Vikings’ Hunter: Raw, but ready?

Danielle Hunter hasn’t played football long, but he made the jump to the NFL early with his college coaches leaving.

In every draft there are players who have tremendous upside potential and have freakish athletic ability that coaching staffs are convinced they can harness and get the most out of.

Vikings third-round defensive end Danielle Hunter (first name is pronounced “duh-NEAL”) is one of those rare talents. A two-year starter at LSU, Hunter led the team with 13 tackles for a loss, thanks in no small part to his 6-foot-6 frame and long arms.

A lot of teams were intrigued by Hunter’s skill set, but the Vikings were the first to pull the trigger with the 88th pick of the draft. He wasn’t sure when he would get selected, but he had a strong feeling it was going to be somewhere on Day 2.

“I’d been hearing a lot of things from the first three rounds,” Hunter said. “I just sat there – me and my mom and my dad – and waited patiently waiting for my name to be called. God told me I was going to be picked today, so I just sat there patiently.”

One of the knocks on Hunter was that he is a raw talent who has played a limited amount of football – five years of organized ball – and some critics said he would have been better served to go back to the Tigers for his senior year. But with changes coming to the LSU defense next year he and his family felt the time was right.

“I’m in a situation with my coaches – they were about to leave and go on to other schools,” Hunter said. “There was going to be a change in the defensive scheme. Instead of learning a defense for one year, I decided to move on to the NFL and learned a defense for five-plus or however many years God lets me play.”

While Hunter had a head-turning performancee at his pro day in Baton Rouge, he didn’t have the opportunity to showcase his talents under the brightest of spotlights in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. An injury sidelined him or he may have been off the board long before the Vikings made him their selection.

“At the Combine, I only ended up running the 40,” Hunter said. “I pulled my hamstring a little bit, so I had to sit out the drills. I felt like if I had done more of the drills at the Combine, I feel like it would have helped my stock a lot because then people would have believed I was able to move the way I was able to move at the Combine.”

Some teams were looking at Hunter potentially as an outside linebacker, but he sees himself as a defensive end because, as he put it, “I’ve been playing with my hand in the dirt for six years.”

The Vikings are going to take their time in developing Hunter to best determine where his best role with the defense will be, but they’re convinced they have themselves a diamond in the rough.

Hunter is convinced of one thing as well – he’s going to earn the respect of his coaches and make them thankful they used their third-round pick on him.

“I’m going to take the coaching I’m about to receive and work my butt off,” Hunter said. “I’m a hard worker. I don’t have a bad head on my shoulders. Whatever Coach tells me to do, I’m going to go out there and do it. The ultimate goal is to aim for a starting position.”

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