Is Margus Hunt Worth Trading Up For?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have expressed a desire to trade into the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, which kicks off tonight, and I’m told SMU defensive end Margus Hunt is on the team’s short list of players deemed worthy of that pick.

Yesterday, I mentioned that Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert was a possible target for the Buccaneers if the team could find a willing trade partner within the 25-32 range. I also mentioned Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden as a player the Bucs would deal for.

Margus Hunt is another player the Bucs feeling strongly about, despite still being relatively raw when it comes to football. The 6-foot-8 1/4 277-pound Estonian native is 25 years old and didn’t take up football until 2009, when it became clear to him that the school’s track and field program wouldn’t be revived.

Hunt, a former junior world champion in the shot-put the discus, went on to block seven field goals as a freshman in 2009 and quickly earned himself the nickname the “Eastern Block.”

By his senior year in 2012, he registered eight sacks, accruing 15.5 take-downs over the course of his college career and setting an NCAA record with 17 blocked kicks.

Hunt then turned the NFL Scouting Combine into an Olympic spectacle, clocking a 4.60 in the 40, putting up 38 reps in the bench press, which was the highest among defensive linemen, and posting a 34.5-inch vertical.

In other words — he earned himself a lifetime spot on the ‘All Davis All-Combine Freak Team.’ But does it translate into guaranteed success on the football field, and does his potential, despite flaws in his game, warrant first-round consideration?

There’s no question Hunt is a ‘once-in-generation’ type of athlete. But he’s not there yet as a football player.

If you watch Hunt on tape, you’ll see he’s pretty inconsistent. He shows flashes of greatness on some plays, and disappears on others. His pad level is too high (although that’s somewhat expected given just how tall he is), and leverage can be an issue, despite his astronomical strength. He also needs to learn to use his hands more effectively.

Once he learns to play with technique consistently, he can be a dangerous player at the next level. His physical attributes, including an 82-inch wingspan are just impossible to ignore.

But he’ll be 26 when camp starts, when most defensive ends in this draft are refining technique and working to fill out their frames. Those players are a few years away from reaching their physical potential. Hunt’s having to work in reverse and may have a shorter shelf life.