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Falcons Draft Spotlight: Margus Hunt, the pass-rusher from... Estonia?

Introducing a new series of posts that will spotlight one aspiring NFL player who could become a member of the Atlanta Falcons next April. Today's player: Margus Hunt.

"I like you. I like sacks. Is nice."
"I like you. I like sacks. Is nice."

Yakshemash, Falcoholics!

My name-a Alec Shirkey, long-time reader and first-time official poster. I'm a devoted Falcons, Braves and Dawgs fan, an aspiring sports journalist and an opinionated football enthusiast. You may have read some of my musings over at SB Nation Atlanta, or perhaps my overly-dramatic reactions on Twitter (@AShirkey). Maybe you haven't, in which case prepare yourself: it could get bumpy.

Suffice it to say, I'm real excited about joining the writing ranks of The Falcoholic. Hopefully the hazing isn't too unbearable (looking at you, Dave), though I'll admit I'm no stranger to the beer funnel.

With introductions out of the way, let's get started with our big Estonian friend Margus Hunt, whom Mel Kiper has going to the Falcons in his first mock draft of 2013:

Position: DE
School: SMU
Projection: Late 1st / early 2nd round
Measurables: 6'8, 280 lbs. Rumored to run a 4.7 sec 40-yard dash.
Comparable to: J.J. Watt (if we're being really optimistic)

Stats (2012): 31 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 11 QB hurries, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections, three blocked kicks

Why He'll Work: At times this season, it became painfully obvious that the Falcons need someone who can rush the passer with consistency. John Abraham will be 35 years-old in May, and I find it unlikely that Thomas Dimitroff will try to land another defensive end via free agency (Dimitroff is believed to be busy working on a new book entitled "The Ray Edwards Project, or: How to Waste $27.5M").

Plus, the Falcons only managed 29 sacks all season, which was good for fifth-worst in the league. Watching Russell Wilson stand in the pocket for 10+ seconds isn't good for my heart, either.

Enter Hunt, who is an athletic freak in every sense of the word. He opened everyone's eyes with a stellar performance against Fresno St. in the Hawaii Bowl, and he's sure to turn a bunch of heads once the Combine rolls around. He fit right in at defensive end in SMU's 3-4 scheme, which could make sense for the Falcons if Mike Nolan chooses to head in that direction, but it's his combination of sheer size and pass-rushing potential that give him the multiplicity and versatility Mike Smith covets.

He produced an insane amount of pressure for the defensive scheme he played in for the Mustangs. He also blocked 17 field goals or punts during his collegiate career, which could make him an absolute force on special teams in the NFL. He has phenomenal strength and intimidating closing speed in the backfield, something the Falcons could certainly use after so many "near-sacks" this season.

Additionally, he can (awkwardly) play the piano. We already know Matt Ryan can play the guitar and that William Moore can rap. Is that an all-player band I see in the future?

Why He Won't Work: Kiper was right about the position Atlanta should be looking at in the first round, but he probably has the wrong player. Hunt is a one-year wonder - extremely raw, a player who only totaled 7.5 sacks in his first three years at SMU. His pass-rushing moves aren't fancy or flashy in the slightest (really he'll just use size and speed to beat opposing offensive tackles), and he lacks the technique to get the best of the veteran blockers he'll face at the next level. Has the tendency to over-pursue on running plays, as well.

Why is Hunt so raw, you ask? His first year of playing football was 2009 when he walked onto the team after SMU removed scholarships for track and field athletes, Hunt's original focus. His only football experience prior to his U.S. arrival was... Madden. Yup.

So it's obvious that Hunt looks to be the epitome of a boom-or-bust player. He could be the next Jared Allen or the next Jamaal Anderson, and that's a chance the Falcons might not be willing to take with the 30th overall pick. Dimitroff seems to prefer refined college players with his early picks, and "refined" is not descriptive of Hunt.

Someone will surely take a leap of faith on Hunt early on in the draft (think of the Seahawks taking Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick last year), it just probably won't be the Falcons.

Fun Fact: Estonia is known for its production of oil shale. It is not known for its production of talented football players.


Margus Hunt best of @ Hawaii Bowl Final (via telestaar)