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The 2022 NFL Draft season is upon us.

Among the 32 teams building their rosters to compete for the next Lombardi Trophy is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold 12 picks in this season’s draft -- including the No. 1 overall pick. The Jaguars are entering a new era after the Urban Meyer tenure, making this draft as pivotal as one could imagine.

As we march closer and closer to April’s draft, we will look at individual draft prospects and how they would potentially fit with the Jaguars. Instead of looking at any negatives, we are going to look at what the players do well and if they could match what the Jaguars need at the specific role or position.

In our first prospect breakdown of the draft cycle, we start at the very top and take a look at Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson. Does the Heisman Trophy runner-up make sense for the Jaguars at No. 1 overall?

Overview

A four-star recruit out of high school, Aidan Hutchinson was the best high school prospect in all of Michigan during his senior year according to 247 Sports. Ranked as the nation's No. 6 strong side defensive end and No. 112 overall recruit in the 2018 class, Hutchinson followed in his father's footsteps and committed to Michigan over LSU, Nebraska, Michigan State, and other programs.

Hutchinson was a backup as a true freshman, recording 12 tackles and one tackle for loss while also being named the team's 2018 Team Rookie of the Year Award on defense. It wasn't until 2019 that Hutchinson was able to truly shine, but he did so in a big way in his first year as a starter, recording 68 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, six pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, and two forced fumbles. 

Hutchinson played in just three games in 2020 due to a fractured ankle that prematurely ended his season. He recorded 15 tackles and one pass deflection in those contests before a monstrous senior season that saw him finish second in Heisman Trophy voting as he was named a consensus All-American. During the 2021 campaign, Hutchinson recorded 14 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and three pass deflections.

What Aidan Hutchinson Does Well

There isn't a single snap where Aidan Hutchinson isn't going 100 miles per hour. Hutchinson plays with his hair on fire and arrives with bad intentions on every single play, playing with a tenacity and level of physicality that should easily translate to the NFL. Hutchinson has a legitimately elite motor and the fact that he goes just as hard on every single snap is a good sign for his NFL future. Hutchinson also plays with terrific instincts, rarely losing track of the ball in the backfield and having good awareness when it comes to playing vs. the run or pass on any given snap.

In terms of how he wins as a pass-rusher, Hutchinson has a solid first-step that helps him eat up enough ground to threaten offensive tackles. Where he impresses the most is after his first step, with Hutchinson's inside moves being a thing of beauty. Hutchinson is able to hit inside counter moves with ease and shows the lateral explosion and coordination to quickly convert his rush to the inside shoulder of offensive tackles, which frequently resulted in pressures at Michigan. 

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Hutchinson's hands are a big plus too. He is able to swipe away blockers from his frame with relative ease due to both his hand speed and how much power he is able to generate with contact. He is able to keep his momentum moving forward while still freeing himself of blockers, which helps him mitigate his occasional lack of bend around the edge.

Hutchinson also plays with really good power despite having a frame that doesn't suggest he would be able to. If he bulks up and adds more to his frame, he could be devasting power pass-rusher thanks to his willingness to drive through the frame of blockers and his ability to carry his momentum off the snap and quickly generate power. If Hutchinson is able to power through tackles now, that should only improve as he gets bigger and stronger. 

Hutchinson is also a top-notch run defender. He is able to lock out tackles and tight ends with ease and quickly shed blocks after identifying the ball-carrier. Few edge defenders have shown a more natural ability at beating blocks as a run-defender, with Hutchinson simply refusing to stay blocked on the edge, whether he is ran at or is on the backside of the play.

How Aidan Hutchinson Would Fit With the Jaguars

If there is one thing the Jaguars need on defense, it is a play-maker up front. And Hutchinson truly proved to be that at Michigan, frequently coming up with big plays when Michigan needed it the most, whether in the form of sacks, tackles for loss, or forced turnovers. Some players simply make plays at the most important points, and Hutchinson was that player at Michigan.

For example, consider the fact that the Jaguars had just three players rank in the top-100 in the NFL in tackles for loss last year: Josh Allen (12 tackles for loss, tied for No. 18), Dawuane Smoot (seven tackles for loss, tied for No. 71), and Adam Gotsis (six tackles for loss, tied for No. 99 overall). 

Considering the fact that Hutchinson is a legitimately elite edge setter and can be an impact playmaker against the run right away, he would help the Jaguars greatly in terms of generating negative plays on defense. The Jaguars simply didn't make enough plays on defense in 2021, and Hutchinson is a walking negative play for offenses. 

As for the pass-rush aspect, the Jaguars need another edge defender across from Josh Allen. Hutchinson would be a good pairing with Allen in terms of their skill sets, too, because they are two radically different players. Allen wins with explosiveness, quickness, and reach, while Hutchinson wins with power, heavy hands, and a red-hot motor. Putting two edge defenders who are virtually the same player on the same field rarely works out, so it would be a benefit to the Jaguars that Hutchinson is such a different player than Allen.

While we don't yet know what scheme the Jaguars will run, I am of the opinion that Hutchinson makes more sense for 4-3 teams than 3-4 defenses. The Jaguars did run a 3-4 defense that was similar to Michigan's last season, but Hutchinson is at his best with his hand in the dirt, and it is not ideal to have him in space as frequently as a 3-4 outside linebacker would be. As such, it won't be until we know what scheme the Jaguars will run that we truly know the extent of Hutchinson's fit. 

Verdict

I am of the personal opinion that Hutchinson would be a reach at No. 1 overall based on his skill set. That isn't to say that Hutchinson is a bad player, obviously, because he is still someone who I have given close to a top-10 grade on my own scale. With this in mind, I am not sold based off his profile and film that he checks off enough boxes to be selected No. 1 overall. 

Perhaps Hutchinson surprises at the combine and tests up to what his athletic reputation is, but the film doesn't show a rare athlete who is able to bend and run the arc with ease. Hutchinson is an elite run defender who has already developed a wide-array of hand moves to beat blockers, but it is a tough sell to me to take a pass-rusher at No. 1 overall who struggled to bend around the edge against Big Ten offensive tackles. 

If the Jaguars traded down a few spots, I think Hutchinson would make sense depending on what defense the next staff runs. With this in mind, it would be a surprise based on media hype if Hutchinson isn't a top-3 or top-4 pick, so the Jaguars would likely have to take him at No. 1. He is a fine player, but not one I think they should take first overall.