The verdict on Travis Hunter: Will the Colorado star be a better NFL WR or CB?


When the 2025 NFL draft rolls around, teams will have to make one fascinating decision regarding Colorado’s Travis Hunter:

Will he be better as a receiver or as a cornerback at the next level?

What we saw from Hunter’s first major college season in 2023 was quite a revelation. Hunter was a legitimate two-way star – not a guy who played mostly on one side of the ball, and barely on the other. Hunter was a legitimate both-sides star for the Buffaloes.

As a receiver, the 6’1, 185-pound Hunter caught 57 passes on 73 targets for 721 yards and five touchdowns. Per Pro Football Focus, the Jackson State transfer had seven receptions of 20 or more air yards on 14 targets for 275 yards and a touchdown.

As a cornerback, Hunter allowed 30 catches on 53 targets for 414 yards, 175 yards after the catch, five touchdowns, three interceptions, five pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 89.7.

All good numbers for a first-year big-school guy if you split that guy in two – which, of course, we would not advise. And according to his head coach, there will be no aim to move Hunter more to one side of the ball than the other in 2024. Go big, or go home!

“It’s on him,” Deion Sanders (a pretty good two-way player himself back in the day) recently said. “You want the kid to have fun, and you want a kid to be all that he desires to be. Travis came out of high school playing both ways. Travis came out of youth ball playing both ways (and) Travis (is) going to college playing both ways, came from Jackson State playing both ways. Why would we change what he’s always done in his life?

“Just because some guy with no talent, sitting up here saying well, he should watch his number of reps. How [would] you know? You count your number of reps when you go to the refrigerator every day?”

Let’s not get into how many times I go to the refrigerator every day, Coach Prime. When you see every position Hunter played last season, though, it seems almost excessive.

What does the tape say?

Here’s my scouting report on Travis Hunter, the receiver.

PLUSES

  • Great understanding of how to leverage cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage with body placement and foot movement. If he needs inside or outside position on a deep ball, he’s going to get it.
  • On go-balls and fades, has a clear extra burst downfield to separate from the defender.
  • Hunter has a nice sense of extending the play in scramble drills out of short routes; he’ll drive his way open and present a favorable target to the quarterback.
  • Has no issue whatsoever with catching passes in traffic, and contested catches work in his favor. He’s a tough guy.
  • Understands how to sink into zone voids for the easy openings.
  • If you’re playing him off, you had better be aware of every step. Hunter can cross your face, or dig his foot in for the stops underneath. I love his cross-jump move to beat coverage to the short and intermediate areas of the field.
  • Basketball-level footwork allows him to be a potential nightmare to cover in tight areas.

MINUSES

  • You’d like to see more juice after contact for his physical profile; right now, it’s not a strength.
  • Hunter’s catch radius could be absolutely ridiculous once he cleans up the mechanics on hero balls.
  • The route tree was somewhat limited in 2023; hopefully he’ll be able to show what he can do with a more complete palette in 2024.

I feel that the Travis Hunter we saw in 2023 on both sides of the ball was a burgeoning talent. With another year at the major college level, he has the potential to be dominant at TWO marquee positions. As a receiver, with more finishing work, he has potential as a Z or X iso in the right offense.

And the report on Travis Hunter, the cornerback.

PLUSES

  • Hunter’s footwork (a big part of what makes him a good receiver) extends to his cornerback play. In short areas, he can work through foot-fakes at the line of scrimmage and he doesn’t fall for the banana in the tailpipe.
  • As long as he keeps his positioning with the receiver off the line, he will go where the receiver goes.
  • Can be dominant at the catch point; Hunter’s catch radius as a receiver shows up here.
  • Hunter has a lot of potential when it comes to reading the quarterback and bouncing off his initial assignment to make a play. He gave UCLA nightmares with this.
  • Can lay in the weeds and jump the route just fine. He’s highly athletic in the air.

MINUSES

  • Hunter is good in press if he keeps his hands on the receiver to create landmarks along the way; when he has to match feet through the route, he’ll lose a step at times.
  • Needs to clean up his closing speed on angular routes; at this point in his development, he’ll give up easy stuff underneath as he’s recovering.
  • Hunter is still putting together all the pieces of ideal coverage; he’ll peek when he should be running, and he’ll hesitate when he should be closing.
  • Bigger receivers will stack him up and leave him behind at times. Stanford’s Elic Ayomanor had a festival at his expense.

This is the case for both Hunter the receiver and Hunter the cornerback — he is both an athletic marvel and a work in progress.

The verdict is in…

One interesting thing about Hunter at this point in his development is that similar attributes and liabilities show up in his receiver and cornerback play. When he’s on point, and his acumen matches his athleticism, he’s pretty ridiculous at both positions, which speaks purely to his remarkable base abilities. He is indeed one-of-one by displaying this many positive traits at two specialized positions. He’s not a gimmick guy on either side.

But there are holes in his game, as one would expect, and those show up with hesitations – there are times when Hunter’s thinking football instead of just playing it. Perhaps with one more season of major college football, he’ll fill in the gaps, making the analyses of NFL shot-callers even more interesting.

Based on what I’ve seen from last season, I would err on the side of making Travis Hunter an NFL cornerback. His potential there seems to put him in a higher stratosphere than the receiver possibilities. At his best, Hunter can play both press and off coverage more than credibly, and in an NFL where countering quick game throws with aggressive press coverage is more important than ever, he’s got all the tools to do it. There’s some L’Jarius Sneed in his game that I think will be positive and transferable at the next level.

As a receiver, Hunter’s ultimate potential might be as a Brandon Aiyuk-style target – a productive player who could be a real asset in the right offense. But I don’t see quite as many scheme-transcendent skills there, and adapting to an NFL offense after what he had at Colorado could take a minute, for all kinds of reasons.

As with any venture in life, if you have the potential to be truly great at one thing, and one of the guys at another thing, why not set yourself apart? I think that cornerback will be Travis Hunter’s best position to do so when he presents himself to the NFL.





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