It was a big blow to Cincinnati Bengals fans (and my wife) when the news that Hayden Hurst signed with the Carolina Panthers broke. However, between the draft and the current Bengals roster, there are a few players who could ease the pain of Hurst’s departure.
4. Irv Smith Jr.
The Bengals acquired former Minnesota Vikings’ 2019 second-round pick Irv Smith in free agency. He was a highly touted prospect from Alabama in the ’19 draft class.
When you go to Mock Draftable’s website, their top 10 comps for Smith include some interesting and familiar names such as Michael Mayer, Mark Andrews, Thaddeus Moss, Cethan Carter, and Hayden Hurst.
Hopefully, Smith can provide some necessary blocking from the tight end position for the Bengals. He has some nice reps pass blocking for the Vikings.
While at Alabama, you know there are several clips of him run-blocking. Nick Saban wouldn’t have it any other way.
Above all else, however, the biggest reason fans should expect Smith to help them get over the loss of Hayden Hurst is because Head Coach Zac Taylor said so.
During a recent press conference, when asked if the team brought in Smith to be the starter for the upcoming season, Taylor responded, “Yeah, we think he can come in and play that role for us. There’s always competition in that room. But that’s the vision that we have for Irv. To come in there and fill that Rome that Hayden had for us.”
Straight from the horse’s mouth, as the French would say.
2020 was his best year as far as receiving yards (365) and touchdowns (5) are concerned. Last season, Smith Jr. finished with 25 catches on 36 targets, 182 yards, and two touchdowns.
With teams focused on the star receivers and Joe Burrow as his quarterback, Smith Jr. could have a career season in Cincinnati. If he does, it will go a long way to helping us forget about Hurst.