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Danielle Hunter Ranked 40th on NFL Network's 'Top 100' List


EAGAN, Minn. — Danielle Hunter made his second straight appearance on the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2020 list.

It likely won't be the last time the Vikings star defensive end earns that accolade.

Hunter came in at No. 40 on Tuesday night's show, a 17-spot jump from his debut on the list in 2019.

The 25-year-old Hunter has recorded 14.5 sacks in back-to-back seasons, making the Pro Bowl in each of them.

A pair of opposing tackles who know him well raved about Hunter's abilities on the field.

"His ability to change direction and do three or four moves within a pass rush," said Packers tackle David Bakhtiari. "Anytime you get us out of our center of gravity, that's when you can make a 350-pound player look like he's 185.

"He'll take you like a feather and just forklift you up with his long arms," Bakhtiari added.

Chargers tackle Bryan Bulaga, formerly with Green Bay, added: "His length is his strength. The guy has got really long arms and his hands, and technique with his hands, are very precise. In the run game, because he's so long, he'll lock you up at the point of attack and just keep you there."

And Vikings fullback C.J. Ham explained what it's like to try and go up against the defensive end in practice.

"If he gets his hands on your chest, it's like little brother trying to fight big brother," Ham said. "Once he gets his hands on your chest, it's over."

Hunter continued his stellar start to his NFL career in 2019, becoming the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 career sacks.

He reached that milestone in a Week 14 win over the Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium when he was 25 years and 40 days old.

The 2015 third-round pick surpassed a record set by Robert Quinn, who recorded his 50th career sack at the age of 25 years and 167 days.

Hunter has 54.5 sacks in 78 career games, only 49 of which have been starts. He has 36.0 sacks since becoming a full-time starter in 2017.

Hunter himself explained one of his 14.5 sacks from the 2019 season, when he had a strip-sack on former teammate Case Keenum that the Vikings recovered.

"I saw the tight end motion in, and normally when they do that, it's to block you," Hunter said. "I played the run first and I felt he was light, so I instantly converted to play action.

"I did one of my moves that I always do against tackles," Hunter said. "I can't tell you [what move]. This move, I'm not ready to give it away yet."

And while there was plenty of chatter about Hunter's on-field ability, current and past teammates also wondered aloud about Hunter's physique.

"He's a created Madden player. Everybody goes and makes a player on Madden and they make Danielle Hunter," Ham said. "Ripped up, the dude has veins for days. A 99 [rating in] everything. Physically, the dude looks like a freak. And he plays that way, too.

"He just never stops. So many sacks he gets, he's getting double-teamed or he has to beat two people," Ham added. "He sees that and splits them, so he goes out there with a high motor."

Former Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes, now with the Bengals, added: "He's a skill player in a defensive end's body. He's a create-a-player in Madden."

Hunter is the fourth Vikings player to land on the list that is created from players' votes, joining Eric Kendricks (No. 83), Harrison Smith (No. 64) and Kirk Cousins (No. 58).

The listing of the players in the 40-31 grouping were as follows:
40. Hunter
39. Tyrann Mathieu, S, Kansas City
38. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay
37. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Los Angeles Rams (acquired from Jacksonville during 2019 season)
36. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland
35. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Pittsburgh (acquired from Miami during 2019 season)
34. Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
33. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay
32. Shaquil Barrett, OLB, Tampa Bay
31. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants