Welcome to SHOWDOWN, where TDR will feature the best weekly match-up between projected top talent heading into the 2013 NFL Draft. This week, we look at a top-shelf tangle between two underclassmen: Tennessee WR Justin Hunter and North Carolina State CB David Amerson, who face-off at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU as part of the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic.
TALE OF THE TAPE
DAVID AMERSON – CB – NORTH CAROLINA STATE – #1
6’3″, 194 – Junior
The first thing that stands out with Amerson is his insane combination of size and natural athletic ability. At 6’3″, Amerson can measure up with any receiver who lines up across from him without giving up the size advantage that the average corner must compensate for. Though his frame does leave a little room for bulk, his technique and physical style of play show that he’s not simply a tall corner with long arms and range, but also delivers stout punch at the line of scrimmage and the ability to win jump-balls against big, physical receivers.
The most outstanding thing I see watching the film is how much of a game-breaker Amerson is once the ball is in his hands. It’s one thing to possess great ball skills and to consistently make interceptions (which he does), but it’s a completely different ballgame when it comes to what to do with the ball now that you have it. In watching Amerson on tape, I see a guy who turns into a dangerous play-making threat once he has the ball. Every time he gets a pick and lands on his feet with more than a yard to work with, you’d better watch out. Amerson consistently switches gears seamlessly from defender to offensive lightning bolt, showing great vision and awareness on interception returns, as well as the explosiveness to separate from offensive players who aren’t nearly as skilled at tackling as their defensive counterparts.
As far as his draft value, Amerson has a skill set very similar to that of Morris Claiborne, who was the top corner taken in this year’s draft (#6, Dallas). Amerson, however, possesses a clear size advantage over Claiborne, and can only play himself out of a Top-5 selection next April.
JUSTIN HUNTER – WR – TENNESSEE – #11
6’4″, 200 – Junior
Hunter is a big-bodied receiver who is a home-run threat on every down. As a freshman, Hunter only caught 16 passes, but they went for 415 yards and SEVEN touchdowns. That’s an average of 25.9 yards per catch, and a touchdown for nearly every TWO receptions. As a sophomore last year, Hunter displayed the same type of big-play ability in his first two games, hauling in six passes for 146 yards against Montana, and followed it up by proving himself a reliable possession threat (not just a field-stretcher) by grabbing 10 balls for 152 yards and a score against Cincinnati. Hunter’s season came to an abrupt and disappointing end the following week, as he tore his ACL against Florida.
Obviously, Hunter is little tougher to evaluate on film because he just doesn’t have a very long reel because of the limited action he’s seen. What I do see, however, is that he has all the physical skills you look for in a big-time receiver, and has the ideal frame scouts want, which gives him the chance to be a first-round pick next year. The biggest thing scouts will need to see from him this year is whether or not he can has the same explosion while playing on a surgically-repaired knee. If Hunter can put together a full season of the same kind of numbers he’s put up so far in his career, look for him to be among the top receivers taken in next year’s draft.
Both of these players have incredible natural athletic ability, and a flare for the big play. But when it comes down to it, look for Hunter to struggle against Amerson, considering this will be his first game action since the ACL tear just three games into last season. Hunter will have to rebuild confidence in his knee, while also shaking off a heavier layer of rust than Amerson will need to in the first game of the season. This round goes to Amerson.