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Danielle Hunter makes ESPN’s list of NFL’s top edge defenders

Impressive given recent history

Syndication: USATODAY Brace Hemmelgarn, USA TODAY Sport

We are still well into the throes of listamania season in the National Football League as we approach the start of Training Camp. One recent list comes from the folks at ESPN, and it’s pretty impressive news for a member of the Minnesota Vikings.

Behind the great E$PN paywall, the four-letter conducted a survey of over 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players in order to come up with the top ten players at every position in the league. They started with edge defenders, and Vikings’ star Danielle Hunter made his way onto the list at #10.

That’s pretty impressive, if you ask me, given the fact that Hunter hasn’t suited up for an NFL game since the Vikings’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round in January of 2020. By the time Week 1 of this season comes around, it will have been about 21 months since Hunter played in a meaningful football game. . .or in any football game, for that matter.

Here’s what they said about Hunter:

Hunter finished just outside of the top 10 going into last season, but voters recognized just how much the Vikings missed him in 2020. The numbers say Minnesota’s pass production cut nearly in half without Hunter, who missed the entire season after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc.

Since 2019, the Vikings have 42 sacks on opponents’ 527 dropbacks (8%) with Hunter on the field, yet 29 sacks on 679 dropbacks (4.3%) with Hunter off the field. Hunter racked up 56 pressures by himself in 2019, yet the Vikings had 137 total pressures as a team last season, fourth-fewest in the NFL.

Still underpaid on a five-year, $72 million deal, expect Hunter to remind Minnesota of his worth in 2021.

“He’s kind of like Myles Garrett in that he’s built like a Marvel character,” an AFC scout said. “Special traits and he has length to win and counter moves to go with it.”

Hunter was rated as high as #4 on the lists that were submitted by the folks that ESPN asked. His lowest ranking is listed as “unranked,” which isn’t surprising given that he did miss all of last season.

Here’s hoping that Hunter has a big enough bounce-back year that nobody forgets to leave him off of their lists going into 2022.