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Danielle Hunter Makes “Top 25 Under 25”

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The second-year defensive end is turning some heads.

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Minnesota Vikings v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

We know that the Minnesota Vikings have a lot of good, young players on their squad that they can build around going forward. According to Pro Football Focus, however, none of them are as impressive as second-year defensive end Danielle Hunter.

On their list of the Top 25 NFL players under the age of 25, Hunter is the only member of the Vikings listed, coming in at #24.

Hunter is still just 22 years old, and he only turned 22 in late October. He is younger than most of the rookie class that has just completed its first season in the league, and Hunter has just played his second, posting 13 sacks and 55 total pressures despite not being a full-time starter. If he were a rookie we would be tipping that performance as a sign of greatness, so year three could be something truly impressive.

Hunter isn’t the only talented player under the age of 25, but he had the best season out of all those players that would qualify. Racking up 12.5 sacks in his second season. . .in a part-time role. . .he showed that he has everything it takes to be a building block for this Minnesota defense moving forward.

Which other Vikings’ players under the age of 25 didn’t make this list? Let’s do a quick glance.

Anthony Barr, LB (24, per the roster page on the Vikings’ website) - If you would have asked 12 months ago, I would have told you that Barr was a lock to be on this list. However, after playing outstanding football in his first two seasons, he almost completely disappeared in 2016. There’s been speculation that he was playing with some sort of an injury in 2016, but he didn’t miss any games. Hopefully he can bounce back in 2017. . .he’s playing for a second contract, after all.

Eric Kendricks, LB (24) - Barr’s former UCLA teammate, Kendricks had injury issues of his own this year. However, he was very good when he was on the field. If he continues at his current rate of development, injuries might be the only thing that can slow him down.

Trae Waynes, CB (24) - A lot of people have expressed displeasure with Waynes’ rate of development and/or lack of playing time. However, with Xavier Rhodes locking down one side and Terence Newman defying Father Time on the other side, the Vikings have been content to let Waynes develop a bit. If he figures out how to turn his head around and look for the damn ball, he’ll be a pretty solid starting cornerback when Newman does finally move on.

Stefon Diggs, WR (23) - Diggs has been a pleasant surprise in his first two seasons, and would have had a shot at being the Vikings’ first 1,000-yard receiver since 2009 if he hadn’t missed two games with injuries and been limited in a couple of other ones. He’s probably the Vikings’ biggest offensive threat at this point, and has proven to be effective whether it’s Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford at quarterback.

Those are some pretty fine pieces to have moving forward. Out of all of them, however, it appears that Hunter might have the highest ceiling. There’s every reason to expect him to finally move into a starting role in 2017, whether incumbent Brian Robison returns or not. He’s earned it with his performance over the past two seasons.