The need to add talent at wide receiver is not as great for the Minnesota Vikings with last week’s signing of Greg Jennings, but the need to add some young players to the mix is still there. The free agent crop of wide receivers has thinned fairly significantly at this point, so Minnesota’s attention can now largely turn to April’s draft in search of capable pass catchers.
The Vikings are still fairly certain to use an early pick on a wide receiver, and since they are now armed with two first-round picks (23rd and 25th overall) trading up to get a player they have targeted could become an option. But it is considered a deep wide receiver group without an elite option like we have seen in past years, so staying put in the late first-round may be the best choice.
Tennessee’s Justin Hunter is considered one of the more physically gifted wide receivers, at least in terms of measurables, in this year’s class. He had an outstanding showing at the NFL Combine, posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds along with a 39.5-inch vertical jump and a 136-inch broad jump (both the best among wide receivers at the event). He was sidelined for much of the 2011 season by a torn left ACL, and has just one season of significant college production (73 receptions, 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns last season), but it is notable that seven of his 16 catches as a freshman in 2010 went for touchdowns.
Let’s take a closer look at Hunter, and then I’ll offer my thoughts on if he would be a fit for the Vikings.
Weight: 196 lbs.
– Has excellent overall body length, with a long frame and long arms
– Has an exceptional catch radius-high points the ball well
– Is a fluid straight-line mover; strides effortlessly with deceiving speed
– Exhibits excellent footwork in and out of breaks
– Has experience lining up in multiple spots
– Needs to add strength; lacks physicality and conviction to fight for jump balls
– Needs to sharpen his route-running and play with better control overall
– Lets throws into his body too often; struggles with drops and double catches
– Is not overly explosive after the catch; does not change direction fluidly
– Exhibits poor body language; struggles with focus and emotions
Hunter’s measurables are hard to ignore, but in terms of pure wide receiver skills he is still very raw. Being further removed from his knee injury should help his overall comfort level after often looking disengaged mentally last season. The Vikings could use a receiver with Hunter’s size and overall skill set, and he could be a viable red zone and downfield threat while he works on honing the rest of his game.
Hunter is currently being projected to go off the board anywhere from the late first-round to into the second round, so he should be an option for Minnesota at that point. General manager Rick Spielman and company are surely doing their due diligence on every draft-eligible wide receiver, so if Hunter checks out medically and without other significant red flags he may be on their radar if he is available in the second round.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.