The NFL doesn't have many foreign-born players, as the game wasn't really that popular overseas until the last decade or so, so young kids haven't grown up idolizing and trying to be like NFL players. Add in a lack of competition, and it makes it very difficult for a non-American to make a splash, unless they come to the States to play. One guy in this year's draft didn't come to the U.S. to play football, but may have turned himself into a first round draft pick. That guy is Margus Hunt from SMU.
Hunt, 25, is originally from Estonia, and he came to SMU in 2007 to train and participate on the Mustangs Track and Field team. Back in 2006 he won gold medals at the World Junior Track and Field Championships in both the shot put and discus, where he still holds the Junior world record. Talk about strength and body control. Unfortunately the SMU Track program could not be revived from the ashes (the program had been cut the previous year, and it was thought Hunt could bring money back to them), Hunt decided to join the football team. Nice career decision.
He mainly played special teams as a Freshman, but had an incredible impact, blocking seven kicks, which was one short of an NCAA record. I guess being quick and 6'8" has its advantages. He went on to block ten more kicks in his last three seasons, falling just two short of the NCAA record of 19 blocked kicks. As a special teams player, Hunt is off the charts. How well did he play on Defense? For his career he totaled 112 tackles, 28 for a loss, and 16.5 sacks, including 8 last season. He started each game of his sophomore and senior seasons, as well as two as a junior, making that 28 starts in 52 career games for a guy who had never played a down of football in his life before.
Hunt is obviously being labeled a "workout warrior", and it's clear, at least right now, he's way more of an athlete than he is a football player. He still has quite a bit of technique work to put in, and it showed in games for the Mustangs. His height will also be a detriment, as he'll have to learn to bend even more than most people, and he'll be susceptible to misses in the open field because of his length, and just needing fractions of a second longer to change directions. "Freak" athletes usually don't pan out in the NFL, although the last guy labeled that was Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants, and he turned out to be one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL.
The Colts haven't addressed their need for pass rushers in Free Agency, which means they'll undoubtedly take somebody, preferably high in the draft. I've seen Hunt go as high as 15th overall, and some have him going in the 2nd round. It won't be a reach to see Hunt drafted at pick #24, but if we are to believe Colts GM Ryan Grigson, the Colts will take the Best Player Available, and I can't make an argument that Hunt will be the best player available at pick #24. If the Colts were to trade back into the 30s I think an argument can be made, but not at #24. Clearly Hunt looks like the classic "boom or bust" pick, but I don't think the Colts are in the position to use a coveted first around pick on a guy like that, at least not yet.
Tall, thick but athletic lineman with loads of potential. Much quicker than you’d expect off the snap given his size, and his long first step helps him pressure the outside shoulder of tackles when outside and win the gap at three-technique. Shows the ability to anchor from both the 3-tech and 5-tech spots. Has the speed to run the arm and beat tackles off the edge. Fast and strong hands stun his man, extends his arms to keep leverage. Uses his length very well to keep blockers off his body.
Must be cognizant to play with bend due to his height, pops up off the snap and will stand upright during the play if tired, losing leverage. Agile for his size, but is still a linear athlete with questionable change of direction and flexibility. More mobile quarterbacks and quick running backs will elude him in the backfield.
STRENGTHS: Certainly looks the part. Possesses a long, tapered build with room for additional muscle mass. Boasts a surprisingly quick first step and gains ground efficiently due to his long strides. Closes quickly on the ballcarrier due and can provide a thump on arrival. Naturally powerful defender who can simply bull-rush his opponent deep into the pocket.
WEAKNESSES: Highly inconsistent. Has a tendency to make a splashy play and then disappear for long periods of the game. Struggles with pad level and can get blown off the ball against the run because he loses the leverage battle. Like a lot of taller defensive ends, Hunt is stiff in his upper body and he struggles to re-direct when attempting to break down and tackle agile ball-carriers.
COMPARES TO: Corey Wootton, DE, Chicago Bears -- Wootton was a productive player at Northwestern who slid on draft day due to injury concerns. Optimistic talent evaluators preached patience as Wootton had shown the length, power and surprising speed to be successful once he acclimated to the NFL and healed sufficiently. While the concern with Hunt lies with his relative inexperience and inconsistency, the team that gambles on Hunt could be similarly rewarded with a future standout.
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