Raiders draft DT Maurice Hurst despite heart concerns
By JOSH DUBOW
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders finished the NFL draft by taking another risk, although this one could come with an extremely high payoff.
The Raiders traded up in the fifth round on Saturday to take talented Michigan pass rusher Maurice Hurst, who fell from a projected first-round pick to off some draft boards because of concerns from a heart condition that got him sent home from the combine.
"It's money," Hurst said. "Just upset and disappointed in teams that decided not to pick me. But one got a great player for very little. So I'm very excited to be part of the Raiders organization."
The Raiders traded the 159th and 185th picks to Indianapolis for the 140th pick on Saturday and used it to take a player who might have gone in the first round had he not had health concerns.
But he got sent home from the combine after a heart issue was detected. Hurst said it was something he has dealt with for a long time and hadn't impacted him on the field. He said he has been cleared by doctors at Harvard and Michigan but that didn't prevent his fall.
"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."
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said the team had no concerns about Hurst's ability to get on the field and said he expected him to take part in rookie minicamp next week. The team will keep monitoring him but he currently has no limitations.
"The fact is that he does have a heart condition but it's a situation where he'll get checked every year but right now he's good," McKenzie said.
Hurst was an All-American and one of the most productive defensive players in the country last season. He had 5+ sacks as an interior rusher and led all nose tackles and defensive tackles with 49 total quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
"The one thing he can do is work the edge of the offensive linemen," McKenzie said. "He does a good job of maneuvering around that blocking and getting up field."
The move for Hurst was one of several this weekend when the Raiders made high-risk, high-reward moves. They dealt a third-round pick to Pittsburgh on Thursday for talented receiver Martavis Bryant, who has been suspended twice for substance abuse issues.
Oakland then traded up in the third round Friday to take LSU pass rusher Arden Key, who was viewed as a first-round talent but spent time in drug rehabilitation in college.
The Raiders also used two picks on Friday for FCS players whom they believe have the upside to thrive in the NFL in defensive lineman P.J. Hall from Sam Houston State and offensive tackle Brandon Parker of North Carolina A&T.
Here are some other takeaways from draft weekend:
The Raiders started the day Saturday by taking Wisconsin cornerback Nick Nelson with the 110th overall pick. Nelson spent his first two seasons at Hawaii before transferring. He has no career interceptions but did have 21 passes defensed last season. He allowed just 37 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and might have been taken higher if not for a knee injury during a pre-draft workout with Detroit.
JUST FOR KICKS
After cutting punter Marquette King last month, the Raiders found his potential replacement in the fifth round Saturday. They took Florida's Johnny Townsend 173rd overall and as the third punter in the fifth round. Townsend is the all-time leading punter for the Gators and averaged 46.2 yards per kick in his career and is known for his skill as a directional punter. This marks the fourth time the Raiders have drafted a punter with Ray Guy making the Hall of Fame and Shane Lechler going to seven Pro Bowls.
McKenzie had mixed emotions when his son, Kahlil, was drafted in the sixth round by the rival Kansas City Chiefs.
"I got a text from Charles Woodson. He said, `Your son has to retire. There's no way he's going to put that red helmet on his head,'" McKenzie said. "Part of me felt that way but in all seriousness, it's a good opportunity for him."
The Raiders were wheeling and dealing during the draft, making seven trades in all, including the one to acquire Bryant. They moved down in the first round and again in the second, before using some of those extra picks to move up for both of their third-round picks. Oakland then traded up again for Hurst, as only four of the nine players taken came with picks the Raiders had entering the draft.
The Raiders then made a player swap late in the day Saturday, sending disappointing 2016 second-round defensive tackle Jihad Ward to Dallas for receiver Ryan Switzer, a fourth-round pick last year who excelled as a returner as a rookie.
The Raiders went into the draft with needs at inside linebacker and didn't address it until the sixth round when they took Washington's Azeem Victor with the 216th overall pick. Victor was suspended for a DUI charge last season. McKenzie said he has not ruled out bringing back last year's starter NaVorro Bowman, who is still on the free agent market looking for a deal next year.
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Updated April 28, 2018