LSU OLB Danielle Hunter
— While most teams view Hunter as a defensive end, teams utilizing the 3-4 alignment see Hunter as a carbon copy of a recent Louisiana State standout – Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo. Mingo recorded 119 tackles through 40 games at LSU, making 29.0 stops behind the line of scrimmage that included 15 sacks. Hunter managed more tackles, posting 142 hits in 38 contests, including 21.0 stops for losses. However, he had only 4.5 sacks. Hunter added seven quarterback pressures, returned his only fumble recovery 25 yards for a touchdown, caused two fumbles and deflected eight passes.
— When Hunter recorded 12 tackles vs. Auburn in 2014, it marked the most by a Tigers defensive lineman in a game since Glenn Dorsey posted 11 hits vs. Mississippi in 2006…His seven solo tackles in the Auburn contest are the most by an LSU down lineman since Marcus Spears produced eight initial stops vs. Arkansas in 2004…His 12 total tackles vs. Auburn are the most by a Tigers down lineman since Chuck Wiley had 20 stops vs. Kentucky since 1995.
— Hunter was named to The NFL Draft Report’s All-American Super Sleeper Team – not as a down lineman, but rather as a strong-side outside linebacker (team consists of the most underrated draft prospect at each projected NFL position)
— The junior started all 13 games at left defensive end, recording 73 tackles (30 solos). He recorded just 1.5 sacks but led the team and ranked 10th in the Southeastern Conference with 13 stops for losses. He added two quarterback pressures, as he deflected six passes, caused one fumble and advanced a fumble recovery 25 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers lead the SEC in total defense (316.8) and pass defense (164.2) and a No. 2 ranking in scoring defense (17.5).
— As a sophomore in 2013, Hunter opened the season playing on the second unit, but took over right defensive end chores for the final 10 games, as he recorded 57 tackles (19 solos), three sacks and eight stops for losses…Added five quarterback pressures and deflected two throws…Also caused one fumble.
2014 Season: Left the Texas A&M game after he suffered a neck sprain…Suffered a right hamstring strain at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine and did not participate in the shuttle, jump and skills drills.
Height: 6-foot-5 1/8. Weight: 252 pounds.
4.57 in the 40-yard dash…1.57 10-yard dash…2.67 20-yard dash…4.31 20-yard shuttle…11.78 60-yard shuttle…6.95 three-cone drill…36.5-inch vertical jump…10’-05” broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 25 times…34 1/4-inch arm length…10 1/2-inch hands… 83 1/4-inch wingspan.
Even though Hunter continued to state that he was returning to LSU in 2015, his second round grade was enough to convince this raw talent that now was the right time to test NFL waters. The Texas product and island of Jamaica native has impressive leaping ability and was actually his district’s long jump champ in high school.
He averaged a tackle per game during twelve contests as a freshman before starting ten contests at weak-side end in 2013. He delivered 57 tackles with three sacks and eight stops-for-loss that year, but in 2014, he shifted to the strong-side position. While he excelled in pass defense (six break-ups) and chasing down ball carriers (13 tackles-for-loss), he had just 1.5 sacks among his 73 hits. His play was impacted late in the ’14 campaign after he injured his neck in Week Eleven vs. Texas A&M.
With a frame very similar to former lanky Tigers star, Barkevious Mingo (Browns), Hunter is not the pass rush artist that the Cleveland player became, but he has the foot speed to stand up in a 3-4 scheme and the burst off the ball to escape lethargic blockers coming off the edge. He has a long torso with good arms and big hands. He has a tight waist and hips with room on his frame to carry at least another 10-15 pounds of bulk, as he is a well-proportioned athlete with good upper body muscle development.
Hunter is a bit mechanical in his change of direction and lateral movement, but he does a good job of keeping his feet and playing with leverage and explosion. He has enough acceleration to skate, string plays out and catch a play from behind, doing a solid job to back-door plays. He fights to collapse and get to the ball, getting a good push off the edge.
Hunter fights pressure, and uses his hands well to disengage and transfer on the block.
When he stays low in his pads, he can get his hands on the blocker and can keep the linemen off his body with his hand extension. When he gets high in his stance, he gets stymied at the line, as he is still learning to execute rip moves to get off the block quicker (lacks pass rush move refinement). When working in trash, for some reason he short arms and this causes him to struggle to shed.
The LSU junior is the first to admit that he is still learning and feeling out his position, as he has lined up as a down lineman, rush end and strong-side linebacker, but shows natural instincts and good awareness to be much more productive playing strong-side linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He is quick to locate the ball and makes good adjustments on the run. He still needs to make more big plays from the backside, but he has to be more explosive knifing through gaps to become an efficient blitzer.
Hunter showed off his impressive physique and overall strength at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, but scouts realize that his body is still developing. After playing at 240 pounds last season, he arrived in Indianapolis tipping the scales at 252 pounds and even with the added bulk he had one of the better performances of the 300-plus players in attendance.
Hunter sheds with adequate effectiveness, but has to do a better job of using his hands to protect himself. He can stack and shed isolated blockers on the corners and open field, showing valid strength behind his arm swipes. His problems occur when he gets tall in his stance and fails to use his long arms to gain separation or use his hand power to split double teams.
One reason for a potential move to the second level is that Hunter has fluid lateral range to give chase. He plays on his feet and shows above average balance on the move. He always gives solid second effort, especially running down plays on the perimeter. He uses his hands well to avoid trash in the open (will struggle in close quarters) and has the quickness and desire to close on the ball.
Hunter shows explosiveness on contact and flashes above average wrapping ability in the open (not in close quarters). He gets good production on the move, but also has the power to take on and push back the lead blocker through the rushing lanes. He has the long arms to secure and strike and is a reliable tackler, but you would like to see him attack more when working in-line (better on the edge, where he is best when roaming to the ball then when trying to disengage and slip through trash).
The Tigers junior was not asked to play man coverage much outside the short area, but shows good hip snap and turn coming out of his backpedal. He has the speed to shadow and run with the receivers on deep routes. He is high in his drops and turns and has good alertness to locate and pick up the receiver coming out of those drops (six pass break-ups on fifteen passes targeted into his area last season).
On the defensive line, Hunter is not always away of the snap (late off the ball at times) and if he short-arms directing in-line, he can get caught in the wash. He shows good effort to hold ground at the inside strike point, but even with his power, his lanky frame requires him to rely more on his quickness to avoid blocks working inside, as he does have the technique power to stack. He is more effective in attempts to fill the holes when he stays low in his pads.
On the outside, Hunter has good chase and pursuit effort, possessing the acceleration to string out plays and is a very good perimeter tackler for a player of his size. He has more than enough speed to run sideline to sideline and track the ball well on the corners. I like the way he attacks the outside run to seal the edge and force the plays back inside. When he avoids trash, he will usually make the tackle.