With the NFL draft just a matter of weeks away, coverage of the prospects and franchises is starting to crank up. Just like any of the other 31 franchises in the NFL, the New England Patriots' shortlist of targets will be coming into focus right about now.
Even though they made an offer to restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders today, wide receivers should densely populate that list. One of the best fits for the Patriots is also a player they can realistically target with their first pick, Tennessee's Justin Hunter.
Name: Justin HunterAge: 21 Date of Birth: May 20, 1991College: TennesseeHeight: 6'4 Weight: 200Position:Wide Receiver
Hunter is a very fluid athlete on the field who has no problems getting in and out of his breaks or breezing past defensive backs to create separation. Off the field his numbers support that showing as he ran a 4.44 40 and had a 40.5 vertical. Hunter has the agility and speed, combined with his sheer size, to be a dominant NFL receiver someday. -Effort/Awareness
Effort and awareness have been combined here because they often come up together on the field. In a position where divas are often celebrated and routinely accepted, Hunter's play on the field portrays him as the polar opposite. He works back to the football on comeback routes or when defenders are in better position to fight for the football. What was most telling however, was his willingness to fight for a play even when he knew he couldn't catch the ball.
Over the number of games that were watched, Hunter prevented at least four sure-fire interceptions by simply playing to the whistle. Even when he had no chance to make the play in terms of catching the football, he fought for the tipped pass or to knock the ball from the defensive back with a big hit.
Hunter's extra effort is obvious on the two plays from 01:04 in this video. The first reception shows off his awareness, effort and athleticism to make a reception over a defensive back after adjusting to the football, while the second is sheer effort to prevent a turnover.
The first play in particular is a play that not every receiver in the NFL can make.
Tyler Bray underthrows the ball as Hunter is sprinting down the sideline. Hunter is aware enough to recognize it early, before using his athleticism to get back into position. However, the defensive back is in a better position immediately, so it takes effort for Hunter to go back and fight for the football. He eventually makes the big play over the defensive back by being aggressive, aware and working hard. He is allowed to make it because of his athleticism.