Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter has the chance to be the best defensive player in the NFL next season.
The countdown has begun. In 99 days, the Minnesota Vikings will open the 2020 season inside U.S. Bank Stadium against their biggest rivals, the Green Bay Packers.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, there’s still a possibility that the regular season might not begin in 99 days. But as of right now, the Vikings‘ first game is slated to kick off on September 13.
Speaking of 99, one of the biggest stars on Minnesota’s roster is No. 99, Danielle Hunter.
Could the Minnesota Vikings pass rusher be 2020’s Defensive Player of the Year?
Since entering the league in 2015 after being drafted by the Vikings in the third round (88th overall), Hunter has been one of the best pass rushers in the league, totaling 54.5 sacks during his career, including 29 in the past two seasons.
In each of the last two years, Hunter ended up earning trips to the Pro Bowl and in 2018 he was a second-team All-Pro selection in 2018. In both 2018 and 2019, his 14.5 sacks were tied for fourth-best in the NFL.
Could being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year be the next thing Hunter adds to his resume? It could happen during the upcoming season for the young defensive end (turns 26 in October).
From 2016 to 2018, Minnesota’s defense finished ranked in the top five in yards allowed per game and Hunter was among the main reasons why this happened.
The talented Vikings pass rusher also has a good supporting cast to help him become next season’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Everson Griffen was not re-signed this year, but him returning is something a few people still believe is a possibility. Minnesota signed free-agent defensive tackle Michael Pierce this offseason to replace Linval Joseph and Ifeadi Odenigbo is coming off a strong season in 2019 that should result in him moving into the starting lineup this year.
Lining up behind Hunter is Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, who is coming off an impressive 2019 season. Add in Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith, who are both among the best safeties in the NFL, and Hunter has a bunch of reliable talent behind him on the starting defense.
During his pro career, Hunter has only missed two games (both in 2015). If he can continue to stay healthy in 2020, he has a great shot at being in the mix to win Defensive Player of the Year.
The only Vikings players to ever win this award were Alan Page (1971) and Keith Millard (1989). Hunter could be the next one to do it in 2020 and even if he does not win the award, the Minnesota defensive end will likely still be among those in consideration.