Aidan Hutchinson Safer No. 1 Draft Pick Than Kayvon Thibodeaux, NFL Execs Believe

Adam WellsJanuary 5, 2022

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson gestures during the first half of the Orange Bowl NCAA College Football Playoff semifinal game against Georgia, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

If the race for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft comes down to Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux, some NFL executives believe the Michigan star should get the edge because of his week-to-week consistency. 

Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, one executive from an NFC team cited Hutchinson's high-floor talent as the reason to select him ahead of Thibodeaux. 

"One NFC exec put it this way with Hutchinson: He might not be a home run, but he's, at worst, a stand-up double. In other words, people around the league believe Hutchinson has virtually no risk of being a bust, a clean prospect in every way," Fowler wrote. 

An AFC team executive told Fowler that Thibodeaux went through long stretches when he "barely saw him make a play," but Hutchinson "at least shows up every week."

The discussion about the top pick this year looks to be wide-open, in part because there don't appear to be any quarterbacks in the mix. 

Per the B/R NFL scouting department big board, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder is the top quarterback at No. 22 overall. 

Thibodeaux is the top-ranked player on the list, with Hutchinson coming in at No. 4. Purdue edge-rusher George Karlaftis and Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal are second and third, respectively. 

"Explosion and range ... I would take him. He scares you more," another AFC executive told Fowler about why Thibodeaux should be the No. 1 pick. 

Hutchinson certainly seems to have a lot of momentum behind him. The Michigan star finished second in Heisman voting, the best finish by a defensive player since Manti Te'o in 2012. He recorded 16.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in 14 games this season to help the Wolverines win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004 and make their first appearance in the College Football Playoff. 

Thibodeaux did miss three games early in the season with a sprained ankle. He still finished with 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 10 games for the Oregon  Ducks. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars can clinch the top pick in the 2022 draft on Sunday with either a loss to the Indianapolis Colts or a Detroit Lions win over the Green Bay Packers. 

No team has picked No. 1 overall in back-to-back years since the Cleveland Browns in 2017 and '18.