2015 NFL Draft: What Is the Plan For Danielle Hunter?


The Danielle Hunter pick was all about future promise over immediate returns. After taking Trae Waynes and Eric Kendricks, two likely immediate starters, Rick Spielman felt confident enough to grab Mike Zimmer a piece of clay that may take him a year or more to mold into a player who can actually contribute on the field.

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The scouting reports on Hunter all mention his raw athletic ability, and all mention his superior length. In his press conference Friday night, Spielman also made mention of Hunter’s length and how much coach Zimmer values that particular trait (via Vikings.com):

"Knowing coach Zimmer, George Edwards and Andre Patterson and what they do with these types of physical specimens and how they develop these kids, we feel that he has tremendous upside to grow as a football player. And it’s another guy that I know coach Zimmer loves to work with athletic guys that have length."

Spielman repeatedly reiterated that Hunter is a project who will need time to develop. When asked to home in on Hunter’s role, Spielman mentioned that he is seen as a right end, though he indicated that isn’t written in stone yet.

If Hunter does develop at the right end position as the Vikings hope, what might that mean for current starting right end Everson Griffen? Last year Griffen signed a five-year contract worth $42 million with $19.8 million guaranteed. Though the contract runs through 2019, it’s structured so that the Vikings could easily bail out after this year or certainly next.

No one is suggesting that Everson Griffen’s spot is in danger due to Danielle Hunter, at least not immediately. Down the road, if Hunter grows into a force at the right end position, the Vikings might have to make a call on continuing to pay Griffen or letting him walk in favor of the younger, less-expensive man.

Teams structure contracts so as to give themselves this kind of flexibility. The Vikings got good production out of Everson Griffen last year, but is Everson Griffen the ideal Mike Zimmer right end? Physically, Danielle Hunter may be a better match for what Zimmer has in mind.

Though Griffen is surely no slouch physically, Hunter does have him bested in several categories. Griffen is 6-3 while Hunter is 6-5. Griffen’s arms measure 32 5/8 while Hunter’s measure 34 1/4. If you were stacking the two men up based on pro day/combine numbers – Griffen’s are five years old at this point obviously – Hunter would have the edge in almost every category.

Raw physical ability is not everything obviously, and no one is saying that Hunter absolutely projects as a better player than the well-rounded, productive Griffen. But it’s a fact that physically, Hunter comes closer to the absolute ideal Mike Zimmer DE: tall, agile, long and athletically gifted.

If you stack up Griffen and Hunter against the living embodiment of the ideal Zimmer DE, Michael Johnson, Hunter comes closer. Remember that Zimmer and the Vikings at least considered the possibility of bringing in Johnson each of the last two years, that’s how much Zimmer likes Johnson’s fit in his scheme.

It could well be that when Zimmer looks at Danielle Hunter, he sees a potential second coming of Michael Johnson. Hunter now has a chance to learn without being forced onto the field, and if he grows into the kind of player Zimmer clearly envisions, he could realistically challenge Griffen next year or the year after.

Next: Is Trae Waynes Overrated Garbage?

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