From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents Today, we’ll be profiling Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson.
#8 Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State (Sr.) — 6017, 203
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Xavier Hutchinson||6017/203||9 3/8″||31 3/8 “||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Inside/out versatility
— Sticky hands with an impressive catch radius; if it’s near him he’s likely bringing it in
— Career drop rate of less than 5%, per PFF
— Shows tempo in his route running
— Possesses a full package of press releases
— Has the short area quickness to get open
— Carries speed into his breaks with ease
— Good functional play strength to play through contact
— Consistent blocking effort
— Takes proper angles when blocking force
— Average play speed, not going to run away from anyone
— Too much wasted movement at the snap, false step and drops weight
— Unnecessarily leaves his feet at times to catch the ball
— Not much of a YAC threat, lacks juice
— Can add too much to the top of his routes
— 254 catches, 2,929 receiving yards, 11.5 avg., and 15 touchdowns in 37 career games
— 2022 AP first-team All-American
— Coaches first-team All-Big 12 in 2020, 2021, and 2022
— 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl participant
— Holds the top two spots for Iowa State receptions in a season (107 in 2022, 83 in 2021)
— Recorded a reception in all 37 games of his career
— Three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals coming out of Blinn JUCO (TX)
— Chose Iowa State over Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Syracuse among others
— Earned his degree in criminal justice
— Wanted to play college basketball up until his junior year of high school
— Wasn’t highly recruited out of Bartram Trail High School (FL) due to poor grades
There aren’t many wide receivers in this draft with more accolades in their college career than Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson. The former JUCO product out of Blinn College (the same JUCO as Cam Newton) wasted no time after stepping onto campus in Ames, leading the Big 12 in receptions all three years and earning three first-team all-conference nods to boot. While the 2022 AP All-American wasn’t overlooked in college, he’s flown a bit under the radar through the draft process. While he didn’t necessarily stand out at the Senior Bowl practices or at the NFL Combine, his steady performance and reliable play are what define him as a player.
When you turn on his tape, it’s much the same. Hutchinson’s game may not be flashy, but he’s a dependable possession receiver who can move the chains and contribute to a team’s passing game.
Despite his agility drills not fully reflecting it, Hutchinson is a fluid mover with good short-area quickness, especially for someone his size (6017, 203).
He shows good tempo in his route running and understands when to stem to best attack defensive backs’ leverage. Combining that with crisp, definitive cuts, he has the ability to create separation in a phone booth.
Hutchinson also brings an impressive release package to the table. He’s more than comfortable walking guys off the line of scrimmage and using his quick feet to explode out of breaks.
When he doesn’t get a clean release or substantial separation through the route, Hutchinson has sufficient functional strength to play through contact and still reel in passes.
With 4.53 speed, Hutchinson isn’t going to be a consistent downfield threat, but he has been able to get behind defenses and draw defensive pass interferences in the process. In the four games I watched, he drew three separate flags.
Hutchinson could turn himself into a quarterback’s best friend with his ability to find open holes in zones and green grass in scramble drills.
In the first clip below, he snaps his option route outside and is ready with active hands. In the second clip, he’s able to work across the middle of the field with the quarterback scrambling and getting into his line of sight. He finishes the rep with an incredible, full-extension catch.
Piggybacking off the clip above, Hutchinson’s ball tracking and body control are impressive.
If the ball is near him, he’ll flash his strong hands and bring it in. According to PFF, he finished his career with a drop rate of only 4.9% on 358 career targets.
Hutchinson’s main weakness is his lack of explosiveness, which limits his ability to make big plays after the catch. While he may occasionally break off some yards, he primarily functions as a dependable catch-and-tackle receiver. In fact, his 4.2 yards-after-catch per reception in 2022 ranked T-370th in the PFF database. It’s not going to be a huge part of his game.
Another area where Hutchinson could make some improvement is in his stance and initial movement off the line of scrimmage. As seen in the clip below, his false step is quite pronounced. That causes him to drop his weight and waste valuable time getting into his route. In the fast-paced NFL environment, every millisecond counts, and a receiver’s ability to quickly get into his route can make all the difference between a sack and a first down.
While false steps are a common issue among receivers, Hutchinson’s exaggerated movement is something that he could work on to improve his overall efficiency and effectiveness as a route runner.
Finally, it’s worth noting Hutchinson’s reliability in the often-overlooked area of blocking. While he may not be the type to deliver bone-crushing hits, he consistently puts forth effort and demonstrates a solid understanding of how to identify and block force players in the run game.
Xavier Hutchinson may not be the flashiest wide receiver in this year’s draft class, but his skillset and versatility make him a valuable option for teams in need of a reliable possession receiver. His strong hands and impressive catch radius allow him to make tough catches in traffic. His short-area quickness and tempo in his route running help him create separation from defenders and find open spaces in zone coverage. However, his lack of explosiveness is going to limit his ceiling.
Although he can play on the outside, Hutchinson’s athleticism and style of play make him an ideal fit for the slot position. Working from the middle of the field, he can use his route-running skills to take advantage of quick-game opportunities and exploit holes in the defense. His reliable hands make him a valuable asset on crucial downs, earning the trust of his quarterback by providing a consistent target.
Hutchinson’s game is reminiscent of long-time Minnesota Viking (now Carolina Panther), Adam Thielen, in the late stages of his career. Theilen has enjoyed a successful career by maximizing his potential through a similar skill set. Like Thielen, Hutchinson offers inside/out versatility and relies on short-area quickness and great hands to make plays, while lacking explosive YAC ability. It’s difficult to see Hutchinson having the type of career success as Thielen, but if he lands in the right situation and is able to emulate Thielen’s approach, he has the potential to have a solid NFL career.
Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan made an appearance at Iowa State’s Pro Day, presumably to scout EDGE rusher Will McDonald. While in Ames, they had the opportunity to see Hutchinson up close. His size and skill set make him an ideal candidate for the “big slot” position that the team currently lacks. Additionally, with questions surrounding how many snaps a player like Calvin Austin will get in the slot, Hutchinson’s versatility and blocking ability in the run game could help round out the depth chart. If the team is interested in drafting him, picks 80 or 120 would likely be the ideal range.
Projection: Late Day 2
Depot Draft Grade: 7.3 – Rotational Player (4th Round)
Games Watched: Texas (2022), Iowa (2022), Texas (2021), Oklahoma State (2021), Senior Bowl (2023)