Let's talk about a receiver, I know Jerry Rice would be cool with that. Tennessee's Justin Hunter is one of the top receivers in the 2013 draft class. Hunter is an intriguing prospect who has shown he has big time ability. Hunter had a good season for the Volunteers, finishing 73 receptions and 9 touchdowns. His numbers could have been a lot better if it wasn't for the erratic play of his quarterback Tyler Bray. There were many times where Hunter was wide open and Bray didn't throw the ball anywhere close to him.
The 49ers will be looking to upgrade the position this offseason via free agency or draft. Who they are targeting remains to be seen. What I do know is Randy Moss needs to be replaced with a more physical receiver with good size, who also doesn't take plays off. Could Hunter be that guy?
- Good route runner: Hunter gets open, a lot. He can shred zone coverage and in man coverage the cornerback is going to have a big challenge on their hands.
- Intelligent: He has shown he knows when to cut a route short, when to break off his route to get to the soft spot of the zone. His intelligence makes him a good route runner and helps him get wide open.
- Dangerous after the catch: Although he doesn't have the break tackling ability of Michael Crabtree, Hunter can make big plays once he has the ball in his hands. He can turn a quick short post turn into a big gain. Hunter's acceleration, elusiveness, and vision once he has the ball in the open field are all big pros.
- Height and Speed: At 6'4 200 lbs, Hunter can win a jump ball more times than he will lose it. Along with that big time height he has speed to go along with it, he's pretty darn fast. Hunter will be able to get separation at the next level.
- Dropped passes: I don't find this to be a major issue because he doesn't drop passes all the time, but Hunter has dropped some big catches. At times there has been a ball thrown right at his chest or laid right on the money deep, and he doesn't haul it in.
- Biggest games against bad opponents: Hunter hauled in six of his nine touchdowns against Troy and Georgia State, not exactly top tier competition. Against Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, Hunter didn't find the end zone.
- 2011 injury: He missed most of the 2011 season with a torn ACL. Any pre-existing injury will make an NFL team hesitant.
Why He May Fit The 49ers: The 49ers need a yang to Crabtree's yin. Hunter is the tall, fast, stretch the field receiver the 49ers want to complement Crab. Randy Moss was supposed to fill that role this year, but he did so at a mediocre level at best. Hunter would be an upgrade over the Hall of Famer on day one, and I guarantee he would show more effort and fight for more yards, instead of going down at the hint of contact. Whether it's Hunter or another receiver selected, the 49ers need a tall guy on the depth chart.
Why He Might Not Fit The 49ers:
The biggest reason he might not fit is the price. Hunter is projected to go in the late first or in the second round. Receiver is a need for the 49ers, but other needs are certainly more pressing. Unfortunately the 49ers don't have multiple first and second round picks, so this will boil down to whether Baalke and Harbaugh feel Hunter's worth the price. On paper, I think he fits the 49ers in every other way.
What They're Saying:
- In Todd McShay's latest mock draft, he has Hunter going to the 49ers in the first round.
- Hunter is the No. 45 prospect overall on SB Nation's top 100 big board.
- Check out all of his stats at cfbstats.com
Hunter is a solid player who needs some more polish. With that said, he's a lot more polished than A.J. Jenkins was coming out of college last season. I'm not sure if it makes sense to snag a receiver in round one with other pressing needs. But if it's a case of the 49ers feeling he's the best pick available, it could make sense with the new regimes draft philosophy.