+Pretty fluid for his size
+Better after the catch than you would expect
+Runs solid routes
-Tentative over the middle
-Hands are average
-Not a terrible jump ball receiver, but doesn’t inspire much fear for a guy with his size and athleticism
My 10 second scouting report on Hunter: Sidney Rice is the best case scenario unless he adds 20lbs. You don’t see a lot of guys out there who are 6’4 and 196lbs playing at the NFL level. The fact is, you need some strength to create separation if you aren’t incredibly quick (aka, all 6’4 wide receivers), and you need some strength to fight for good position to win jump balls. Hunter has no strength, so, in the meantime, he’s masquerading as a possession receiver. This guy is a 6’4 receiver with a 39.5 inch vertical and 33 1/4 inch arms that has the lowest yards per catch of anyone on his team with 30 or more receptions, and, shockingly enough, has a yards per catch even lower than that of teammate Mychal Rivera, a 6’3 tight end who is no one’s idea of a threat on the deep ball. Like most tight ends, he pretty much can’t jump, and he’s not better than a receiver at getting yards after the catch. Yet, somehow, he has a 15.6 yards per catch compared to Hunter’s 14.8. Just absorb that fact for a moment. Hunter in theory should be the ultimate deep ball receiver with his height and leaping ability, but he’s the worst deep threat on his team because he lacks the strength to make catches in traffic. Hunter has some potential, but, until he adds some strength, I am not a huge fan.
Hunter has very good measurables. I pretty much said it all in that last paragraph, but I didn’t mention that he ran a 4.44 40 at the combine, a very impressive number for a guy his size. He has durability problems (season ending knee surgery as a sophomore) and will continue to have them until he adds bulk onto his frame.
Hunter has good stats. He got off to a great start in 2011 before a knee injury, and he had a solid season in 2012, with 73 catches, 1083 yards, and 9 touchdowns in 12 games.
Hunter is a solid route runner. He has pretty good change of direction skills for a guy with his size, in large part because of his skinny frame, and he has above average quickness and speed. His focus is fairly consistent as a route runner and he’s fundamentally sound, using above average technique and flashing the ability to read zone coverage. Like I said, he’s pretending to be a possession receiver at this point in his career, and he isn’t terrible at it thanks to his above average quickness as a route runner and impressive catching radius. Frankly, his arms are longer than those of almost every corner he faces, so he gets his hands on the ball first. Still, I think it’s really a waste of what sets him apart from other receivers: his A.J. Green like combination of height and leaping ability. It’s not made useful on curl routes. Still, there is nothing wrong with Hunter being a good route runner.
Hunter is pretty good at creating yards after the catch for a 6’4 receiver. His flexibility is elite, to the point that I’ve wondered if he could touch his toes in football pads, and he has a surprising knack for getting under defender. He too often tries to impersonate teammate Cordarrelle Patterson by reversing his field and trying to make some amazing play, but his deceptive quickness and fluidity make him a pretty shifty guy in the open field.
Hunter is mediocre with the ball in the air. His hands are pretty much average. I wouldn’t say his effort his sub-par, but he does look a little scared of getting hit when running routes over the middle. He’s only average at tracking the ball. He really can’t make catches in traffic and doesn’t have a great feel for the physicality of the game. He struggles to fight for good position and it isn’t difficult to knock the ball out of his hands if he does go high into the air. He’s not strong enough to create any separation with physicality and he can’t bully his way into position leaping for the ball. Basically, the slightest contact throws him off with the ball in the air. He needs a very open field, a clear path, to make a play. On the bright side, he doesn’t trap many passes against his frame. Again, if he added bulk, he’d have a lot of potential here. He’s a great leaper with length and height who could be terrific if he had the power and the strength to simply high point and grab the ball in traffic, taking no prisoners on the way down and not letting contact throw him off on the way up. But he has a long way to go.
In the end, Hunter’s lack of bulk concerns me. He lacks strength and he isn’t the threat down field you would expect him to be. It’s frustrating.
NFL Comparison: Sidney Rice. Rice is an average receiver. At 202lbs, he’s a bit bulkier than Hunter, but he’s the closest there is, and, like Hunter, he has never been a huge threat on the deep ball. He’s also pretty injury prone. Rice probably has slightly better hands, but, other than that, they are pretty similar.
Grade: 82 (worthy of a late second round pick)
Projection: 86 (will be a mid, possible early second round pick)