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Lunchbreak: Danielle Hunter Ranked Among NFL's Best Young Players

Posted Jan 10, 2017

Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter made a splash during his rookie season in 2015 when he posted 6.0 sacks, the second-most among all first-year players.

The former third-round pick was even better in 2016 as Hunter racked up a team-high 12.5 sacks and was the only player on a stout Vikings defense to hit double digits.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus took notice of Hunter’s impressive play this season and named the defensive end one of the best 25 players under the age of 22.

Monson, who had Hunter at No. 24, wrote:

Hunter is still just 22 years old, and he only turned 22 in late October. He is younger than most of the rookie class that has just completed its first season in the league, and Hunter has just played his second, posting (12.5) sacks and 55 total pressures despite not being a full-time starter. If he were a rookie, we would be tipping that performance as a sign of greatness, so year three could be something truly impressive.

Hunter, who led the Vikings with 14 tackles for loss, also scored a defensive touchdown when he recovered a fumble and returned it 24 yards in a season-opening win against the Titans.

He also recorded a safety when he brought down Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the end zone in a Week 3 win.

McKinnon ended season on a high note

The Vikings running game struggled at times during the 2016 season, but the unit showed flashes of success toward the end of the season.

Minnesota ran for a season-high 124 yards in its season finale against the Bears, with running back Jerick McKinnon going for a season-best of 89 individual yards in the 38-10 win.

Tim Yotter of Viking Update chatted with McKinnon at the end of the season about the progress Minnesota’s rushing attack made as the season went on.

Yotter wrote:

McKinnon averaged only 3.4 yards per carry, but that was still better than any other running back on the roster carrying behind a struggling offensive line. As a team, the Vikings averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Matt Asiata averaged 3.3 and Peterson averaged only 1.9.

McKinnon’s 89-yard rushing performance in the regular-season finale was the most by any Viking this season, capping a frustrating season for the running backs with a positive note.

“It was good. It was good just to go out with a win,” McKinnon said. “Those guys up front did a good job (in the finale), and we’ve been challenged all year.”

The injuries that decimated the offensive line have been well-documented, but McKinnon finished by averaging 4.5 yards per carry on Christmas Eve and 5.6 yards per carry on New Year’s Day as he got double-digit carries in each of those final two games.

McKinnon led the Vikings in rushes (159) and yards (539) this season while adding two rushing touchdowns.