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Hayden Hurst knows he's under 'pressure' to produce

"I think that's all he needed was weapons," new Baltimore Ravens receiver Willie Snead said this week when asked about quarterback Joe Flacco.

Implicit in Snead's matter-of-fact statement was a dearth of weaponry the Ravens played with the past few seasons. Much of the offseason focus has surrounded Baltimore adding a trio of receivers in Michael Crabtree, Snead and John Brown. However, improving the tight end position was also a point of emphasis for general manager Ozzie Newsome.

The Ravens added a TE in the first and third rounds of the NFL draft. The No. 25 overall pick, Hayden Hurst, knows Baltimore expects him to step in and make an immediate contribution in a revamped offense.

"I understand, they want me to play early, but football is football," Hurst said Thursday, via the team's official website. "I have a lot of confidence in what I was able to do in college. I know the type of player that I am and I'm going to carry it over here. Once I learn the playbook and I can start playing it even faster, it's going to be exciting."

Tight end is a notoriously difficult position for a rookie to walk in and dominate. For pass-catching TEs, they must learn the route tree, plus their blocking assignments. It can be a lot for young players to digest.

Hurst might have a slight advantage over some of those former rookies. The tight end enters the NFL slated to turn 25 years old next month -- compare that to the likes of Todd Gurley, Amari Cooper, Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, who are all at least a year younger than Hurst, but entering their fourth NFL seasons. Hurst signed a minor-league baseball contract out of high school in 2012. After pursuing that endeavor, he didn't enroll at South Carolina until 2015. Hurst enters the NFL a more mature prospect than most.

"I know there's a lot of pressure on me being the first pick for the Ravens; it comes with the territory," Hurst said. "But everything I went through with baseball has definitely made me the player I am today. ... I just go out and do what I do and play football. I have a lot of confidence in who I am and the football player I am."

The Ravens' selection of Hurst and Mark Andrews in 2018 marks the third time in Newsome's tenure he's picked dual tight ends in the same draft -- Maxx Williams (second round) and Nick Boyle (fifth) in 2015; Ed Dickson (third) and Dennis Pitta (fourth) in 2010.

Historically, tight ends struggle out of the gate -- look no further than Maxx Williams' rookie season for evidence. If Hurst can pass Boyle and Williams up the depth chart during training camp, however, it would be a big boost for a Baltimore offense whose sum might be greater than its parts in 2018.

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