Deion Sanders Says Travis Hunter Must Play Both Ways in NFL: Is He Right?

Could Travis Hunter maintain his presence as a two-way star at the NFL level? Deion Sanders has confidence he can; is that confidence warranted?

Colorado star Travis Hunter played on both sides of the ball at a high level in 2023, and his head coach Deion Sanders seems to think a two-way role could be in his future at the NFL level.

Could Hunter maintain his status as a two-way phenom at the professional ranks?

Can Travis Hunter Play Offense and Defense at the NFL Level?

The Colorado football program has been the epicenter for college football media since the arrival of Sanders and his two most prized playmakers from Jackson State: Quarterback Shedeur Sanders and wide receiver/cornerback hybrid Travis Hunter.

The Buffaloes’ first season under Sanders’ oversight didn’t go as planned, as the team finished just 4-8 after a hot start.

But the elder Sanders has been steadfast in support of his top players. He’s referred to his son as a future top-five pick, and he’s all-in on Hunter’s potential as well.

Hunter, in particular, is a unique NFL evaluation because of his ability to play both wide receiver and cornerback at a high level. He emerged as a positionless star for the Buffaloes in 2023, and his head coach says NFL teams won’t be able to afford taking him off the field.

“The NFL [has] got a problem,” Sanders said after a Colorado football practice in the spring. “What are you gonna draft him as? And he’s gotta play both ways. Because he has value on both sides of the ball.”

Hunter’s terrific two-way ability has been evident since high school when he was a five-star recruit at both spots. As a high school senior at Collins Hill in Suwanee, Ga., he caught 76 passes for 1,128 yards and 10 touchdowns, and also nabbed four interceptions.

As a true freshman at Jackson State, Hunter excelled, particularly early at CB, notching two INTs and eight pass breakups. And in his first season at Colorado, he was a true two-way phenom, catching 57 passes for 721 yards and five scores while also logging three INTs and five PBUs.

Hunter was a consensus All-American for his play in 2023, and he also won the Paul Hornung Award, often given to the most versatile player in the nation.

Sanders’ quote about Hunter has an expected degree of bias. Hunter is Sanders’ player and one of his most prized recruits, after all.

But at the same time, there is some merit to Sanders’ statement. Hunter is special.

The question is, what path forward is best for him?

How Does Travis Hunter Project as a 2025 NFL Draft Prospect?

As of this writing, an initial grade for Hunter in the 2025 NFL Draft cycle has not been computed. But it’s not hard to notice the elite natural talent that’s present with him on film.

At 6’1″, 185 pounds, Hunter is an elite athlete whose rare movement freedom, fluidity, and burst serves him well on both sides of the ball. As a cover man, Hunter can change direction, flip his hips, and match WRs effortlessly, and his brand of mobility lends itself to separation upside as well.

MORE: Top 100 Prospects to Watch in the 2025 NFL Draft

Hunter’s most marketable trait, however, is his unnatural instinct for playing the ball. He has truly hyper-elite ball skills. As a WR, he can contort his body and has second-nature tracking ability and hand-eye coordination, and his instinct for finding and playing the ball makes him a deadly turnover threat on defense.

Pure natural playmakers of Hunter’s caliber don’t come around often, and that’s why his 2025 NFL Draft scouting report is so exciting. At the same time, one can’t help but wonder if Hunter may be best served to focus on one position at the next level.

Historical Precedent of 2-Way Players Casts Doubt

Hunter has earned the confidence of Sanders and others with his play at both WR and CB. Some two-way players are masters of none, but Hunter is a high-level player at both spots.

The problem is the NFL is simply a different animal, and two-way players are largely a thing of the past at the professional level.

In 2023, Hunter played over 1,000 total snaps from scrimmage — 436 snaps on offense and 566 snaps on defense. His snap count is a testament to his stamina and multi-phase ability, but in order to truly excel as an NFL player, he may need to hone in on one position.

In the modern era, and even in the late 20th century, there aren’t too many examples of successful two-way players, with full-time or even half-roles at different positions. You’ll find most examples of two-way players as far back as the early-to-mid 20th century when seasons were shorter and the game was less complex.

One prominent recent example of a two-way player is, in fact, Prime himself. But even Sanders only played one season as a two-way player out of 14 total seasons in the NFL. In that year — 1996 — Sanders caught 36 passes for 475 yards as a wideout.

Simply put, two-way players are given the best chance to exist in limited roles on both sides of the ball, and Hunter will have anything but a limited role. Whichever position he plays, he’ll be relied upon as a premier playmaker.

PODCAST: Transitioning from the 2024 NFL Draft to the 2025 NFL Draft Cycle

If there’s anyone who could break the trend and succeed as a two-way player in the league, it’s Hunter. But a two-way role with over 1,000 total snaps would be extremely demanding, perhaps to the detriment of Hunter’s development at both spots.

Just because Hunter has value on both sides of the ball doesn’t mean he has to be played on both sides by default. That said, it may be easier, simpler, and more beneficial to Hunter’s development to have him focus on one position full-time in the NFL while occasionally dabbling part-time on the other side.

I’m of the mind that, with his change-of-direction, closing burst, instincts, and hyper-elite playmaking ability, Hunter can be a blue-chip CB prospect with All-Pro potential, and a rare weapon as a turnover-generator that few defenses can boast.

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