This is the first scouting report where I’ll profile a player who has raised his draft stock at the NFL Scouting Combine. Receivers have made the most collective noise so far. But I’m not profiling Tavon Austin or Marquise Goodwin, either of the 40-time demons, just yet. Today, I examine the player who has impressed me the most: Justin Hunter.
WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee
You may be asking yourself if I’ve already profiled Hunter, but that’s because I looked at his teammate Cordarrelle Patterson last week. After an excellent freshman season, Hunter began to draw comparisons to fellow SEC receiver AJ Green. Both stand at an impressive 6’4″, but have slight frames that don’t lend themselves to bulking. Green weighed in at 212 lbs., Hunter at 196. He has been abused by physical cornerbacks, and it is even more important that he improve his strength and physicality.
But Hunter has proven at the Combine that he has all of the other measurables. He ran a 4.44 40 at the Combine and registered an eye-popping 39.5″ vertical. We already knew that he was a great athlete, but he had an excellent Combine. Any questions about the long-strider’s speed have been answered. Hunter also has long arms and quick feet.
However, there are a lot more concerns with his football skills. Generally, you expect receivers to be able to receive the ball, and that has been Hunter’s biggest problem at Tennessee. He’s been plagued with drops, especially this past year. I would say that he has very inconsistent hands, but he’s really more of a body-catcher. He doesn’t look the ball in, and bobbles the ball in front of defenders far too often. His pass catching game needs all kinds of work. He also doesn’t like running over the middle, can be lazy in his route-running, and many times he has been caught dancing when he has the ball in his hands. But on a positive note, he understands how to play defense on jump balls, and has experience playing every wide receiver position at UT.
After Hunter’s aforementioned standout freshman season, he started off his sophomore year on a high note. But the torn ACL he suffered against Florida may concern some potential suitors, especially since he never seemed to match previous levels of productivity.
Hunter is a player with tantalizing athleticism, but his wanting (to put it nicely) receiving skills and his lack of physicality concern me greatly. There have been a lot of players come through the NFL whose drops have led them right out of the league, and if Hunter is consistently beaten up by opposing cornerbacks, he can’t even be a serviceable decoy. He has the raw ability of a #1 receiver, but right now he needs to serve as a 3rd or 4th option, add strength and learn the game.