When the Minnesota Vikings used their third-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on defensive end Danielle Hunter, the thought was that they were getting an incredible physical specimen whose football abilities would take a lot of refining. He put on a real show at the Scouting Combine, clocking in with a 40-yard dash time of 4.57 seconds, but managed just 1.5 sacks in his final season at LSU before he declared for the draft.
However, Vikings' head coach Mike Zimmer appears to be surprised by what Hunter has brought to the table this far.
"He is a lot less raw then we thought. He has really been impressive, honestly," coach Mike Zimmer said. "That's why I want to see him against some of the other competition. He is a tremendous athlete with very, very long arms. I asked one of the coaches about him the other day on what he thought and he was very, very positive about him."
If the Vikings are going to be rotating their defensive ends the way they want to, they're going to need contributions from both Hunter and second-year end Scott Crichton to take some stress off of Everson Griffen and Brian Robison. As Ben Goessling notes in the linked article, both Griffen and Robison played a lot of snaps in 2014 (993 for Griffen, 932 for Robison). The team is going to want to keep those two guys, particularly Robison, fresh this season, and that can't happen if Crichton and Hunter are going to be stuck to the bench.
As it stands now, Hunter is the youngest player on the Vikings' roster. . .he's only 20 years old and won't turn 21 until late October. A lot of people, myself included, weren't expecting a whole lot from him this season. That he might be ready to contribute already says a lot about both the scouting staff of the Minnesota Vikings and a coaching staff that already appears to be light years ahead of previous regimes when it comes to player development.