Are Evaluators Not Watching Danielle Hunter?

ESPN Has Frightening
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The Minnesota Vikings have jumped out to a 5-4 record this season but gotten there through a less-than-ideal journey. While they have been playing better the past few weeks, Danielle Hunter’s production has been consistently dominant throughout. Someone should let the esteemed Pro Football Focus know.

Are Evaluators Not Watching Danielle Hunter?

Coming into the 2023 NFL regular season, the Vikings found themselves in a similar place with their star pass rusher. After Za’Darius Smith forced his way out of Minnesota, Danielle Hunter was again the guy, and he wanted to be paid. Following a successful 2022 campaign that saw him rack up sacks down the stretch as Smith faded, it was hard not to oblige and get the man some additional cash.

Are Evaluators Not Watching Danielle Hunter?
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While Marcus Davenport was brought in to take some attention away from Hunter on the edge, he has been so unavailable that it’s as if his presence has never been felt. Still, Hunter has been dominant, and his 10 sacks lead the entire league. Even with that, Pro Football Focus has Hunter ranked as just the 37th edge rusher heading into Week 10.

Hunter opened the season with a sack of Baker Mayfield, but it’s fair to give the evaluators a break in not wanting to watch a lackluster contest between Minnesota and Tampa Bay. The following week, though, he brought down Jalen Hurts three times and really put the league on notice. Having already reached double-digit sacks with 10 and having done so while being shut out twice, it’s crazy to think how he could still be overlooked.

Pro Football Focus is largely revered as the gold standard for grades and weekly performance evaluation. Their presence is prominent on in-game broadcasts and has become a staple in football vernacular. Still, though, the meteoric rise of one outlet has always come with some questions, and it is eyebrow-raising outcomes like this that leave something to be desired.

Danielle Hunter
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Sacks are not the only thing Hunter is or should be evaluated on, but his primary duty is to bring down the opposing quarterback, and he has excelled at that better than anyone else in the sport this season. Hunter was a popular name at the trade deadline because of his abilities, but the Vikings never heard enough of a return to move him, and it’s clear the team is talented enough to use him the rest of the way.

Regardless of what Pro Football Focus thinks of Hunter, it’s clear that Brian Flores has the Vikings defense playing at a much higher level than Ed Donatell accomplished a season ago. Despite having almost the same personnel, coaching has been substantially better, and players have been put in situations to succeed.

Sack Master
Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports.

With eight games left to go, Hunter is just a half-sack away from his total last season, and he’s only 4.5 sacks away from tying the career-high he set in 2018 and 2019. Watching where he could push the envelope this season should be fun, and if he can have another three-sack game or two, Michael Strahan’s 22.5 single-season sack record may be possible to take down. He can keep adding this weekend against Derek Carr and the Saints.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.