Justin Hunter: The “Value” of the Tennessee Titans Second Round Pick


The Value Of Justin Hunter To The Tennessee Titans

Nov 10, 2012; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Justin Hunter (11) catches a pass against Missouri Tigers defensive back E.J. Gaines (31) during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Missouri defeated Tennessee 51-48 in quadruple overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

After acquiring Alabama guard Chance Warmack with the 10th pick in the first round, most Titans fans and draft experts assumed the staff would then turn their attention to defense.  Most of the off season moves by the organization had gone to help the offensive side of the ball, and the general feeling was that the defense was still lacking.  The Titans surprised everyone with not only drafting a wide receiver, but moving up in the draft to do so.

In order to better understand how high a value head coach Mike Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster actually had on Justin Hunter, we need to take a look at the arguments against drafting Justin Hunter in the second round.

  • With only two short term contract safeties and one defensive lineman added as “starters” on the defense, there was still ample room to create competition, or acquire starters, at many defensive positions.  The Titans desperately needed a defensive play maker and difference maker that’s not currently on the roster.
  • Outside of the 4th round pick of Brian Schwenke, the rest of the Titans’ draft went to defense after the Hunter pick.  Further reinforcing how badly they need change on that side of the ball.  Schwenke was also taken in part because he was the Titans #1 rated center and still on the board much later than they thought he should have been.
  • The Titans aren’t drafting for insurance or the year after next.  Yes, it’s true you need to plan ahead with every move you make, especially for Ruston Webster, but it’s no secret Mike Munchak is on the hot seat and they have to win now.  The Titans wide receiver depth is much better than either it’s defensive end depth or cornerback depth.  The two positions assumed the Titans would have taken in the second round.
  • Cornerbacks Darius Slay, Johnthan Banks, David Amerson, Jamar Taylor and Robert Alford all went in the second round after the Titans had taken Justin Hunter.  Obviously the “sweet spot” in the draft to get value at the position.  Not to mention defensive ends  Tank Carradine and Margus Hunt, as well as South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger, were also still on the board.  The 49ers ended up getting Tank Carradine with the Titans original slot.
  • Some have argued that Nate Washington will be cut now due to his $4M salary as well as rumors of him falling in the staffs disfavor at the end of last season.  If he’s taking plays off, then that’s obviously not good for Locker, but otherwise Washington was by far Locker’s most reliable target during 2013.  That’s not someone you want to replace with a rookie if you want your quarterback to succeed.
  • The Titans made no secret of trying to find a good slot receiver during the off season.  They strongly felt that moving Kendall Wright back to his natural position outside and moving another player inside would upgrade the receiver packages.  Abandoning this concept by drafting another “Z” receiver seems a bit odd to say this least.

With all of the needs that were higher than wide receiver, combined with all of the quality players still on the board, it was a big surprise the Titans took Justin Hunter.  Even more so that they moved up in the draft to get him.  This speaks VOLUMES of how much they like Hunter.

Head coach Mike Munchak said they made the deal with the 49ers the night before the second day.  Hunter was their #1 rated wide receiver in the draft, over Tavon Austin and other Tennessee wide out Cordarrelle Patterson.  The Titans were well aware of the defensive players on the board as well as their needs at the position.  Even so, the gap between Justin Hunter and filling those needs was so large, that the staff felt they HAD to have him.

Let’s assume for a moment that those saying Nate Washington is gone now are correct and that Hunter will be his replacement. That means, in essence, the Titans gave up a second round pick, a third round pick and Nate Washington in order to have Hunter.  That’s a lot of faith.

Justin Hunter has all the physical attributes to be a great starter in the NFL.  At 6’-4” and 196 lbs.,  his size and speed make him a down field and red zone threat that defenses will have to account for.  Something the Titans haven’t had consistently in a long time.  The coaching staff was quick to point out that he could “take the top off” of a defense, which coincides with their desire to run the ball much more effectively as well.

Hunter was also touted to be the best route runner in the draft.  Making plays with his electrifying moves wasn’t necessarily his specialty, but instead used technique and sharp routes to create separation from defenders.  When making the transition to the NFL, these attributes will go a long way.  He will have to work on his hands a bit, but heck, so do all the Titans receivers.

Make no mistake about it, this is not a developmental prospect.  Considering all the circumstances previously laid out, the Titans didn’t make this move to have Justin Hunter take Damian Williams spot as the 4th receiver and sit on the bench every game.  Expect Hunter to start early and play often.

Webster and Munchak obviously coveted this particular wide receiver above all others.  Fans are more optimistic and excited than I can recall in years.

Let’s hope their valuation was correct.

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