The Tennessee Titans made Justin Hunter the fourth wide receiver off the board (34th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft, but he was inactive for Week 1 and only had three receptions for 58 yards in the first six games he did play prior Tennessee’s Week 8 bye. Two of those catches went for touchdowns, but with a minimal role the start to Hunter’s career was off to a very dismal start.
Hunter had four receptions for 63 yards in the two games immediately after the Titans’ bye week, but his breakout performance did not come until Week 12 against the Oakland Raiders, when he had six receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. After a one-catch, nine-yard game against the Indianapolis Colts the following week, Hunter had another nice game (four catches for 114 yards and a touchdown) against the Denver Broncos in Week 14. He was a healthy scratch for Week 15 against the Arizona Cardinals due to a violation of team rules, and then was held without a catch on Sunday to continue what can kindly be described as an up-and-down stretch of games.
The Titans are facing an offseason of turnover in their wide receiver group, with the disappointing Kenny Britt in the last year of his contract and Nate Washington unlikely to be brought back at his scheduled base salary for 2014 ($4.8 million). The only sure-fire lock to be back is Kendall Wright, who is nearing the end of a solid second season (89 receptions for 1,029 yards and two touchdowns through Week 16) and will likely be the No.1 option in the passing game next year. If the franchise still has faith in quarterback Jake Locker and hopes to maximize his potential, surrounding him with top-notch weapons will have to be a priority.
There are a few moving parts for the Titans this offseason, like a potential new coaching staff and any moves that may be made to add and subtract wide receivers, but Hunter looks to have a clear path to a much bigger and consistent role next year. If that still looks likely to come to fruition at fantasy draft time next summer, he will be worth a look in 12 and 14-team leagues. Optimistic fantasy owners can look to the emergence of Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery this season (86 receptions for 1,341 yards and seven touchdowns, after totaling just 24 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2012) as a hint to what Hunter could do in 2014.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.