Draft Target: Justin Hunter

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

Sheldon Richardson, Manti Te’o, and Keenan Allen seem to be popular first round picks for the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of mock drafts across the internet.  For those mocks that are now including second rounds, however, one name seems to really be dominating the short list of guys that make sense for the Vikings to target.

That guy is Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter… and for good reason.

At 6′ 4″ and 196 pounds Hunter possesses the prototypical size front offices in need of a #1 receiver, like the Vikings, will be looking for.  He possesses the speed necessary to stretch the field and is capable of out jumping most cornerbacks if it comes to that.  He has shown the ability to make the seemingly impossible grab and also change a game with his quickness and moves after the catch.

Still, there are reasons that a guy of Hunter’s stature isn’t expected to be a first round pick, and they are not to be overlooked.  First and foremost, Hunter has struggled with injury.  After blowing up the college game in 2010, Hunter suffered a 2011 ACL injury in week three that ended his season, and caused Tennessee to spiral downward.  He was able to play for all of 2012, but he never quite looked like his 2010 self and was overshadowed by teammate Cordarrelle Patterson during most games.

It isn’t readily known for certain if Hunter’s problems were a result of his injury still affecting him, or if they were more mental, but I can tell you that I saw the kid drop more passes in 2012 than what I would prefer in a high round pick.  Hunter seems like he might be one of those “moody” receivers that doesn’t have a short memory and may let an early-game mistake bother him for the rest of the day.

I don’t mean to pile on here and make it seem like I don’t like Hunter as a prospect, I do, but I also worry that he isn’t strong and physical enough to be a consistent deep threat.  If you watch his highlight reel you will see a guy blowing by defenders with no mercy, but the other 98% of the game tape will show a receiver that struggles getting off jams and is tentative going across the middle of the field.  This will also need to be addressed at the next level.

Hunter has his risks, but he seems just as capable of shredding a defense as any receiver in this class, and certainly has some major upside.  I think some of his game tape downgrades him to the second round or lower, unlike his teammate Cordarrelle Patterson who I have as a first round target for the Vikings, but he sure seems like a guy that is quickly becoming popular among Vikings fans.