Zimmer: Danielle Hunter 'a lot less raw than we thought'

The Vikings like the potential of long-armed defensive end Danielle Hunter. AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt

MANKATO, Minn. -- During their fourth practice -- and second with pads -- of training camp, the Minnesota Vikings started to give some of their young players a small taste of starting work. First-round pick Trae Waynes got a few snaps at slot cornerback in the Vikings' top nickel package, and defensive ends Scott Crichton and Danielle Hunter got some work wit the first-team defense.

It's Hunter whose emergence is particularly noteworthy; the Vikings drafted the former LSU defensive end in the third round this year, knowing they'd acquired a player who might take several years to mature. Hunter doesn't turn 21 until Oct. 29, and while his measurables (6-foot-5, 252 pounds and a 4.57-second 40-yard dash time) suggested he'd have a chance to be a terror on defense, his college production (only 1½ sacks in 2014) hinted at a long learning curve.

The Vikings, though, might be able to get something out of Hunter sooner than they thought.

"He is a lot less raw then we thought. He has really been impressive, honestly," coach Mike Zimmer said. "That’s why I want to see him against some of the other competition. He is a tremendous athlete with very, very long arms. I asked one of the coaches about him the other day on what he thought and he was very, very positive about him."

The Vikings are counting on Hunter and Crichton -- last year's third-round pick who probably needed another year of seasoning -- to help in 2015. They'd like to have a good rotation on the defensive line, after both Everson Griffen and Brian Robison played more than 900 snaps last season, but a more balanced approach would require one or both of the young ends to contribute. It's early in camp, but Zimmer's comments on Wednesday suggested Hunter might be closer to doing that than the Vikings originally predicted.