It should be next to impossible to produce 54.5 sacks at the age of 25 when you barely started over 60% of your games in that stretch. One NFC pass rusher, however, has managed to beat those odds.
Beginning his NFL career at the age of 20, Danielle Hunter has worked his way into becoming one of the Minnesota Vikings’ most prized players and one of the league’s superstar pass rushers. For years, he and Everson Griffen became the cornerstone for one of football’s best defenses, a unit that peaked in the 2017 season.
Much like 2018, Hunter stood tall with the greats in 2019, putting up 14.5 sacks for a second straight season. Adding to his resume, he also had 52 solo tackles, 15 TFLs, and 22 quarterback hits. He was an easy Pro Bowl selection, making his second consecutive appearance there.
For the cherry on top, in his last two seasons, Hunter has produced 29 sacks, 36 tackles for loss and 41 quarterback hits.
Hunter was also a huge success in IDP leagues, putting up 153.35 fantasy points on FantasyData’s metrics. Not only did this make him tenth among all defenders, but he was also first among all defensive linemen (excluding edge rushers labeled as outside linebackers, such as TJ Watt and Shaquil Barrett). Impressive work for one of the more slept on elite pass rushers the game has to offer.
The departure of legendary Vikings pass-rusher Griffen might be tough to swallow for Hunter, as the two formed an incredible bond on the edges throughout their time together. But that shouldn’t stop the 25-year-old one-man pass-rushing stampede from continuing to polish his already dangerous game. Hunter is one of the more versatile pass rushers in the NFL in terms of arsenal, using a wide variety of moves at his disposal.
Essentially, what I’m trying to say is I think Hunter is a top-five edge rusher in a league loaded with great ones. To explain, let’s run through some clips below to see why he’s such a household name.
For many great pass rushers, the key to success lies in the wide variety of moves they’re able to execute. The wider the better, as it’ll keep offensive linemen on their toes and unable to anticipate what’s coming next.
Suffice to say, Hunter has diversity down to a sports science. As he most likely learned from Griffen, he’s added the spin move to his deadly arsenal of pass-rushing tricks. While this is technically a coverage sack, the Detroit Lions bring considerable attention toward Hunter’s way, as after he spins and puts the right tackle on ice, he has to contend with the blocking back.
The amount of time quarterback Matthew Stafford has in the pocket, however, isn’t enough, and Hunter makes an incredible effort to even get in Stafford’s vicinity at all. The result is one of my favorite sacks of the edge rusher’s young but dangerous career.
Let’s look at yet another spin move from the 25-year-old, this time on a stunt on the right side of the defensive line. Much like the previous play, it takes a while for Hunter to get any shot in at the quarterback, but by doing so he’s able to become enough of a force to bionically move past the right guard.
It’s the timing that really elevates Hunter to the next level. Sometimes he can get free with the simplest of moves. Other times, he’ll win one-one-one matchups with something a little more complex. Regardless of the strategy, it always seems to work out, allowing Hunter to constantly rack up hurries, pressures, quarterback hits, and (most importantly) sacks.
Athleticism and technique can only get you so far if you lack the basic intelligence to call out plays and exploit holes on the opposing side of the ball. Again, this is another area where Hunter comes out on top, as shown in the play above.
This play is a designed rollout to the right on a zone run fake to the left. Right away, Hunter recognizes that quarterback Daniel Jones is keeping the ball, making his way to Jones’ area. Without this play, Jones is likely able to get at least five-six yards on the ground, maybe even get to the end zone based on the amount of space in front of him.
Hunter’s expert recognition, however, spoils any thoughts of that happening, as Jones is wrestled down for the sack at an angle that prevents him from throwing the ball away.
As previously stated, Hunter’s timing is what truly elevates his best qualities to what ultimately makes him a rising favorite among football fans. No play displayed that more proudly than this strip-sack on Drew Brees in last year’s Wild Card Round at New Orleans.
Lined up on the left side (again), Hunter goes up against right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who uses an extremely impressive quick first step that goes in unison with the ball snap. But based on his movement off the snap, it’s almost as if Hunter was expecting that. The beauty of this pass rush is in its simplicity; Hunter takes a hesitant hop left, then cuts back inside.
This move dooms Brees, as Hunter has free real estate in his head. The pass-rushing god delivers a crushing blow that forces Brees to cough up the ball and turn it over to the Vikings.
What truly makes Danielle Hunter so special as a dynasty value is not just his resume, but his age. With three seasons of 12+ sacks and two consecutive seasons of exactly 14.5, he’s taken the torch passed onto him by Everson Griffen and has become Minnesota’s new Sack Daddy. And at the age of 25 (turning 26 in late October) you can rest assured he’s nowhere close to reaching the twilight of his NFL career.
One might even say that Hunter is just getting warmed up, and if that’s any indication, offenses have plenty of reason to be afraid. Of course, IDP leagues will gladly swoop up Hunter in any draft, and that just might make him the best IDP value. Great pass rushers tend to last a while, but in Hunter’s case, he just might last forever (knock on wood). He’s too productive and too young for your team to simply pass on him.
Versatile, deadly, and unpredictable, Hunter is a blockbuster both on the field and in dynasty. Don’t miss out.
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