Blazing fast wide receivers have constantly caught the attention of the league. Players like Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson are employed outside the hash-marks with the sole intent of getting behind the safeties. Every once in a while, a player with elite speed arrives with a little more height than the majority of his peers, making a world of difference. Enter Justin Hunter, a wide receiver for the Tennessee Titans who checks in at 6’4, 204 lbs. with a 4.36 40-yard dash. This sophomore wideout looks to take his game to the next level in 2014.
Despite producing a modest 354 yards last season, a closer look at Hunter reveals a more promising story. He came on strong at the end of the year and in week 12 he posted a line of 6 receptions, 109 yards, and 1 touchdown. This was against a lowly Raiders secondary, however he also accomplished this feat on only 6 targets. Two weeks later he would build off that effort and post 4 catches for 118 yards and 1 touchdown against the AFC champion Denver Broncos. Hunter is a guy who gets his reception yards from stretching the defense and logging a high yards per catch.
Despite his speed, he is not a one dimensional player. As evidenced by his leaping, game-winning touchdown against the Chargers in week 2, Hunter can rise above smaller cornerbacks and snag the football. His 6’4 body gives him a few inches on the majority of players he matches up with. He has a nose for the end zone as well. In his freshman year at Tennessee, he caught 7 touchdowns on only 16 receptions. Last year for the Titans, he caught 4 touchdowns on only 18 catches. A home run hitter, look for Hunter to post solid touchdown numbers this upcoming season.
A big problem for Hunter last season was a lack of targets as he struggled with the typical growing pains of entering the NFL as a rookie wide receiver. He hadn’t gotten on the field for more than 18 snaps before his week 10 game against Jacksonville where he logged 54. He received at least 37 snaps in four of his last seven games, and two of those he missed with minor injuries. He finished the season well and set himself up for a strong 2014 campaign.
Every late round pick has his flaws, but Hunter’s may lie at another position on his team. A wide receiver’s production is usually tied closely to his quarterback’s ability to distribute the ball. In what may be Jake Locker’s final shot in Tennessee, this upcoming season will be critical. Although he has struggled with inconsistent play, he averaged .50 fantasy points per drop back last season, right on par with quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers who averaged .53. However, major health concerns abound for him after again missing a significant portion of the season. Justin Hunter will benefit greatly from Locker being able to put the pieces together and finally accomplish a complete season. Without him, collecting passes from Whitehurst or Mettenberger will prove more difficult. Look for Hunter to increase his totals from last year regardless of the Titans’ quarterback situation, but expect a significant jump in results if Locker is able to stay on the field.
A large factor in how many opportunities a player gets is his draft position. Luckily for Hunter, he was nearly a first round pick, having been selected and heavily invested in at 34th overall. He will get playing time this year, although Kendall Wright is entrenched as the number one receiver and Nate Washington is still ahead of Hunter on the depth chart. But coaches have been raving about the former Volunteer standout’s physical abilities and overall progression in camp. While he won’t unseat Wright, he doesn’t need to. Nate Washington has become old reliable the past few seasons for the Titans, but will be 31 in 2014. Hunter will have every opportunity to prove himself in training camp and the preseason to pass Washington. Even if that doesn’t happen, injuries and three receiver formations will boost Hunter’s playing time.
A low-key, yet big time receiving threat, look for Hunter to explode on more than one occasion this season. Especially in non-ppr leagues, his value will skyrocket if he can find his groove early and reel in some long touchdown grabs. A 40 catch, 700 yard, 7 touchdown season is possible for this guy. His opportunity is finally here – just don’t miss yours in the 13th round of your fantasy draft.