Jaguars go defense, choose Aidan Hutchinson in PFF’s latest mock draft

Michigan Wolverines defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. (Photo by Detroit Free Press)
Michigan Wolverines defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. (Photo by Detroit Free Press) /

Even though the 2022 NFL Draft is still a few months away, it looks like the first overall pick will come down to one of the following three players: Oregon defensive end Kayvon Hutchinson, Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. All of them are outstanding players that could help the team that drafts them but who will the Jacksonville Jaguars choose with the top pick? If you ask Pro Football Focus, Hutchinson will be their pick.

Austin Gayle of PFF sees the Jags taking the former Wolverine in his latest mock draft. He notes Hutchinson has everything you want to see in a top prospect, size athleticism, and production. Moreover, only Chase Young — now with the Washington Football Team — and Josh Allen — that name should ring a few bells — have posted a higher single-season pass-rushing grade than Hutchinson. Gayle believes the Michigan product should see his stock go up in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

"The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder should only continue to turn heads at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Coming in at No. 2 on Bruce Feldman’s 2021 College Football Freaks List, Hutchinson reportedly timed a 6.54-second three-cone, 36-inch vertical, 4.07-second short shuttle and 4.64-second 40-yard dash. “He’s gonna test really well when he goes to the combine,” one source said to Feldman. “He has a huge chip on his shoulder and can be right where Kwity [Paye] was [in those agility numbers], running low 4.6s with a mid-30s vert, but he’s over 6-6, and he’s gonna bench [225] in the 30s.”"

The Jaguars’ defense logged 32 sacks in 2021, 14 more than they did the season before. The unit showed improvement under defensive coordinator Joe Cullen but they lacked big plays and gave up a few of their own. Hutchinson would give Jacksonville a dominant pass rusher to line up opposite Josh Allen. It’s true that he was shut down against Georgia in the College Football Playoffs but it was just one game. Sure, it needs to be taken into account when evaluating him but you can’t also take him off the draft board just because he had one bad performance.

Drafting Aidan Hutchinson gives the Jaguars a chance to fix the offense.

Evan Neal would make sense at number one. Drafting him would allow the Jaguars to let left tackle Cam Robinson walk in free agency or shuffle their offensive line. On the other hand, choosing Aidan Hutchinson first overall would also give the Jags the flexibility to fix their offense.

The Jaguars are slated to have $63 million in cap space in 2022, per Spotrac. More than enough to bring back Robinson and make a sign a couple of impact signings in free agency. They could target one of the top wide receivers or a tight end like Dalton Schultz. Also, Hutchinson would give their front seven a boost. Josh Allen had a relatively down 2021 season, which he himself has acknowledged. If returns to Pro Bowl form and  Hutchinson’s production carries over into the pros, the Jags would have a formidable pass rush duo.

The Jaguars will have options when it comes to the first overall pick in 2022 and all of them should net them a difference-maker. If they settle on Hutchinson, they would end up with a pass rusher that could help them turn their defense into a fearsome unit.

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