Justin Hunter Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Tennessee WR
Tennessee Titans (Titans traded 40th, 216th and a third-round pick in 2014 for 34th pick)
Second Round, 34th pick
There are few receivers at the college football ranks who bring what Justin Hunter does to the table.
With size and speed comparable to some NFL greats, Hunter has an extremely high ceiling.
Hold the phone, though.
After blowing out his knee in September of his sophomore season, he has not looked quite the same. His junior tape is filled with a litany of mental mistakes and in the eyes of most pro evaluators, Vols teammate Cordarrelle Patterson is likely the better prospect.
If Hunter can return to form, however, he could emerge as one of the stars of this draft class.
|+ Long strider with great straight line speed||- Did not look as explosive as he was prior to 2011 ACL tear|
|+ Excellent size at 6'4" 196 pounds ||- Too many dropped passes|
|+ Huge catch radius due to length and body control||- Often runs sloppy routes and suffers from mental errors
|+ Deep threat that stretches the field vertically||- Not much of a run blocker at this point|
When discussing the physical specimens in this year’s wide receiver class, Justin Hunter may top the list. At 6’4” 196 pounds, he possesses ideal size and is a former track athlete with tremendous speed and leaping ability.
After returning from a season-ending knee injury this year, however, Hunter never appeared quite the same. He still displayed speed to stretch the field, but I did not notice the same explosiveness from him as a Junior.
In interviews I have watched, Justin Hunter appears to be a charismatic and confident individual who brightens up the room with a huge smile. Intense on the field and seemingly soft-spoken off of it, he is the type of person every organization wants.
Injuries, however, will play into how teams view Hunter. He still looks to be recovering from a September 2011 ACL tear and there’s no telling whether he will ever be as dynamic as he once was.
With rifle-armed Tyler Bray at the helm in Tennessee, coach Derek Dooley ran a vertical offense in which the ball was pushed down the field. The Volunteers operated primarily out of shotgun, but also frequently ran plays from under center. With the Vols, Hunter lined up all over the formation, running routes from outside and the slot.
At Tennessee, Hunter had no problem beating the jam simply using his quickness and speed. Long strides allow him to eat up cushion and deceptively get behind defenders. However, at the NFL level, he must add to his repertoire by refining his footwork and playing with more physicality.
One part of Justin Hunter’s game that immediately stands out is his tremendous ball skills that allow him to adjust to poorly thrown passes. He utilizes Inspector Gadget arms, fully extending to make plays.
Hunter has an enormous catch radius due in part to that length, but also excellent body control. He attacks the ball in the air and can be downright unstoppable in jump-ball situations, excelling at meeting passes at the highest point.
After returning from injury, Justin Hunter looked like he may have regressed as a route-runner.
By rounding off routes, he makes life easier on defensive backs who do not have to guess where he is going.
To his credit, Hunter still ran a variety of routes at Tennessee and displayed the ability to win both between the hashes and outside. Also, he seems to have no reservations about crossing the middle of the field.
Justin Hunter’s hands came under major scrutiny this season. While he shows a penchant for making the difficult catches, he will wind up dropping the easy ones. Too many balls hit the ground in 2012 due to lapses in concentration.
I have a hard time saying Hunter has poor hands, but he lets too many get into his body, especially on in-breaking patterns. Still, he does flashes strong hands to pull down the ball down in traffic.
Run After Catch
For a big receiver, Justin Hunter can make things happen after the catch. He can be elusive and difficult to tackle on an island.
Though he did not seem quite as dynamic after his ACL tear, Hunter is still appears fairly quick and sudden with the ball in his hands. Additionally, he fights to stay on his feet and displays decent balance.
When I watched Tennessee this season, Justin Hunter was frequently a non-factor as a run blocker. That is not to say he is incapable of developing, as he possesses long arms and decent strength, but he does not appear to be one that has a passion for blocking. Hunter will need to improve in this are if he hopes to earn serious playing time at the next level.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Though his style and body type are reminiscent of AJ Green, Justin Hunter lacks the same reliability. He shows the ability to make the incredible play, but was very inconsistent this past season.
If Hunter is able to regain the same explosiveness he appeared to have prior to his 2011 knee injury, the sky is the limit. He will appeal to teams seeking a deep threat to stretch the field vertically.
Draft Projection: Round 2-3
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