After his first preseason game, Aidan Hutchinson has drawn rave reviews. Now, only a couple more and he embarks on his rookie NFL season.
Hutchinson was the second overall pick in the 2022 draft by the Detroit Lions and has moved into the starting lineup and in the opening preseason game the 6-7, 264-pounder played both end positions and even sunk into an interior position once. It's a preview of what is to come—a player that will play multiple positions on the Lions defensive line and will likely do well.
He's being touted as a possible Defensive Rookie of the Year but a lot has to yet be done for that and will be a story to follow this season since there is plenty of competition with the Jaguars Travon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Giants, perhaps one of the top corners drafted or others. This early, before anyone has taken a regular season snap, nothing can be sure.
One thing is for sure, no matter how well he does this season he will not be able to match the Lions top season by a rookie defensive end, at least in terms of sacks.
In 1978 rookie Al "Bubba" Baker recorded an unofficial NFL record and also the unofficial NFL rookie record of 23.0 sacks. Baker was the Defensive Rookie of the Year that season and was a consensus All-Pro.
That's a tall order and certainly out of reach even for an extremely talented Hutchinson.
Another thing is certain. Hutchinson, barring injury, will top the sack total of 1995 first-round pick and starter at left defensive end Luther Ellis.
The next season Ellis was moved to defensive tackle and he became a pretty good player. After his rookie season, the move made sense. He totaled 6.5 sacks his sophomore season and 8.5 sacks in year three and was solid against the run as an inside and even went to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 1999 and 2000.
A reasonable target for Hutchinson would be Ziggy Ansah's 8-sack season of 2013. The 6-5, 275-pound BYU alum was All-Rookie and drew a lot of praise league-wide for his athleticism. He was a Pro Bowler two seasons later and totaled 14.5 sacks that season.