Iowa State wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson’s path to get where he is now was a bit longer than most after starting his collegiate career at Blinn College, a junior college in Brenham, Texas. But after three years at Iowa State that featured three first-team All-Big 12 nods and a 2022 season that made him a first-team All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist, he’s established himself as one of the top-10 receivers available in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
Hutchinson will bring an enticing set of skills wherever he ends up. He has great ball skills that make him excellent at winning contested catches and bailing out bad throws from his quarterback. The former Cyclone can win routes before the catch with his solid route-running then use his size and ball skills to haul in a pass before turning and lowering his shoulder to tack on extra yards after the catch. Hutchinson showed off all of those skills at this year’s Senior Bowl and really shined against some of the best competition college football had to offer.
The Iowa State product is a scheme-versatile receiver, so he could fit anywhere. But these four teams in particular could use a receiver like Hutchinson if he’s on the board where they’re picking on day two.
The Ravens have been searching for a great playmaker at wide receiver for, well, forever. In the 27 years since they were established as an NFL team, Baltimore has never drafted a Pro Bowl receiver. Three of their top four franchise leaders in receptions are either tight ends or running backs, including current tight end Mark Andrews.
The Ravens need to find better receiving targets on the outside for quarterback Lamar Jackson or whoever may start under center for the 2023 season and beyond. Rashod Bateman, with his history of injuries, can’t be counted on as a WR1 just yet and Devin Duvernay and Nelson Agholor are third- or fourth-best options at best.
Hutchinson has proven year after year that he can provide reliable production and pass-catching skills to whoever is passing him the ball. If Baltimore doesn’t go with a wide receiver on day one, it has to consider Hutchinson in subsequent rounds.
After trading away an elite receiver, D.J. Moore, to secure the No. 1 overall pick, the Panthers are going to need to strengthen their receiving corps for whichever young quarterback takes over the starting job in 2023. The team has brought in a couple of extra receiving threats in free agency—Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark—but Thielen’s production has been on the decline and the speedy Chark has been inconsistent in his production since 2019. Terrace Marshall Jr. is an in-house option that could take up the WR1 mantle but hasn’t seen more than 50 targets in a season yet after two years in the league.
Hutchinson was a production monster in college; it’s a big reason he received so many accolades while at Iowa State. Given that and his ability to win contested catches, bail out poor throws with his good ball skills, and pick up yards after the catch with his size, Hutchinson projects to be a strong pass-catching target that can quickly build trust and a rapport with whoever ends up throwing him the ball in Carolina.
The Vikings have a No. 1 receiver. Obviously. What they no longer have after releasing the aforementioned Thielen is a strong WR2 option. Even as Thielen’s production has declined in recent years, K.J. Osborn didn’t surpass him in targets. In 2022, he had to compete with tight end T.J. Hockenson as a third pass-catching option once the latter came over in a midseason trade.
There’s a good chance that the Vikings will look for a strong No. 2 receiver in the 2023 draft rather than settle for who they have already. Hutchinson’s skill set would be a great complement to Justin Jefferson’s explosive playmaking ability. He’s a good route-runner contested-catch winner that picks up yards after the catch and produces consistently. Hutchinson could fill a role similar to what Tee Higgins or Tyler Boyd do for the Cincinnati Bengals behind Ja’Marr Chase.
Do me a favor and go look at the wide receivers currently on the Texans’ roster. Go ahead. Are you back? Yeah, that’s not an ideal situation for a team that is slated to draft a young quarterback of their own with the second overall pick. After trading away Brandin Cooks, 31-year-old Robert Woods is in line to be the team’s lead receiver—which he technically was for the Titans in 2022, but that’s not saying a lot for a guy that put up just 527 yards and two touchdowns on 53 catches. John Metchie III could be back from his leukemia treatment and ready to work by the start of this season, but that’s not necessarily a guarantee right now.
Hutchinson would be a strong contender to be the Texans’ leading receiver in his rookie season for all of the same reasons he could compete for that title with the Panthers: his skill set could lend itself to making him a safe, reliable target for whoever ends up starting under center in 2023 and beyond.
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