Unless something drastic happens, the Detroit Lions will have the first overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft. In dire need of playmakers on defense, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux appeared to be the presumable choice for the Lions on many early mock drafts. And why wouldn’t he be? At 6’5, 260 pounds, many draft experts view him as the best pass-rusher in the nation. At least until this past Saturday. That’s Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson catapulted his name in the school’s record books and Heisman conversation.
Hutchinson was a crucial component in Michigan’s 42-27 beatdown of Ohio St. He led their defense with five tackles and three sacks. Along with that, he’s now tied for fifth in the nation with the most sacks (13). Barring injury, Hutchinson should continue this performance over the next few weeks.
If he does that, the Detroit Lions could have a dilemma on their hands. And again, that’s assuming they have the first overall pick.
For now, though, let’s say they will.
Should the Lions target Kayvon Thibodeaux? Or is the Dearborn-native, Aidan Hutchinson, the right guy?
It’s quite the “problem” to have. Both players are dynamic, but for different reasons. And as of now, it doesn’t appear either would be a wrong choice, but who is the right one?
Thibodeaux would be a phenomenal fit with the Detroit Lions.
Kayvon Thibodeaux is as advertised. His size, as mentioned above, is something to behold, but that’s not the only thing that makes him impressive. Thibodeaux is as athletic as they come in a pass-rusher. His incredible closing speed, accompanied by his quick burst off the line, makes him a problem for offensive lines.
Thibodeaux’s strength is also something to behold. The way he’s able to push lineman back or plow right through them is freakish. In addition to his power, Thibodeaux has excellent technique. Whether it’s a swim move or a dip rip, he’s going to find his way to the quarterback.
This season at Oregon, Thibodeaux has 32 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, and one pass deflection. His numbers would undoubtedly be higher if not for the attention he commands, allowing his teammates to thrive off his hard work.
Because of everything mentioned, Thibodeaux is a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award for the nation’s top defensive player.
Looking at Thibodeaux on tape, he appears to have a nasty, violent streak in him. With the identity that Dan Campbell is trying to create in the Lions locker room, the Oregon Duck would fit fine.
As marvelous he could be in Detroit, Aidan Hutchinson could be even better.
Hutchinson is the hometown favorite, and also could be a Dan Campbell guy.
For starters, Hutchinson is slightly bigger than Thibodeaux, bolstering a 6’6, 265-pound frame. He used that to his advantage all season, punishing players opposite of him. Hutchinson cemented his name for Heisman conversation after becoming Michigan’s all-time single-season sack leader on Saturday. As of Sunday morning, he moved up to thirds on the odds list to win the award. If he were to do so, he’d be the second defensive player ever to achieve the feat, following in the footsteps of fellow Wolverine, Charles Woodson.
“No. 97 (Hutchinson) is an outstanding player,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz on a conference call Sunday. “He’s a really disruptive player.” Ferentz went on to praise Hutchinson’s motor, strength, and elusiveness.
His Hawkeyes will face the Wolverines in this Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game. And he’s aware of who Hutchinson is. Ferentz even heaped more praise on him, likening him to JJ Watt, Howie Long, and even Reggie White. That’s some considerable praise there.
Ferentz’s claim also gets some support based on some stats from Pro Football Focus. According to PFF, Hutchinson had 15 quarterback pressures against Ohio St. on Saturday. That is the most in a game since they began tracking the stat in 2014.
It’s still a lot of time before next year’s draft. It’s a whole five months away. A lot of things can change between now and then. There’s the upcoming conference championship games, bowls, and the NFL combine. As of now, though, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson appear to be the hottest prospects. However, when it comes time for the draft, if the Detroit Lions are in the first slot, passing on Thibodeaux would be tough, even with Hutchinson’s rise.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.