We’ve already talked about it extensively this year, but the Detroit Lions’ 2022 rookie class may go down as one of the best ever in franchise history. With the second overall pick, the Lions grabbed Aidan Hutchinson—a Defensive Rookie of the Year finalist. And while the next two picks—Jameson Williams and Josh Paschal—were hampered by injuries, this still managed to be a highly-impactful draft class from general manager Brad Holmes. Kerby Joseph, Malcolm Rodriguez, and James Houston all made significant contributions in their rookie seasons, setting the Lions up to potentially have five (or more) starters out of this draft class.
Which makes our next Pride of Detroit award tough to hand out. We’re onto 2022 Rookie of the Year, and your pick for the award will depend on your criteria. Because if we’re simply picking the team’s best rookie, it’s likely a pretty easy decision. However, if you’re basing it on draft position, the question could be a bit tougher.
Let’s see what our staff did with their nominations for 2022 Detroit Lions Rookie of the Year.
At the beginning of the season, the POD staff made their predictions for rookie of the year and Hutchinson was the unanimous choice. As the No. 2 overall pick, that should come as no surprise. But in a season where the Lions got production out of nearly every drafted rookie, Hutchinson still managed to make an impressive impact.
Hutchinson finished the season playing on 84.33% of defensive snaps, led all NFL rookies with 9.5 sacks and 53 pressures, secured three interceptions, recovered two fumbles, and set a litany of Lions and NFL records. Even more impressive was the fact that he accomplished all this while being one of the most double-teamed edge players in the entire league.
It’s Aidan Hutchinson all the way. The guy is currently in the running to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Even though he likely won’t win it this year, he would win it any other year that Sauce Gardner doesn’t exist. Lions fans should be super psyched about what year two is going to look like with Hutchinson as he continues to grow into one of the better young defensive ends in the game.
In the offseason, both coach Dan Campbell and the man himself said that Hutchinson was a player that doesn’t make the same mistake twice. At the time, I shrugged the notion off as coachspeak and cliche. But Hutchinson lived up to that billing in 2022.
Early in the season, I think we were distracted by high sack numbers, but his play was really more average. However, by the end of the season, he was not only the most well-rounded defender for the 2022 season but likely the best defender the Lions have had since the Lions traded Darius Slay. James Houston was highly considered here—after all, no one in the league was more efficient with fewer snaps—but I’m not sure his late-season breakout even happens if Hutchinson isn’t eating the most double teams in the league on the other side.
It was Hutchinson’s title to lose entering the season. While he faced stiffer competition than many of us expected from Kerby Joseph, Malcolm Rodriguez, and James Houston, Hutchinson was not only the best rookie on the team but the best defender on the team as well. Best yet, he still has room to grow. He isn’t in the upper echelon of pass rushers yet, but he can certainly reach it.
Not much to be said here considering he’s in contention for the league-wide Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Beyond the sacks, he grew so much as a player throughout the season and forced opposing offenses into uncomfortable situations that often didn’t show up on the stat sheet. His anticipation and timing to contain opposing running backs and quarterbacks stood out to me, and if he continues to grow this intellectually, there’s no limit to what he can do with his physical skill set.
What’s most impressive about Hutchinson’s rookie season is how he never hit a rookie wall—he finished second in defensive snaps (953) among edge defenders. From Week 10 through season’s end, Hutchinson ranked 18th in quarterback pressures (29) and 14th in pass rush win rate (17.2 percent). In run defense, things get more impressive when you look at the second half of Hutchinson’s season (Weeks 10 through 18): 12 defensive stops were second among edge defenders, and his 9.8 percent defensive stop rate was third in the NFL, ahead of the likes of Maxx Crosby, Myles Garrett, and Danielle Hunter.
It’s an encouraging thing that this was a semi-difficult choice, but in the end, I have to go with Aidan Hutchinson. He was the best player on a defense that, like Hutchinson, got better as the season progressed. He was a consistent force that moved all around the defensive line and made big plays that often helped turned the tide in the Lions’ favor.
Who was the Lions’ Rookie of the Year?
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