A few days ago, bettors could have wagered on Aidan Hutchinson to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and got outstanding value while doing so.
That opportunity, unfortunately, has now passed.
Hutchinson was +600 on DraftKings Sportsbook to be the first player off the board in Las Vegas, even with Peter King writing in his "Football Morning in America" column that the Michigan edge rusher left last week's Scouting Combine as the "odds-on" favorite to be the No. 1 pick.
The bookmakers have now caught up with King, DraftKings slotting Hutchinson in as the clear top candidate to be selected first at -190.
What spurred them into action? It was almost certainly the decision by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will pick first for the second successive year, to place the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson, sending a clear signal that they will not be selecting Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, or Charles Cross when they are on the clock.
The Jaguars could go in another direction and select the player many believe to be the best in the draft, Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, but the signs appear to point to Jacksonville wanting to pair another edge rusher with 2019 first-round pick Josh Allen, who has racked up 20.5 sacks across his first three seasons in the NFL.
With Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux having seemingly hurt his stock by skipping the on-field drills at the Combine, Hutchinson to Jacksonville suddenly has the feel of a foregone conclusion.
Going first in the draft would be a just reward for one of the most polished prospects in the class, Hutchinson headed to the pros after a final college season in which he was named a Heisman Trophy finalist and displayed an impressive repertoire of pass-rush tools.
Hutchinson is an extremely explosive athlete, as evidenced by a Combine workout that saw him record an elite Relative Athletic Score of 9.85 out of 10, and wins consistently by translating his speed off the snap to power and generating a fearsome bull rush.
Remember when there were athletic concerns about Aidan Hutchinson?— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 6, 2022
6.73 cone time, y'all. pic.twitter.com/y04prWwXVw
On top of that, he has demonstrated outstanding variety with his hand usage. Hutchinson has a two-hand swipe-and-rip move that he relies on frequently and has also utilized the cross-chop, the club, and the swim move to get to the quarterback during his so-far stellar career.
Able to dip around the edge and flatten to the quarterback, Hutchinson is a high-motor prospect who brings what a team with the top pick is looking for in a prospect: refinement. He is not perfect, but Hutchinson is ready to play and excel right now.
It is open for debate whether the same can be said of Ekwonu and Neal and the readiness of Hutchinson may have been a motivating factor behind them electing to franchise Robinson and seemingly stick with the veteran at left tackle.
The draft can be an extremely difficult thing to predict but, as was the case last year with Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars' selection with the first pick seems to be an easy one to call.
The chance to make a substantial profit on Hutchinson going first is gone, but there's nothing wrong with taking a sure thing. It may be at a much less appealing price, but Hutchinson and the Jaguars appear to be offering just that.
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