Margus Hunt is a freak of nature.
The SMU defensive end is 6 feet, 8 inches, 277 pounds and is fast, agile and powerful. At the combine, he blew scouts away by running a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, doing 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and acing the agility drills.
And get this: He just took up football in 2008.
Hunt, a world-class discus thrower from Estonia, was persuaded to give football a try when SMU dropped its track & field program.
Boy, did he ever succeed. Hunt smashed an NCAA career record with 17 blocked kicks (10 field-goal attempts, 7 extra points). He blocked three in two games against Texas A&M, including two against Randy Bullock in 2011 when Bullock won the Lou Groza Award.
Hunt started only as a senior, accumulating 31 tackles, 11.5 for loss, eight sacks and an interception.
Physical tools aside, he is an enormous risk: Raw technique, doesn’t use his hands well, scouts say he disappears for long portions of games and generally is ineffective against the run.
“I didn’t know if he would be tough enough,” SMU coach June Jones told reporters. “At his first scrimmage, we started with a trap and hit him real hard, and he wanted to fight. I said, ‘OK, we may have a player here.’ His best football is ahead of him.”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Hunt going No. 31 to the 49ers; most other mocks point to the second round in the 40-50 range.
The five best defensive line prospects
1. Ezekiel Ansah (6-5, 271, BYU): Ziggy played soccer, basketball and ran track in Ghana before moving to the USA. Often compared to Giants star DE Jason Pierre-Paul.
2. Sharrif Floyd (6-3, 297, Florida): A run-stuffer who proved it against great competition. Had 46 tackles, 13 for losses, 8 QB hurries, 3 sacks and 2 blocked kicks last year.
3. Star Lotulelei (6-3, 311, Utah): Expected to go top-5 until a heart issue arose in a physical, but he’s been cleared to play. A mountain of a man from Tonga who’s impossible to move.
4. Bjoern Werner (6-3, 266, Florida State): This German, a soccer player in his youth, is a relentless, high-motor player.
5. Sheldon Richardson (6-3, 294, Missouri): Runs his mouth, but there’s no denying explosive talent at DE or DT.
■ Keep an eye on: Jesse Williams (6-4, 323, Alabama). A rugby player from Australia, this big boy tried football at age 15 and his power, size and leverage made him effective at clogging the middle. Have you noticed a theme on the d-line? Hunt, Ansah, Lotulelei and Werner are all internationals.
Other Big 12, state prospects
1. DaMontre Moore (6-5, 240, Texas A&M): “Da Monster” an excellent pass-rushing end, but poor workouts at combine probably cost him first-round slot.
2. Alex Okafor (6-5, 264, Texas): Pflugerville product had 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles as senior. Dominated Alamo Bowl with 4.5 sacks. Strong against the run. Likely second-rounder.
3. Stansly Maponga (6-4, 250, TCU): Leg injury limited his stats last fall, but was dominant as sophomore in ’11.
4. Spencer Nealy (6-4, 285, Texas A&M): Undersized tackle with ton of energy. Could attract free-agent offer.
1. Kansas City
9. N.Y. Jets
11. San Diego
13. Tampa Bay
15. New Orleans
16. St. Louis
19. N.Y. Giants
22. St. Louis
26. Green Bay
29. New England
31. San Francisco
This year’s three-day draft
begins Thursday in New York at Radio City Music Hall.
Thursday: Round 1, 7 p.m.
Friday: Rounds 2-3, 5:30
April 27: Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m.
TV: ESPN, NFL Network
ON THE CLOCK
April 18: Defensive backs
April 19: Linebackers
Sat.: Defensive linemen
Sunday: Offensive linemen
Tuesday: Running backs
COWBOYS’ DL NEEDS
MEDIUM: Switching from a 3-4 back to a 4-3 returns the emphasis to the D-line. Dallas ranked 30th in sacks, and ESPN’s Stats & Info blog says it tied for last in batted passes and contacted opposing runners in the backfield only 12 percent of the time, the second-worst rate in the league. Dallas’ personnel looks good on paper, and maybe the 4-3 suits it better, but don’t rule out a second-round pick.
TEXANS’ DL NEEDS
MEDIUM: J.J. Watt (81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 batted passes) is one of the premier talents in the league. But Antonio Smith doesn’t get a lot of pressure from the other side and Earl Mitchell is an average nose tackle. Maybe a mid-round pick.