Pro Football Focus, a football analysis and content website that creates player ratings at each position, released a list of every NFL team’s most underrated player and Hunter was given the recognition. Here’s PFF writer Ben Linsey’s take:
“Hunter is one of just eight edge defenders to record overall grades of 75.0 or higher on 500 or more snaps in each of the past four seasons, and he took things to an entirely different level in 2019. Hunter’s 89.0 overall grade was one of the best marks at the position, as were his 88 quarterback pressures (second to Za’Darius Smith). If not for sitting out all but one snap in a meaningless Week 17 game against the Chicago Bears, Hunter may have finished the season with the most pressures in the NFL. That kind of performance deserves recognition — he’s in the elite tier of edge defenders, and still at just 25 years old, he’s only improving.”
The 2015 third-round draft pick earned consecutive Pro-Bowl selections in 2018 and 2019 after finishing each season with 14.5 sacks.
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Restructuring for Rebuild
Hunter restructured his contract in March during the offseason, allowing the Vikings more flexibility in reloading their lineup after releasing seven starters.
Among these departures was fellow defensive end Everson Griffen and defensive tackle Linval Joesph. Hunter started alongside Griffen and Joseph for three seasons and looks to grow as a leader in their absence, telling ESPN’s Courtney Cronin:
“I learned a lot from [Griffen and Joseph] and I’ll definitely pass along what I’ve learned from them to the other guys in the group and the new guys that are coming in,” Hunter said. “I definitely see myself as turning into the leadership role of passing on the knowledge of what I’ve learned and teaching the younger guys that we get or the people in the future that we get the roots and the fundamentals of becoming a good defensive end or defensive lineman.”
Hunter, entering his sixth year in the NFL, has even higher goals for 2020.
Leading by Example
Always a balance to Griffen’s off-the-wall energy, Hunter’s reserved nature on and off the field possibly has kept him below the surface. But Hunter’s cool hasn’t stopped his contemporaries from taking notice.
Hunter debuted on the NFL Top 100 list at No. 57 a season ago and will likely remain in that range after replicating his stats from in the 2019 season.
He told ESPN he’s aiming to earn All-Pro honors and the sack record this season, but those accolades “will fall into place… I just got to focus on what is now. And that’s getting better as a player and finding ways to win games.”
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire