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Danielle Hunter, the underclassman EDGE defender for the LSU Tigers, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after starting 23 straight games during his collegiate career. Overall, Hunter played in 38 games at LSU, totaling 142 tackles, 21 TFL and 4.5 sacks. In 2014, Hunter managed 73 tackles, 13 TFL and 1.5 sacks. Physically, Hunter possesses plus length and an appealing overall frame. He has the natural size to line up as a DE in a 43 scheme while also possessing the athletic attributes to suggest the ability to play in a 2-pt stance in a 34. However, the explosive speed that he registered at the 2015 NFL Combine doesn’t always show up on tape. He’s a linear athlete who can run down a ball carrier, but he lacks an explosive first step at the snap of the ball. He’s often the last LSU defensive lineman moving at the start of the play. He’s tight in the hips, failing to show the ability to change directions smoothly and efficiently. He’s raw in his technique, as his hand play falls below early-round prospect standards. He tends to “fade away” at the POA rather than engage and shed. He relies too much on his athleticism, which is far too often neutralized because of his inability to slap away the OT’s punch or disengage with advanced hands. Hunter is extremely limited as a pass rusher at this point in his development, as he fails to flash any one attribute that suggests success in the early portion of his NFL career. His pass rush arsenal is underdeveloped, as he lacks a strong counter move to his speed rush. At times, he flashed an effective spin move, but he looked labored when doing so. Hunter offers value as an obstacle in the passing game, as he showed the ability to get his hands up to disrupt the quaterback’s vision and bat the ball down. He’s at his best against the run, where his length and range is a real asset. Hunter plays with a pretty high motor, leading to tackles from behind and pile-finishing pops.
BOTTOM LINE: Danielle Hunter has received an uptick in his NFL Draft value as a result of his impressive speed times at the Combine, causing many to consider him a player on the rise because of his natural size/speed combination. That said, his tape displays an extremely raw and overall limited player who will be a project on the next level. While statistics can be misleading, Hunter’s lack of production as a pass rusher (23 starts, 4.5 sacks) is indicative of his lacking overall ability to get to the quarterback. He will provide value for teams looking for help against the run, but he’ll need to be coached up by a patient staff before he can be expected to contribute as an NFL pass rusher.
GRADE: 6.5 (4th Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)