The 2013 NFL Draft is just over a week away, but teams and prognosticators are still trying to figure a lot of it out.
The wide receivers group isn't any different from the rest of the draft. Featuring many talented prospects, each with their own drawbacks and skills, this year's receiving class is a microcosm of the draft as a whole: Teams will determine where prospects go, rather than one individual's talent rising above the rest.
This isn't to say there's a lack of talent, it's just open to plenty of opinion. That's why the proclamation that Tennessee Volunteers junior wide receiver Justin Hunter is this year's best player at the position, as Greg Cosell of Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner said Monday, isn't just a different guess to start a conversation. Based on Hunter's abilities, it's certainly more than feasible.
After suffering an ACL injury in 2011, Hunter responded with a breakout season as a junior for the Volunteers in 2012. Catching 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns, Hunter led the nation's 15th-ranked passing attack in all three of those categories.
Cosell sees other big-play NFL wideouts in Hunter's game and frame. He writes:
Hunter is the most intriguing receiver on the board. The tape shows you how he moves: he's smooth, supple and explosive. He looks like AJ Green with his body type and his fluid strides. He's not the receiver at this point that Green was coming out of Georgia two years ago, but if Hunter develops and grows as a professional, always a question with all but a few prospects, he has a chance to be a Pro Bowl player. I've talked to some who see Randy Moss comparisons. Regardless, there are not many with his height, length and movement. I'd be surprised if his name wasn't called on the first night.
At 6'4 and around 200 pounds, Hunter's basically the same size, especially in height, as both Green and Moss. Green also played three seasons in the Southeastern Conference with the Georgia Bulldogs. He was undoubtedly more consistent than Hunter in college, but, for what it's worth, caught 16 less passes in his best year and never cracked the 1,000-yard barrier. At the same time, Hunter isn't a sure-fire first-round lock like Green was when he taken fourth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011 -- actually, he's not slated to go in the first round at all in Matthew Fairburn's latest mock draft for SB Nation.
Hunter is the sixth-rated wideout in Dan Kadar's position rankings for SB Nation, lending to the idea that there isn't a prospect that's head-and-shoulders better in the group. In any event, Hunter's physical attributes and his one explosive year with the Volunteers is enough for some serious first-round consideration. That could be argued back and forth and, at the same time, probably wouldn't be a shock to many either way.