The No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the 2022 NFL Draft square off Sunday when Travon Walker and the Jacksonville Jaguars head to Detroit to face Aidan Hutchinson and the Lions.
Hutchinson said Thursday he thought he would be playing in Jacksonville "for about three months, and then a week before the draft, something changed."
"I guess my arms were just not quite long enough, but that hit a week before the draft," Hutchinson said. "I mean, we'll see if that inch or couple inches was the difference."
Hutchinson was referring to Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke's well-known obsession with arm length in defensive linemen. Walker's athletic profile fit Baalke's tendencies to a T.
Despite the quip, Hutchinson is happy to play for his hometown team and was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for November.
Hutchinson leads Lions with 5.5 sacks in 2022 (the only Detroit player with 3-plus sacks) and leads all rookies in sacks (no other rookies have more than three sacks). He's also added 10 QB hits and four tackles for loss. With two interceptions, as well, Hutchinson is the first rookie with five-plus sacks and two-plus picks in Lions history -- Shaquille Leonard is the only other rookie in the NFL to have such a season over the last 10 years (Leonard won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018).
Walker, meanwhile, has netted 2.5 sacks, six QB hits, one tackle for loss and an INT.
The Lions said they would have taken Walker if the Jags swiped Hutchinson at No. 1 overall, and know the rookie has the skills to disrupt Sunday's game.
"He's a talented guy but he also plays really hard, and that's not always hand in hand so that's a hats off to him," Lions center Frank Ragnow said of Walker, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "Obviously, he's a freak show but we've got some great tackles on the outside so that'll be a good test."