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10 possible Patriots: Margus Hunt

With the NFL Draft closing in, ESPNBoston.com is narrowing its list of prospects that it projects as the best fits for the Patriots at areas that seem likely the club could target:

Player: Margus Hunt

School: SMU

Position: DE

Listed height/weight:6-foot-8, 277 pounds

Scouts Inc. rank: 6th (scouting report here)

Draft projection: Second round

Why he’s on our list: Hunt has unique physical traits that figure to have value to the Patriots, with potential to fit at end and tackle depending on the situation, and help the pass rush. While it would be unlikely that the Patriots would use a first-round pick on a 26-year-old rookie, if Hunt is in striking range in the second round, he could be an intriguing prospect with whom to work based on his raw potential.

Recommended link: Chris Burke of SI.com writes on how NFL teams are working to solve the “Margus Hunt mystery.”

Key stat: Was dominant in the Hawaii Bowl, earning MVP honors, in a performance that included 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Had 17 blocked kicks over his college career, which is an NCAA record.

Workout stat: Maintains 13.6 percent body fat, according to the Pro Football Weekly draft preview.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc.: “The expectations were high when it comes to Hunt’s combine workout. He didn’t disappoint. At 6-8 1/8 and 277 pounds, he ran the third fastest 40-time (4.60) and turned in the fourth fastest 10-yard split (1.61) for a defensive lineman. He also benched 225 a position-best 38 times. In terms of the film, he finished his career with an impressive performance against Fresno State in the bowl game and he’s showed flashes of developing into a difference maker off the edge throughout the year. His closing burst is impressive and his ability to translate initial burst to power has improved. There’s also a lot to like about his ability to work inside where his quickness can give interior offensive linemen problems. He’s a consistent threat to bat passes down at the line of scrimmage and force quarterbacks to move around despite his average arm length (33.6). He has a 34.5-inch vertical jump and he times his jumps well. His NCAA record 17 blocked kicks is a testament to that. There is still room for improvement though. He didn’t play football until he got to SMU and his inexperience shows up most rushing the passer. He is still learning how to set up offensive linemen and developing as a hand fighter. In terms of defending the run, he does a good job of staying low for a player with his height and setting the edge. His ability to get off blocks needs work. Finally, it’s worth noting that he will be a 26-year old rookie and there are reportedly durability concerns when considering why a player with his upside and skill set isn’t a lock to go in the first."