We know that Seattle will consider pass rush early in this draft, but it’s also likely that they will consider receiver somewhere during the early rounds, as they did for a backup running back in 2012. Other greater, more pressing needs pushed running back to round four, but what if Seattle “loves” a receiver option enough to take him at #25? I don’t consider it especially likely, but it is an option we must be mindful of, especially if the top pass rushers are all gone in the top 24 picks, which is unfortunately a real possibility.
Walterfootball broke a bit of an interesting story yesterday after talking with NFL scouts:
WalterFootall.com spoke with some scouts, including one from a receiver-needy team picking in the back half of the top 32. All believe that Hunter is likely to go in the first round. They said the Combine really helped Hunter with positive reports from his medical check and an excellent 40-yard dash time of 4.44 seconds…
Scouts told WalterFootball.com that they love the upside of Hunter. He has the size to work in the short to intermediate part of the field and speed to get vertical. They like his run-after-the-catch ability as well as his combination of size and speed. Hunter hasn’t received a lot of first-round buzz, but one team in the mid 20s said it would be ecstatic if he was on the board for its pick.
Hunter’s upside was another reason that scouts felt he was likely to go in the first round. They said in this draft class, players with big upside are very appealing in the late first round rather than those who are deemed safe.
At first glance, this seems like a dead giveaway that the scout in question was an employee of the Seahawks. The Seahawks pick 25th afterall, and it doesn’t get any more “mid twenties” than 25. Consider though, every team in the mid twenties range (23-27) could consider a first round receiver as a realistic option.
The Vikings are having issues with star Percy Harvin, and it seems decently likely that Harvin’s days in Minnesota are numbered, even if he remains a Viking in 2013. The Vikings passing offense came apart completely after Harvin’s injury last year, so depth is an issue as well. The Colts had a pleasant surprise from T.Y. Hilton in 2012, but they still heavily depend on Reggie Wayne who is 35 years old next season. Hilton is just 5’9″ so pairing him with a big vertical receiver makes sense, especially for a vertically inclined quarterback like Andrew Luck. The Packers will likely lose Greg Jennings in free agency and many people are mocking them a receiver at #26. The Texans don’t have a ton of needs and are believed to be looking for a weapon to compliment Andre Johnson. You look up enough mock drafts, you’ll see at least one for each those five teams in the 23 to 27 range that has them taking a receiver. Surprisingly, the “mid-twenties” comment isn’t anything close to the giveaway it sounds like.
But what if that scout actually does work for the Seahawks? At the very least, we have to consider it a 20% chance. That’s enough to pay attention to, especially since I would have thought there was close to zero chance the Seahawks would consider Hunter that early before today. Of course, it’s lying season, and maybe this is a tactic to help get a guy overdrafted. Just the same, I want to explore the idea of Justin Hunter at #25 and see if it makes sense for Seattle to be “ecstatic” to see him there.
Justin Hunter is among the tallest receivers in this draft, standing just a shade under 6’4″ tall. Rounding to the nearest inch, there isn’t a receiver in this draft that stands 6’4″ or above that runs a faster forty time than Hunter’s 4.44 time. Eastern Kentucky’s Tyrone Goard (4.50) and Florida State’s Rodney Smith (4.51) come the closest. Rutgers’ Mark Harrison clocked a 4.46 at 6’3″, Arkansas’ Chris Gragg had a 4.50 at the same height, and Virginia Tech’s Corey Fuller had a 4.43. DaRick Rogers had a 4.52. At 6’2″, Terrence Williams had a 4.52, and Cordarrelle Patterson clocked a 4.42.
In short, you won’t find a receiver in this draft with a better combination of height and speed than Justin Hunter. His arms (33.25″) are tied for the 3rd longest at the combine among receivers. His 39.5″ vertical was tied for the best among receivers. His 11’4″ broad jump was in a class by itself. He also has big 9.38″ hands, which was roughly 80th percentile in this receiver class. Everything about Hunter’s measurables screams deep ball receiver. Seattle has a quarterback who by his own admission has a sexy deep ball and likes to use it. Seattle released Mike Williams last summer, and scrambled to replace his role on the team with other tall receivers with speed: Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards. They also brought in Evan Moore who was a jump ball threat in the red zone. Only Edwards provided any real contribution, and none of them are currently a part of the team.
Seattle does have 6’4″ Sidney Rice, but their actions last year suggest that they want a tall receiver with speed and jump ball ability to act as insurance for Rice. So yes, Seattle’s interest in Justin Hunter- purely as a physical prospect- makes complete sense.
So, is Justin Hunter actually any good? Decide for yourself:
Hunter is fast, but isn’t a wizard at changing directions and won’t likely be much of a Golden Tate type playmaker with the ball in his hands. I actually feel sorry for Hunter’s knees the way he throws his weight around on them, and I’m not surprised at all that Hunter had an ACL in 2011 based on the way his knees buckle from his running style. On the other hand, consider that every video above was just one year after an ACL. His 4.44 forty time was just 17 months after the injury, short of the 24 month full recovery time. For a guy still recovering from an ACL, Hunter can certainly move.
Hunter does seem like a Pete Carroll type player. He has good hands, but poor catching technique, often catching the ball too close to his body. He can’t hold on to a contested pass to save his life either. Swat away and it’s 2nd and 10. Hunter also struggles to diagnose where the deep ball is going. Sometimes he’ll hesitate and then realize he screwed up only to miss what should have been an easy deep reception. Thankfully, all of these areas are coachable. Pete likes fixer-upper projects: guys with rare physical talent that need to be coached out of mistakes and sloppy technique. You can’t coach a 4.44 forty yard dash at 6’4.” Bruce Irvin, last year’s first round pick, was the epitome of that same philosophy.
For that matter, the term “ecstatic” itself sounds like an adjective that came from our war room; this regime certainly hasn’t lacked for energy or enthusiasm. And if there is one team that views a player as a steal to the complete disagreement of Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, well, isn’t that the stereotypical first round pick for John Schneider? Schneider’s “reachiness” in round one is more perception than truth, but regardless, he isn’t afraid of getting a ribbing from the media on draft day. Not in the slightest.
I have reservations about Hunter’s health going forward: every cut he makes I am amazed how his wobbly little knees somehow hold up. He already has an ACL on his health record, and every future ACL he tears will make the situation worse. I also question the idea of reaching for a receiver in a draft that is loaded with value options. That makes little sense to me.
That said, Justin Hunter gives Seattle something they certainly don’t have already (as depth). Their actions last season suggest that this type of acquisition is a need, and still is one. After Hunter leaves the board, you won’t find a truly comparable physical talent. I could see this pick happening. Especially if Seattle is more active in free agency with regards to defense than we anticipate.