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Houston Texans

 Free Agent Frenzy: Hunter's Home

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There are moments in Texans free agent history where I'll remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. Back in 2018, when Tyrann Mathieu signed with the Texans, I had just gotten home after being on radio, plugged my phone in and saw J.J. Watt tweet three honey pots (for the Honey Badger). In 2016, I was in my office, scanning Twitter as #Texans was trending an hour into free agency due to three big time signings, including RB Lamar Miller and QB Brock Osweiler. I just remember hearing the cheers and hollers from those outside my office when Twitter broke news of each Texans signing

On Tuesday, I was over at SportsRadio 610, prepping for the show that night when one of our All-Access producers Byron walked in and said

"You see the news? It's Hunter"

I didn't need a first name; I knew. Holy cow, Danielle Hunter is coming home?!? Let's GO!

I did the Tiger Woods fist pump a few times as Byron laughed at me but I was jacked. The panic of day one of the legal tampering period had flipped on its ear on day two with the best DE free agent in this class CHOOSING to play in Houston.

87.5 sacks in 90 starts in his career.

16.5 sacks in 2023, along with four forced fumbles.

4x Pro Bowl selection.

2024 Houston Texan.

Man! Wow!

The former Morton Ranch HS star played three years at LSU as a raw, up and coming edge player with an intriguing future. So, I went to see if I could find his scouting report from nine years ago when Hunter was a mere 20-year old coming out of LSU. Lo and behold, I found it. At the time, I had trouble with one main thing, but Hunter was young and raw and it's a testament to him that he's made this huge leap to Pass Rush Stardom.

"Combine Update: Ran 4.57 40-yd dash with 1.61 10-yd split and did 25 reps of 225…at Pro Day, 36.5" VJ and 10'10" BJ Report: LOOOOONG…his length will give tackles problems…had solid day against A&M T Jake Matthews in 2013…loads of potential, but pass rush skills need a lot of work…led the Tigers with 13 TFL in 2014…doesn't have a tremendous first step, but his length helps make up for it...sculpted physique, allegedly he has only 2% body fat…not a quick twitch player but he's awkward to block effectively…had 13 TFL, but only 1.5 sack, indicating his ability to make plays v. the run...has length to rush the passer, speed to rush the passer, but doesn't rush the passer well...that dichotomy I'm still trying to figure out...when something doesn't jive like that, I'm not willing to spend a 1st/2nd round pick on a guy like that...has to put it all together to be a complete OLB/edge player."

So, yeah, that last sentence? He's done that in spades. He's learned how to use his length and twitch (that I didn't assess properly back in 2015) and explosiveness to become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. That second to last sentence is why teams draft DUDES with elite traits. I had him at #73 in the Harris 100 and the Vikings drafted him at #88 overall because he was young and long, with the ability to develop. And, he did.

One thing I noted above was that he didn't have a ton of moves to get to the QB at LSU, so in his eight years in Minnesota, Hunter developed that one aspect of his game more than anything else. His pass rush tool kit is now bursting at the seams. I walked out of the studio as Marc walked in and just said "Marc, Hunter's just spinning, chopping, ripping on every pass rush down". I pulled up the Cincinnati game from December and I think he threw spin moves eight different times - some outside spins as well, which is unusual to see, honestly. I don't know of anyone that spins outside, but Hunter tries it and does it. He is phenomenal with his hands, which is a definite asset that the GREAT pass rushers need to develop. And, he did.

But, his closing speed, that 4.57 40-yard dash from the 2015 Combine, shows up all over the place. The way he can run QBs down who decide to leave the pocket is impressive. He ran down Bengals QB Jake Browning as he left a muddy pocket and Hunter ran him down in five steps. Holy walk him down, Batman!

Texans fans demanded, at least, one splash and they got a MASSIVE one. It just didn't come from the position and player they expected. It came from the best DE free agent in this class.

A Houstonian choosing to come home.

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