Justin Hunter – WR – 6’4″/196
Justin Hunter is one of four former Volunteer wide receivers that are expected to be drafted this season. It’s probable that Hunter will be the second Tennessee receiver taken in the draft, behind Cordarrelle Patterson.
Hunter got off to a blazing start in his sophomore season in 2011, recording 314 yards on 17 receptions in just three games before tearing his ACL in a game against the Florida Gators.
Before the 2012 season many draft analysts believed Hunter could be the first receiver taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, assuming he came back healthy from his knee injury.
The talented wide receiver ended up having some issues with drops this past season that caused his draft stock to fall. Despite the issues with the drops Hunter still ended up with one of the best seasons in Vol history, which is saying a lot at a program known as “Wide Receiver U”.
Hunter finished the 2012 season with 73 receptions, 1,083 yards and 9 touchdowns. The 1,083 yards were the most for a Volunteer last season and were the third most in the SEC. Hunter’s 1,083 yards were also good enough for third all-time in Tennessee history, behind Marcus Nash (1,170) and Robert Meachem (1,298).
The Virginia Beach native was an All-SEC second team selection this past season.
Despite Hunter’s issues with drops it’s still possible he could be a late first round draft pick. It’s not every day that you find a 6’4″ receiver that runs a 4.44 in the 40 yard dash.
Hunter has a tremendous amount of potential as a big play receiver. He glides down the field and did make some spectacular catches last season. Unfortunately he had some inexplicable drops as well. Hunter also seemed unwilling to go across the middle and sometimes pulled his arms in when he felt contact coming, which resulted in some of those aforementioned drops. He could still be dealing with the mental impact of his ACL injury. Regardless he’ll have to get the drop issues under control if he wants to make an impact at the next level.
Where do we project Justin Hunter to be drafted?
If there’s a run on wide receivers Justin Hunter could end up going late in the first round, but for now we project Hunter to be drafted in the second round, with the 44th overall pick by the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers have been searching for years for a number two receiver to compliment Steve Smith.
Carolina has gone through a plethora of receivers since Mushin Muhammad retired. The Panthers currently have Brandon LaFell penciled in at the number two receiver position, but the former LSU Tiger has been very underwhelming during his first three years in the league.
Steve Smith is now nearing the end of his career, which means the Panthers need to start looking for their heir to the pro-bowl receiver.
Hunter has the size, elite speed and skills to be a number one receiver in the NFL. If he falls to the second round he would be a great value for the Panthers and could be a dynamic playmaker when paired with quarterback Cam Newton.