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Lunchbreak: Danielle Hunter Could Be on Verge of Defensive Stardom

Danielle Hunter has 25.5 sacks over the past three seasons, a stat that places him atop the list of players who were drafted in 2015.

Some believe the Vikings defensive end is poised for even bigger things in the future.

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports recently attended training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center to chat with Hunter, a player he thinks is the league's top pass rusher that nobody is talking about.

Benjamin wrote:

On a roster that rivals the defending title-winning Philadelphia Eagles in terms of top-to-bottom talent, it's easy to see why Hunter may be overlooked. There's an argument to be made that Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, Everson Griffen, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith and new $84 million quarterback Kirk Cousins have all, at some point, been deemed faces of the Vikings franchise. Even among his own front-four peers, let alone stars around the NFL, Hunter doesn't quite command the spotlight of Griffen, Linval Joseph or Sheldon Richardson.

And yet, in a league where the top crop of sack artists is still populated largely by seasoned veterans, who else could possibly be the cornerstone of the NFL's next generation of edge rushers? Joey Bosa, Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and DeMarcus Lawrence might come to mind.

But Hunter is taller than Bosa. He's faster than Garrett. He's healthier than Clowney. And he's still younger than almost all of them.

"I came in at 20 years old," Hunter said in an interview at minicamp, "and I realized that my age is an advantage. People come into the league at like 23, 24, so I used these past three years to learn as much as I possibly can and take notes from other guys."

Hunter was a third-round pick in 2015 out of LSU, where he had just 4.5 career sacks. But the 23-year-old has recorded at least 6.0 sacks in each of his first three seasons in the NFL.

Benjamin dove more into Hunter's college career and professional progression in the full piece, which can be found here.

Rudolph's versatility could be key in 2018

Kyle Rudolph is a two-time Pro Bowler and has established himself as one of the league's top red-zone threats.

The Vikings tight end has 20 touchdown catches since 2015, trailing only New England's Rob Gronkowski for players at his position.

Yet as Rudolph gets prepared for his eighth NFL season, Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com wrote that we could see an increase in his versatility in terms of where Rudolph lines up on the field under Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo.

Coller wrote:

It's hard to say how much of Philadelphia's playbook John DeFilippo will bring with him, but Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has not been shy about his excitement over the past usage of tight ends by DeFilippo teams in the past.

"I've seen what he's done in the past, what he was able to do in 2015 with Gary Barnidge, and then obviously last year [Zach] Ertz had an unbelievable year in this system," Rudolph said in June. "It's not just us. Obviously, he's had great success with tight ends."

Coller wrote that it's not a given that Rudolph lines up in the same spot the majority of the time in 2018.

Vikings 2017 offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur wasn't afraid to move Rudolph to different spots, but didn't do it with Rudolph at the same frequency that Doug Pederson did with Ertz. Last season Rudolph took 702 snaps at tight end, 285 in the slot and 47 as an outside receiver. He also was lined up in the backfield 12 times and 11 times as right tackle on the unbalanced line.

Outside receiver might not seem like the obvious place to use Rudolph, especially since the Vikings have two of the best outside receivers in the NFL in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen (though both double as slot receivers). But there is a schematic effect to lining the tight end up as an outside receiver.

Head Coach Mike Zimmer said doing so could create a favorable matchup for Rudolph or another player.

"If you're in zone, then the corner stays outside, then the wide receiver is on a linebacker, he might get a bad matchup," Zimmer said during a scrum with media. "Or let's say the linebacker goes out to cover the tight end, then they know it's man coverage. So it just predetermines a lot of things, what you may end up getting."

Rudolph had 57 catches for 532 yards and tied for the team lead with eight touchdowns in 2017.

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