Once again this season, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will have a stable of weapons at his disposal.
But the wild card of the group is former Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst, who the Falcons traded for this offseason. Ryan believes Hurst will raise some eyebrows this season with the natural ability he brings to the table.
“He is, for sure, one of the fastest and most athletic tight ends I’ve ever played with,” Ryan said Tuesday on a virtual press conference. “I think people are going to be impressed with his speed and his ability to separate.”
Entering his third year in the league, Atlanta hopes a change of scenery can finally enable Hurst to tap into his full potential. Drafted with the 25th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the South Carolina product was a highly coveted prospect who looked poised to make an immediate impact in Baltimore.
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But in two seasons with the Ravens, Hurst has split time with Mark Andrews, collecting just 512 yards receiving with three touchdown receptions. Now, with Austin Hooper gone to Cleveland, Hurst has the chance to be the guy at tight end for the Falcons.
Over the course of his career, Ryan has played with noteworthy tight ends such as Hooper and Tony Gonzalez. To Ryan, Hurst has a different skill set as those players, but has the unique ability to win one-on-one matchups against safeties and linebackers.
“He’s different from a guy like Austin Hooper. He’s different from a guy like Tony Gonzalez,” Ryan said. “The thing that is similar to those guys is that he’s a mismatch problem.”
A season ago, Ryan enjoyed utilizing the tight end position as Hooper had a career year. Now in the same system, Ryan is optimistic that Hurst will turn in similar results.
“He’s going to create separation and win,” Ryan said.