Hunter had seen his Combine cut short with s hamstring injury, but when the Vikings worked him out at his pro day, they were extremely impressed with what they saw because of his imposing physical ability.
“He’s a physical specimen – 6-5 and change and weighed 252,” Spielman said. “We measured his arms at 35½ (inches). He had a 10-10 broad jump, which is extremely unique for his size and his position. He was a 36½ -inch vertical jump. He plays extremely hard. He’s raw. He’s a project.”
While his measurable attributes are unique, what interested Spielman and the coaching staff was the high ceiling on Hunter and the potential he has to be a star if his talents are properly harnessed.
He is the kind of player that fits in the wheelhouse of the Vikings defensive coaching staff. They have a history of developing talent and few third-round draft picks come to the NFL with Hunter’s ability and potential.< br>
“There’s tremendous upside with this kid,” Spielman said. “Knowing Coach Zimmer, (defensive coordinator) George Edwards and (defensive line coach) Andre Patterson and what they do with these kind of physical specimens and how they develop these kids, we feel that he has tremendous upside to grow as a football player.”
It wasn’t just his physical ability that had the Vikings interested in Hunter. Just as important was his character. The book on Hunter from scouts included the phrase “squeaky clean,” and Spielman said that when the Vikings inquired about his character, the consensus was “A-plus off the charts”
The Vikings were intrigued enough to spend some extra time with him as opposed to most prospects, and the more they saw of Hunter the more they wanted him wearing purple and gold.
“That’s why we went down and watched him personally work out,” Spielman said. “We spent time with him at the Combine. We spent time with him at our interviews at the Combine that night. He’s a very serious kid – very focused and very passionate about wanting to be good. Spending the time with him down there at the LSU pro day, we were watching his ability to move. A lot of times when we are in the draft room, when we are talking about players, we talk about potential and asking, ‘Does this guy have potential and the athletic traits that the coaches want to work with?’ I can’t tell you how much confidence I have in Coach Zimmer and his coaching staff to develop young guys and get the best out of them. You can’t find the unique traits that he has.”
Some teams were looking at Hunter as an outside linebacker. Spielman could understand the reasons why. Hunter has good range and agility to make plays in space and, at least on a situational basis, he could envision Hunter being used as a versatile hybrid player.
“He’s an Anthony Barr-type athlete,” Spielman said. “Maybe not as fluid, but has the ability to do a lot of different things depending on how he develops and where our coaches see him.”
By his own admission, Spielman isn’t expecting Hunter to step in right away and be a starter. He plays the same position as Everson Griffen, so cracking the starting lineup won’t come easily or quickly.
But the upside on Hunter is so high that the Vikings are willing to give him time to develop his game and become a defensive terror they are convinced he can be under the watchful eye of Zimmer and his defensive coaches.
He currently may be a diamond in the rough, but Spielman believes that he can be a long-term answer for Zimmer’s defensive line rotation and develop into a special defensive weapon.
“We wanted to add another pass rusher at some point in this draft,” Spielman said. “Just the unique physical traits and the unique mental makeup this kid has, he’s a great project to work with. I know we’re excited to get him up here and get him going.”
(Photos from USA TODAY Sports)