Advantages, disadvantages and advantages for the two pass-rushers


We haven’t had much debate in recent years about who will be the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft.

Trevor Lawrence (2021) and Joe Burrow (2020) weren’t obvious at the top of the draft, as the only argument in 2019 was whether the Cardinals would be willing to drop Josh Rosen after a season in favor of Kyler Murray. But even then, there was no doubt who would become No. 1 overall.

Not only will that change in 2022, but the April draft will likely mark the first time since 2017 that a quarterback isn’t the first choice. The debate that will rage from now until draft day is which defensive end has the ability most worthy of the No.1 position: Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan or Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon?

The answer is not as simple as this guy or that guy. The debate is rather more philosophical: should a team select the most polite player, the one who can have an immediate impact on the matches? Or should a team pick the rawest prospect, the one with what is believed to be the highest cap? It’s a decision the Jacksonville Jaguars or Detroit Lions – the favorites of the No.1 pick – will have to take the lead in the draft.

Hutchinson ranks No.1 on the Pro Football Focus selection board at the moment, but there is still a long way to go until the April 26 draft. Let’s go into the advantages and disadvantages of each board rusher, as well as the compositions of the players for each.

The pros for the two pass-rushers

Hutchinson, the PFF College Defensive Player of the Year, has several bright spots. At 6 feet 6 inches and 265 pounds, he has an ideal mix of size, agility, power and technique. His 73 quarterback presses led all the defenders of Power 5, while his 25 saves against the race are eighth in the same group.

While all the physical attributes are there, the ability he displayed as Michigan’s defense leader is what makes Hutchinson the special type of prospect worthy of the No.1 Pick.

Wolverines coaching staff rave about Hutchinson’s intangibles; his work ethic returning from a broken leg in 2020 to take Michigan’s program on the hump has become the stuff of legend. With him checking all the boxes on and off the pitch, it’s hard to see how he would have become a bust to the next level.

But that can be said about Thibodeaux too, as the Oregon star’s future plans don’t just include accolades in football. In fact, one day he wants to open his own school and be a force for change. He’s a prospect with special physical tools and a special human being. Thibodeaux has the kind of line-of-scrimmage start that’s almost unheard of for a 6-5, nearly 260-pound defensive end. Just ask California left tackle Will Craig, who is barely out of position in the clip below as Thibodeaux sacks the quarterback.



Kayvon Thibodeaux shows great effort and dismisses Cal Chase Garbers quarterback.

Prospects with this kind of size and explosiveness don’t need a lot of rushing moves to be an impact player, even at the NFL level. In fact, Thibodeaux got a 91.5 pass rush rating this season without a lot of rushing moves to talk about anything. If Thibodeaux can refine his bull rush and counter him, he can start racking up sacks on his first day in the NFL. Pairing him early in his career with a quality defensive line coach at the top level will be huge for him.

The inconvenients

This is where Hutchinson separates, as it’s hard to go through his gang and find something to complain about. This isn’t too surprising, given that his overall rating of 94.7 is the second-highest single-season rating we’ve ever given a player since we started rating in 2014, behind just l Ohio State defensive end Chase Young in total 96.0 in 2019. Yes, that’s higher than the ratings of Nick and Joey Bosa, Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb, who were all considered elite prospects at their era.

However, the biggest difference between the Michigan star and most of the best defensive end of the past decade is age: Hutchinson, 21, is a senior, and Dion Jordan in 2013 was the last defensive end to be among the first three. and was not a real junior.

After three years at Michigan, Hutchinson was nowhere near a Top 10 prospect and had just finished an indescribable season that ended with a broken leg after just 149 shots. It definitely qualifies as a one-year wonder.

The same can’t be said of Thibodeaux, a five-star prospect who put up 10 sacks as an All-American rookie in 2019. He has been the focal point in opposing the game plan infractions since he was entered the field. His biggest negative is that he didn’t fully develop from this player with elite traits that could impact the game via pure physical advantage.

Thibodeaux’s weaknesses are obvious but also very coachable. He still too often avoids the technique of the rushed pass to try to overcome the opposing tackles. While his initial move won’t reach, he’s often stuck doing nothing – which is why you’ve often seen relatively calm performances from him over the course of the season. Of his 48 presses this season, 27 have come in three games – against Cal, UCLA and Oregon State.

NFL competitions

Watching Hutchinson play, it’s hard not to return to former Chiefs and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Allen was 6-6, 265 and had several ways of winning: he could beat you to the end, beat you with power, or beat you with his hands. Much like Hutchinson, Allen made a living by slashing pockets and never being taken out of the game as a passer.

For Thibodeaux, his exit presents so many problems for opposing offensive tackles that it’s easily the most distinct aspect of his game. However, most NFL players with comparable first steps don’t have the type of frame and size than Thibodeaux. And that’s why the best lineup for what Thibodeaux brings to the table is former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

Umenyiora came out of Troy weighing 279 pounds and still ran 4.6 in the 40-yard scoreboard before slashing to play around 260. At that height, his ability to step onto the court was as good as it was in. the NFL. Thibodeaux could easily be a fellow artist in the league.

The bottom line

With two elite prospects in a high-value position, there’s really no wrong answer here for the Jaguars or Lions leading the draft. To chase Thibodeaux’s theoretical “advantage”, however, one must admit that Hutchinson’s “advantage” is not to be despised either.

Hutchinson has all the physical tools necessary to be among the elite rushers in the NFL. At this point, chasing after what a player could be when another already is would be an unnecessary risk with such a premium draft slot at No.1 overall. Why write a lottery ticket like Thibodeaux when Hutchinson is like money in the bank that can still generate massive interest? The only question that remains to be resolved is whether the Jags or the Lions will agree.


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