There are many reasons the Detroit Lions managed to reach the 2023 NFC Championship game. General manager Brad Holmes' ability to restock the roster the past three years is one of the biggest ones. Among the players the Lions brought in is defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, who's played a huge role in Detroit's turnaround. Coincidentally, the Jacksonville Jaguars could've drafted him but instead went with Travon Walker. Now, they can do nothing but watch Hutchinson dominate in conference bout.
Granted, Hutchinson hasn't registered a sack but he's most definitely affected the outcome in the game. On the play Malcolm Rodriguez picked off Brock Purdy, Hutchinson collapsed the pocket, which gave no room for Purdy to throw.
Hutchinson has also helped slow down the 49ers offense, limiting them to seven points until the third quarter. You could argue that he got manhandled by tight end George Kittle who took him out of one play. You're right Hutch got beaten but that's just one play. His net impact throughout the game has been positive.
Since being drafted second overall by Detroit in 2022, Hutchinson has logged 21.1 sacks, three forced fumbles, four interceptions, and 23 tackles for a loss. Also, his Pro Football Focus overall grade of 91.3 ranked seventh among pass rushers in the NFL last year. The Jaguars could've surely used a player of Hutchinson's caliber.
In the same span, Walker — the player the Jaguars with the top pick in 2022 — has tallied 14.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, and 15 tackles for a loss. In his defense, he made the transition from playing in a three-point stance to stand up linebacker in his rookie season. Having gotten acclimated to his new position, he's been able to consistently wreak havoc opposite Josh Allen.
Then again, the Jags knew Hutchinson was more NFL-ready entering the draft. Yet, they chose to bet on Walker's potential. The jury is still out on the decision but there's no doubt Hutchinson has had the most impact of the two so far.
The Aidan Hutchinson vs. Travon Walker debate remains alive
While Travon Walker narrowed down the gap between him and Aidan Hutchinson, they'll forever be linked because they were selected with back-to-back picks. It has surely left many fans wondering what could've been if the Jacksonville Jaguars had taken Hutchinson. Would they have made the playoffs with him in the fold? Maybe, maybe not, but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone outside the Jaguars who believes Walker is the better player of the two.
Heck, most teams had a top 10 grade on Walker and the Lions would've taken him if the Jags had gone with Hutch and most teams. But went put head to head, Hutchinson comes out on top. Simply put, Jacksonville's decision to pass on Hutchinson was a win for the Lions.
By the time you're reading this, the Detroit Lions may or may not have beaten the San Francisco 49ers. Whether they made it to the Super Bowl or not, they wouldn't have gotten as far as they got without Aidan Hutchinson.