Ignore all the noise, the Eagles might have struck gold on small-school sleeper Jalyx Hunt

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 14: Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman is pictured prior to the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles on October 14, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles absolutely aced the 2024 NFL Draft. The opening two selections were met with nothing short of pure adoration from the City of Brotherly Love, but the decision to add Jalyx Hunt in the third round sparked plenty of debate online. Much of the criticisms are misplaced, however, and these are the reasons why.

The Jalyx Hunt enigma

When you look at Jalyx Hunt on the surface, you see a monstrous athlete coming out of a small FCS school in the way of Houston Christian. He stands at 6’3, 252 lbs, and lines up as an EDGE rusher, exploding off the charts athletically and inspiring hope that such outstanding traits will translate to the NFL.

How scary is he as an athlete?

This scary.

The issue here is that people are quick to go to his Senior Bowl reps or look at his stats. Hunt put up 13.5 sacks, 17 QB hits, and 162 tackles across 22 starts and 38 total appearances in two years at Houston Christian, and when tested against Senior Bowl talents, he didn’t pop anywhere near as much. But why?

The answer is actually pretty clear to understand. It wasn’t too long ago that Hunt was labelled as a wide receiver and later a Safety prospect. His transition down to the defensive front saw him add over 50 pounds of weight to his frame, something he touched on during his introductory press conference after being drafted by the Eagles.

Jason Kelce eagles 49ers vs eagles
Philadelphia Eagles’ Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Howie Roseman, Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce celebrate after the NFC Championship NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2023, in Philadelphia. Roseman, the once-exiled executive who was cast aside for Chip Kelly for a year, returned to lead the Eagles to the franchise’s only Super Bowl title is back again after hitting rock bottom in 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A lot of weight. A lot of weight lifting. Buying into the programs my coaches have prescribed to me. A lot of eating. More eating. I like a lot of food, but it’s a lot of eating to go put on this much weight.

Hunt is still relatively inexperienced as an edge-rusher and that shows on tape. In fact, when watching any game from his portfolio, he’s usually lined up as a stand-up EDGE rusher and often drops back into coverage, moving fairly fluidly and rarely putting himself out of position. When you consider Philly’s schematic move to a 3-4 under Vic Fangio, it becomes apparent that the team might well favor a player who is more comfortable in those scenarios than one who feasts rushing the passer.

Jalyx Hunt could soar as a member of the Eagles

The Eagles already have an abundance of players who are equipped to wreak havoc in the backfield. They signed Bryce Huff to a huge contract in free agency, and he joins a positional group containing the likes of Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham. Sacks have never been an issue when looking at EDGE players, but coverage and linebacker play certainly has.

It should come as no surprise then, that when asked to get down in 3,5, and 10-point stances at The Senior Bowl, something we rarely see Jalyx Hunt do on tape, he struggled a little. Even in those reps, he still demonstrated some ridiculous explosiveness and moved tackles onto their heels and won his fair share of 1-on-1 matchups in pretty dominant fashion.

His tools as a pass-rusher are limited, but that should only add to the bullish sentiment. If he’s joining a positional group with the likes of Brandon Graham, he can learn from the very best. His spin move, for instance, often sees him simply rotate on the spot and end up still entrenched in the arms of a lineman. He’s yet to figure out where to plant his foot and launch that momentum to gain leverage, and that is absolutely something that can be taught. After all, it took Derek Barnett years to add that to his arsenal.

The press conference last night I was called like the perfect developmental player” Hunt explained after being drafted “which is a huge honor to me, they see a lot of upside and its something I’m excited to grow into. I’m definitely patient enough to put in the work and do what I need to do in order to reach my potential.

If the Eagles wanted to add an EDGE rusher, they would’ve gone elsewhere. There weren’t many prospects who have dropped into coverage as much as Hunt has over the last couple of years, and it’s no coincidence that depth at linebacker went largely unaddressed while depth at Safety and EDGE did. The Eagles clearly see some upside in a player who is scary enough to mask coverages, since he can be quick enough to line up in the slot over receivers, drop back into zone as a linebacker, or explode down and try to rush the passer.

Philadelphia Eagles Bryce Huff talks to the media during the press conference after signing with the Eagles, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Spending a third-round selection on a player who has all the traits to become a real difference-maker at the NFL level is one thing, but on a player who actually fits the needs of this scheme and has flashed the ability to contribute in multiple facets of the game is an outstanding move. We might not see Hunt in action right away, but his freakish frame and frightening athletic upside partnered with positional versatility and inexperience give the Eagles plenty of upside to tap into over the coming years.

Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire