Scouting Report: Kendall Hunter
Few backs in this highly touted draft class were as productive as Kendall Hunter was through his career at Oklahoma State. During his two years as a full-time starter, he ran for well over 3,000 yards and racked up 32 touchdowns on the ground. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with excellent balance, quickness, and running instincts. Durability was a problem in college, so the common feeling is that he would operate most effectively paired with a bigger running back in a two back system. His feel for the game, agility, and work ethic should make him a very solid pro. On draft day, expect Hunter to fit in somewhere between the mid second and mid third round.
Despite lacking ideal size, Hunter runs hard and was effective between the tackles in college. He uses his terrific running instincts to pick up tough yards. His compact build can be an advantage, as he runs low to the ground and shows good balance. As with many small backs today in the NFL, Hunter’s ability to get lost in a crowd can be a real weapon behind a big offensive line. There is reason to believe that his role as an inside runner could decrease at the next level as he does not appear built to withstand punishment up the middle.
Kendall Hunter may lack breakaway speed, but his burst and ability to change speeds effortlessly made him an effective outside runner in college. His exceptional vision and instincts allow him to find cutback lanes. He shows the ability to pick and slide, breaking runs to the outside when the middle of the line is congested. Though he may not have that home-run speed, he accelerates quickly and appears plenty fast enough to run away from most front seven defenders. In the open field, he can be quite elusive with loose hips and a low center of gravity.
At Oklahoma State, Kendall Hunter was not featured much in the passing game. His hands are fairly small, but should not hold him back. He does not appear to be particularly gifted or natural as a receiver. His production in college was limited and as the years passed, his average yards per catch dropped substantially (to just over 5.0 in 2010.) I should note that the Ravens’ Ray Rice was similarly inexperienced as a receiver coming out of Rutgers, so it’s hard to dismiss the upside there.
This will need to be an emphasis for Hunter at the next level. To be used as a primary back in the NFL, he will have to really improve his ball security and cut down on fumbles. During his college career, he fumbled 10 times out of 771 touches. His hands may a tad small, but he should be able to make necessary adjustments before it becomes a big problem.
Vision, Instincts & Awareness
Kendall Hunter possesses terrific running instincts. He is very football-smart and has great vision to pick holes. Due to his small size and that vision, he navigates traffic very well, fitting through small creases. He does a very nice job finding cutback lanes in the open field. Unlike many small backs, he has already developed the ability to avoid most direct shots, which will save his body in the long run.
Despite being undersized, Hunter has strong legs and hips which allow him to break tackles. He runs very hard for his diminutive stature and cannot be arm-tackled. In the hole, he is quick and shows good elusiveness. His low center of gravity makes him a tough guy to knock over and allows him to change speed and direction well. When he gets into the open field, he makes good cuts and can be hard to stop in 1-on-1 situations.
As if his lack of receiving ability weren’t enough, Hunter also struggles with his pass-protection. He lacks size, functional strength at the point of attack, and the willingness to put his body on the line. If he cannot make strides as a blocker or receiver, I don’t that he will be seeing the field much on third downs in the NFL.
Kendall Hunter’s compact build gives him a very strong base. His balance and leg drive are two of his greatest assets as a player. He does a nice job powering through arm tackles and keeps his feet moving on contact. Although he often fights for extra yards, he does a nice job playing smart and avoids taking direct hits to his body.
When projecting Hunter to the NFL, size and durability must be considered. Since he is not likely to be featured as an every down back, it makes sense to pair him with a bigger back. Right now, he is still raw as a receiver and relatively ineffective as a pass-blocker, so he doesn’t project as a sure-fire third down back. I mentioned Ray Rice’s development in that role earlier, which means I think it would be foolish to count him out there. Ultimately, he fits best in a balanced NFL offense, running behind a big, physical offensive line.
Size, Speed, Strength & Agility
Though he stands only 5’7 ¼, size could be considered a strength for Hunter as he possesses a muscular and compact build. He is very strong, with impressive lower body power and a low center of gravity. Though his playing speed is very good, he does not appear to be a home run hitter with that extra gear to break 40+ yard runs. On the field, he is agile with good hips and decent feet. His ability to change speed and direction easily makes him tough to track.
Staying healthy will be a hurdle Kendall Hunter must overcome at the next level. He has an injury history and currently has a plate in his ankle. In 2009, he was hobbled by a right ankle injury for most of the season, ultimately forcing him to sit out of six games. Intelligence may be a concern be some if they are looking at just the surface and his score of nine on the Wonderlic. It is true that he struggled with academics in high school, but he exceled at Oklahoma State in the classroom. He possesses excellent football character, bringing leadership, toughness, and a strong work ethic to any team that drafts him. As a prospect, Kendall Hunter is not so different from former Rutgers star, Ray Rice. Now, I don’t mean to imply that he could amass over 2,000 yards in his second NFL season; but I think he could be an early impact player and a big addition to any running game. I doubt he is counted on to hold a bell-cow role in his career, as size limitations and durability concerns may always hold him back from that. Right now, he must prove he deserves to be on the field on third down. I believe, if healthy, Hunter could be one of the most successful and productive backs to come out of this class. He will be most effective if paired with a bigger back behind a big, physical offensive line.
Hunter is an Education major and has been described as a good student. Was a Second-team Academic All-Big 12 in 2009, earned a spot on the President’s Honor Roll for a 4.0 GPA, and was honorable-mention Scholar-Baller in 2009 and 2008. He is also a member of the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll and a two-time recipient of the Oklahoma State Academic Achievement award.
2010: 13 games/13 starts – 271 car 1,548 yds 5.7 avg 16 Td; 20 rec 101 yds
2009: 8 games/0 starts – 89 car 382 yds 4.3 avg 1 Td; 11 rec 83 yds
2008: 13 games/13 starts – 241 car 1,555 yds 6.5 avg 16 Td; 22 rec 198 yds 1 Td
2007: 12 games/2 starts – 107 car 696 yds 6.5 avg 4 Td; 10 rec 137 yds 1 Td
Awards & Honors
2010: First Team All-Big 12
2008: First-Team All-Big 12. FWAA 1st Team All-American.
Prospect Video Clips
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