Detroit Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson saw firsthand that something was almost literally holding him back from being taken with the first-overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars and general manager Trent Baalke in the 2022 NFL Draft.
“I guess my arms were just not quite long enough,” Hutchinson said. “But that hit a week before the draft.
“I mean, we'll see if that inch or couple inches was the difference.”
The Jaguars instead took Georgia defensive end Travon Walker, who was predicted to “become a good starter in two years” by NFL analyst Lance Zierlein.
Trent Baalke has a “well-known obsession” with arm length in defensive linemen, according to Around the NFL writer Kevin Patra. Travon Walker, whose arms measured 35.5 inches as a 6-foot-5-inch defensive end, was selected by a Jaguars team trying to find its identity after firing head coach Urban Meyer in late 2021. Hutchinson's arms measure in at just over 32 inches.
Aidan Hutchinson leads the Detroit Lions with 5.5 sacks this season on his way to winning NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month in November. He combined for more than defensive lineman John Cominsky and outside linebacker James Houston. Travon Walker earned 2.5 sacks and 37 combined tackles in 11 games for the Jaguars so far this season, playing in 75% or more of the team's defensive snaps in all but one of his games.
Both ends will face offensive lines that are among some of the league's best in sacks allowed during the first 13 weeks of play. The Lions stayed true to their third-overall placement in Pro Football Focus's offensive line power rankings, while the Jaguars managed to defy their ranking at 26th by allowing just 21 sacks, good enough to place in the top 10 of the NFL.
The Lions will kick off against the Jaguars at 1 p.m. EST this Sunday at Ford Field. The game will be broadcasted on Fox.