KNOXVILLE — Justin Hunter learned his NFL draft fate quickly on Friday night.
The former Tennessee receiver doesn't have far to go to begin his pro career, either.
The Tennessee Titans swapped picks with the San Francisco 49ers to move up and take Hunter with the 34th overall pick, the second selection of the draft's second round.
As a junior last season, Hunter led the Volunteers in catches (73), yards (1,083) and touchdown receptions (nine), and his season put him second and third on the single-season lists for most catches and yards, respectively.
"Every time I put on the tape of Tennessee, I was looking at these wide receivers," analyst Todd McShay said on ESPN's telecast of the draft. "Cordarrelle Patterson, everyone was talking about [him] as a top-10 pick, but yet Justin Hunter was the guy making plays. I think he looks like athletically -- I'm not saying he's this guy -- A.J. Green, just the fluidity, the ability to adjust to a ball in the air and climbing the ladder.
"This guy is a big-time leaper. Justin Hunter has a chance to be a star in the National Football League. He has to get stronger and become more physical, and I did not like some of the drops in traffic when guys were coming to hit him. But if he gets stronger, I'm telling you, this is a huge pick, and that's why Tennessee was willing to give up some of those draft picks to move up for Hunter."
The Titans took Kendall Wright with the 20th pick of last season's draft, and the former Baylor receiver led the team in receptions as a rookie ahead of Nate Washington and Kenny Britt.
In the trade with the Super Bowl runner-up 49ers, the Titans traded away the 40th overall pick, a seventh-round pick and a third-round pick in next year's draft.
Hunter was an All-SEC selection as a freshman and broke the Vols' freshman record for touchdown passes in a season with seven scoring catches, but a promising sophomore season was cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in his left knee on the Vols' fourth offensive snap of the loss at Florida.
"He's got to get more physical," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said. "He'll be two years removed from that ACL injury a couple of seasons ago. You weren't getting your best shot from justin Hunter last year."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.com.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...