box is being replaced with five-wide sets. The field is being spread out. Having a lighter weight, fleeter foot defender who can move laterally and upfield is more important in today’s game than past standards.
Maurice Hurst can move and that is going to matter. On the play below, a screen causes him to quickly change directions. He does so, hurdles his teammate on the ground and chases down a wide receiver. Hurst is a great athlete for his size.
Below, Hurst is able to shake off the center, roam towards the opposite hash and chase down the running back as he is attempting to burst upfield.
Hurst can move laterally and is quick off of the snap as well. He has a great first step that impacts the running and pass game.
With this quick step, Hurst is able to turn his built up burst into power and move lineman into the backfield. The Wisconsin offensive line had a hard time containing the combination of speed and power of Maurice Hurst.
Hurst uses his size to get underneath offensive lineman and get leverage over his opponent. Hurst is strong on his own, but when he beats his opponent off of the ball and gets leverage on him, the fight is over. Watch the play below, in what can only be described as a TKO.
When you are beaten off of the ball and stood up, it does not matter how much taller or heavier you are. Hurst shows this ability all of the time. Even as his opponent is falling to the ground, Hurst is maintaining low leverage on him.
Hurst is able to use his burst and strength to rip through double teams into the backfield.
While his arm length is likely the biggest physical attribute that will bring him down in the NFL, he still has shown the ability to use his length at times. Hurst does not have a variety of pass rushing moves, and it is safe to say he wins by getting off of the ball quickly and getting leverage. However, on the play below he does flash a swim move, where he is able to get his hands on his opponent and swim through for a sack.
On the play below, Hurst is eyeing up the quarterback as he fights with the left guard. He sees a pass coming and is able to stay at arm’s length with a push off and get into the air to deflect a pass.
The pass rushing moves and swatted balls may not be common occurrences in the NFL, but the base of having a move to build on, the awareness to bat the pass and burst to get off of the line is a great foundation of an interior lineman to take a chance on. Maurice Hurst is going to be called undersized. He is going to be told he has a lack of pass rush, and that his short arms will not help him as he gets rolled over by a bigger more physical interior lineman. However, with speed up front more valuable ever, the team that takes the chance on the undersized Michigan product may see themselves with a great fit at a discounted price.