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NFL Draft 2017: Kareem Hunt will outperform his draft spot

In a deep class, Kareem Hunt may go later than his talent should warrant, but cream will rise to the top in the NFL.

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Toledo had one of the best, most efficient offenses in the country last year. While their prolific pass game was a large part of their success, it would have been hard to keep defenses honest without their star back, Kareem Hunt. It feels like the senior running back has been an institution at Toledo during his four years. Immediately forcing himself onto the field due to his talent, Hunt collected nearly five thousand rushing yards at Toledo including 1475 yards on the ground this year. In 2015, Hunt's season was mired by suspension and nagging injuries, so to see him rebound with nearly 1900 yards from scrimmage was exciting.

Hunt is a relatively smaller back. At 5'10" and a few bagels under 210 pounds, no one is going to confuse Hunt with D'onta Foreman, Leonard Fournette or Jamaal Williams in terms of size. Despite his relatively diminutive stature, Hunt made a lot of plays at Toledo due to his balance, hard running and lower body strength.

When Kareem Hunt hits the second level, he is at full steam and it is rare to see him go down at first contact. His low center of gravity makes him naturally difficult to tackle and he rarely stops his feet in space, always pushing himself forward. Once again, no one will confuse him with any of the massive power backs in this class, but when Kareem Hunt gets into the open field, defenders need to bring their A-game. With breaking tackles, it is more than just power with Hunt. His footwork in space gives him little wiggles here and there to avoid defenders fully getting a hold of him. His slipperiness complements his power because his short area quickness forces arm tackles and his strength allows him to break those poor tackle attempts.

Besides his just breaking tackles, Hunt's short area quickness and vision make him an incredibly creative running back. It is difficult to predict his path as a defender because how he can flip the field with an open field cut and his ability to see openings in traffic that many backs cannot.

This is an awesome play where Hunt freezes a defender in a hole with his eyes long enough for a blocker to get there and then he cuts outside to gain an extra chunk of yards. This type of cerebral running is common with Hunt on a down to down basis, allowing him to consistently pick up yardage and threaten big plays.

This play is a microcosm of what Hunt does so well. He does a great job sifting through traffic at the first level, making a cut to hit the hole and is able to pick up yardage at the second level with his hard running.

Not only is Hunt a great runner, he also is valuable on third downs. While pass protection is a struggle for him, in part due to size, he is an effective receiver who has soft hands and can transition quickly to being a runner to make open field plays.

While there nothing fancy about running an outlet route from the backfield, his open field ability is on full display as soon as the ball touches his hands and he fills up the stat sheet for a quarterback on a dump off pass.

Worth noting that after three years of Hunt never eclipsing 100 receiving yards in a season, he caught over 400 in 2016. This can be attributed largely to an expanded passing game, but his productivity once he was involved is encouraging for his NFL prospects

Hunt's biggest problems come from a lack of elite physical gifts. Above the shoulders, he is as good as any running back in this class. However, lack of top tier speed, strength, agility or size will hurt his stock in a deep class. While he has a great combination of traits, none of them stand out overwhelmingly in relation to the rest of the class. Also, and this is a less consistent issue, Hunt can sometimes completely stop his feet behind the line when he sees blocks breaking down. This type of "stop, wait and redirect" style only really works with a few of the most gifted backs in the NFL (LeSean McCoy and Le'Veon Bell), so that aspect of his footwork will need some hammering out.

NFL Comparison: Hunt is similar to a personal favorite back from last year, Kenneth Dixon. While neither are prototypical in size, they are incredibly productive due to their complete skill set. Hunt, like Dixon, could easily drop in the draft due to depth, lacking size and playing at a relatively lower skill level. However, Dixon got some playing time this season and flashed, poising him for a big sophomore season. That type of path seems likely for Hunt as well.

Hunt is a difficult back to dislike. He does it all and it is hard to see him not be productive with such a well put together game, even as a second running back in an offense. He absolutely could be a lead back in the NFL, but the league can sometimes (most of the time) be archaic in how they think about players who do not fit a certain physical mold. His skill set fits the Eagles well, especially considering his receiving savvy. While he may not be an early pick, Hunt would be a great value early on the third day and wherever he goes, he deserves a big role early.

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