Is Justin Hunter a Prospect the Houston Texans Should Consider?


There is only one week a year when we can take a look at just about every wide receiver prospect the Houston Texans might look at on draft day, and this is it.

August 31, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Justin Hunter (11) reacts to a call in the second half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at the Georgia Dome. Tennessee beat NC State 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a lot of names thrown around with the Texans in the past month. DeAndre Hopkins, Keenan Allen, Cordarelle Patterson – but there’s also been a lot of second round prospects that haven’t been spoken about. Mainly, because everyone is sold on Rick Smith selecting a receiver in the first round this year, ignoring things like outside linebacker until the second or third.

But while that’s everyone’s expectation, the later rounds should serve the Texans well this year. And even if the biggest names at wide receiver will be drafted in the first to teams like St. Louis and Minnesota, finding someone in the second shouldn’t be anything to complain about – especially if there is an ideal linebacker still available at No.27.

One name that I haven’t seen mentioned with the Texans much this offseason is Justin Hunter from Tennessee. He plays the same role Stedman Bailey does at West Virginia, second fiddle to fellow draft candidates Tyler Bray and Cordarelle Patterson – but Hunter has a lot to offer a team that is in need of nothing more than a tough receiver.

Hunter is probably better suited to a West Coast style offense, yet that shouldn’t lead Houston away from taking a look. He’s slightly taller than Andre Johnson at 6’4, and his 200-pound body weight has made him one of the hasn’t receivers for defensive backs to handle in the air. Speed is Hunter’s forte though, running a 4.44 in the 40, and he can mix and match how fast he wants to go depending on the route.

Right now, the Texans don’t need help with height at wide receiver though, and Johnson can still hit fifth gear quite well at age 31. What the Texans do need, and would probably like, is someone that can help elevate their offense to the top of the Yards After the Catch (YAC) category by the end of 2013.

Johnson ranks fourth in the NFL’s YAC leaders, then you have to scroll close to the bottom to find another Texan (Owen Daniels). Hunter averaged 14.8 yards per catch in 2012 with the Volunteers, and is labeled as one of the best straight up and down receivers in this years’ class. Drafting him to help move the chains is a pretty simple strategy.

If you’re looking for what Hunter does best however, outside of his natural abilities like speed and strength to break tackles, it’s the separation he creates from defenders. Numerous times on tape Hunter’s footwork causes cornerbacks to misjudge his line and drift away several feet or so, leaving him open in the middle of the field. That ability to show different levels of his speed also helps on easy deep routes, where Hunter gets ahead once the ball has been thrown.

Even if the Texans don’t choose Hunter in the end, the point is, there’s just as much talent available going into the second round as there will be in the first. And for something as simple as finding a second man to draw coverage away from Andre Johnson, the Texans don’t need to reach for a receiver when the class is already stacked.

If it’s not Hunter, Stedman Bailey can do the job. Or Robert Woods. Missing out on DeAndre Hopkins may not be the be-all-end-all.

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