Addressing tight end and running back with their first two selections, the Cincinnati Bengals opted to go defense drafting SMU defensive end Margus Hunt No. 53 overall.
"More freak athlete than football player," resident draft expert Joe Goodberry said. "Hunt blew up the combine from a height/weight/speed standpoint. On tape, he's stiff, has poor balance and doesn't seem natural as a pass rusher. His base is too narrow and that leads to poor game strength. Best position is probably 3-4 DE. He's also a kick blocking expert."
With Cincinnati facing contractual issues between two defensive ends entering contract seasons in Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals figure to be planning a little more long-term for an eventual replacement if one leaves.
Estonia has not been a fertile scouting ground for the NFL in the past, but teams might consider going abroad more consistently if they can find talents like Hunt. His name first appeared on the international athletic scene after he won gold medals in both the shot put and discus events at the 2006 World Junior Track and Field Championships in Beijing. Hunt, who also won the 2005 European Junior discus title, was the first junior ever to pull off that double.
Hunt arrived at SMU in 2007, working with track and field coach Dave Wollman with the hopes they would revive the previously cut men’s program. That didn’t come through, so he decided to turn his attention to the football field. He made his name on special teams in his first year with the Mustangs, blocking seven kicks (one short of the NCAA record). Hunt had eight tackles in 13 games, including a sack against Nevada in the team’s Hawaii Bowl victory. He started all 13 games as a sophomore, registering 6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and three blocked kicks. And though he started just two of the 13 games in which he played in 2011, his three-sack effort in the BBVA Compass Bowl win over Pittsburgh made scouts take notice. He also blocked four more kicks, giving him 14 in his career -– including an NCAA career record nine field goals.
Following his breakout bowl performance, Hunt earned the number one spot in Bruce Feldman’s Annual “Freak List,” noting Hunt’s incredible combination of size, length, and speed. He took over a starting role at defensive end for SMU his senior year. His knack for blocking kicks continued, ending his career with 17 total, two short of the NCAA record. He accumulated 31 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and one interception on his way to earning first team All-Conference USA honors. He has displayed impressive progression through his career and figures to be heavily coveted by 3-4 teams to play defensive end.