The Detroit Lions selected Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick. After the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Georgia edge defender Travon Walker, it was assumed the Lions were likely going to choose between Hutchinson and Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux. Though rumors hinted towards Thibodeaux late in the process, Hutchinson had been considered the top prospect in this year’s draft class for most of the draft season.
We know the Lions value character, and they likely fell in love with Hutchinson the person, who is described as a football lover and a full-effort player on the field. But that shouldn’t overshadow all of the actual talent Hutchinson will bring to Detroit on Sunday.
Hutchinson was college football’s best pass rusher in 2021, producing the highest PFF grade of any defender (94.5) and breaking Michigan’s all-time sack record with 14 sacks. But part of Hutchinson’s true appeal is the balance he brings to his game. Despite shorter-than-average arm length, Hutchinson converts his elite speed to power when holding the edge and uses his polished hand techniques to shed blocks. He said exactly that in our interview with Hutchinson a couple months ago:
“I just think I have a rare combination between speed and power that not many guys coming out of the draft produce,” Hutchinson said. “A lot of people are one-trick ponies that can only do one thing. I believe I’ll be very versatile in the fact that I can use speed, I can use power, I can use a mixture of both.”
In Detroit, Hutchinson will slide in and immediately be a three-down player for them. That gives the Lions time to let Romeo Okwara heal from his Achilles injury, should he not be ready. If Okwara is ready, then suddenly the Lions have a formidable pass rush, as Okwara had 10.0 sacks his last fully-healthy season, Charles Harris produced 7.5 sacks last season, and Hutchinson should slide right in and be an instant impact.
Many will wonder with this pick if they passed on Kayvon Thibodeaux due to his character, and it’s a fair question to ask. The Lions did a lot of extra homework on Thibodeaux, and head coach Dan Campbell admitted sometimes when they do thorough work like that, they’re looking to resolve some unanswered questions.
“You just want to make sure that any questions you have, that you have them answered,” Campbell said. “That’s the best way to say it. Some guys, you can get those questions a lot sooner. Some guys, those questions got answered two months ago. You know? And some, it goes all the way down the line.”
But, again, focusing on the personality—as important as it is to this regime—takes away from the pure talent that Hutchinson brings to the table. In my opinion, this was a toss-up pick, but the Lions ended up getting a ferocious player who can do a lot of things on the field, and should come pretty pro-ready on Day 1. It’s hard to be mad at that.