2015 NFL Draft Preview: DE Danielle Hunter
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. For our eighth week, the focus is on defensive ends. Today we look at Danielle Hunter of LSU.
A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Hunter moved into a starting role in Week 4 of 2013 and never relinquished his job; he started 23 consecutive games during his sophomore and junior seasons, and over the course of his career, he accumulated 142 tackles. He had only 4.5 career sacks, but 21 tackles for loss, demonstrating a disruptive ability in the backfield.
In short, he displays freakish athleticism. By any metric available, Hunter is miles above his competition in terms of measurables. Coming in at 6'5" and 252 pounds, he posted a 4.57 40-time--far and away the best time among players at his position. To add to this, he had a 36 1/2" vertical jump and 10' 10" broad jump, both ridiculous numbers. His 34 1/4" armspan allows him leverage over offensive lineman, and upon entering the league, Hunter will be a force in stopping the run and pursuing the ball carrier. His speed and agility will certainly give him a leg up, and give him one of the highest ceilings of any defensive prospect this year.
Hunter has the athleticism, but can he learn to hone his craft? He is the definition of a raw prospect, and his speed and ability have drawn comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul. However, what he has in talent he lacks in skill. Scouts widely agree that he doesn't have the instincts necessary to be a great pass rusher, and his lack of production in college seems to match that sentiment. In addition, Hunter must develop a mean streak and good hand technique to go with his enormous arms.
Given the discrepancy between Hunter's best and worst-case scenarios, it's hard to know what grade to give him. All things considered, he is probably an early second-round prospect, but a team might reach on him earlier given his upside. As such, it wouldn't be surprising to see him sneak into the first round if a coaching staff feels that it could tap into his potential.
Hunter can certainly be classified as a "project," and will need a coaching staff that will allow him time to develop. The Steelers come to mind, and Mike Tomlin has apparently taken interest in Hunter. In addition, the Raiders, even with the passing of Al Davis, come to mind as a team that loves drafting athletes. Wherever he ends up, Hunter may not make waves immediately; however, he will certainly be a player to watch in the near future.