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Danielle Hunter shows the value of drafting talent over production

Texas A&M v LSU

BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 23: Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Texas A&M Aggies is sacked by defensive end Danielle Hunter #94 of the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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The Vikings took Danielle Hunter in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft, and when they signed him to a five-year, $72 million contract extension last week, they made clear that they’re very pleased with what Hunter has done in Minnesota. Which makes it a good time to look at the Vikings’ decision to draft Hunter.

At the time, Hunter was considered a talented prospect, but not an accomplished player. Media scouting reports said things like “He still needs someone to unlock all that talent” and “a raw prospect from LSU whose production doesn’t astound but whose athletic makeup does” and “He looks more like a model than a football player, but his natural athleticism can’t be denied.”

Hunter certainly wasn’t a bad player at LSU, but he had just 4.5 sacks in his college career, which is an awfully low total for a highly drafted defensive end. But the Vikings saw that natural athleticism in Hunter, and considered the fact that he was only 20 years old when he began his rookie year, which meant that he still had a lot of time to get better as a player.

And Hunter did get better. After 4.5 sacks at LSU, Hunter has 25.5 sacks in his three seasons in the NFL. The Vikings have developed a raw talent and made him a productive player. When you wonder why an NFL team is willing to spend a draft pick on a workout warrior who hasn’t shown he can put it all on the field, remember the way Danielle Hunter went from a college player who showed flashes of talent to an NFL player who learned to do it consistently.