Production isn’t the be-all-end-all for wide receiver prospects, but it can be a good supplementary indicator for future success. Few 2023 NFL Draft WR prospects were more productive than Iowa State’s Xavier Hutchinson in college. Hutchinson has the numbers, and looking at the tape, he also has the traits to secure a role in the NFL.
Xavier Hutchinson NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Iowa State
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’1 7/8″, 203 pounds
- Length: 31 3/8″
- Hand: 9 3/8″
Quietly, Hutchinson was one of the most productive receivers in college football from 2020 to 2022. He logged almost 3,000 receiving yards over that span and was effectively a target funnel for an Iowa State passing attack that relied almost entirely on his presence.
Seeing his production, you’d almost be surprised that Hutchinson wasn’t a highly-coveted recruit out of high school. As a matter of fact, Hutchinson had to take the JUCO route to the FBS level.
Two years at Blinn JC helped get Hutchinson onto the map. After a sophomore season that saw him catch 47 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns, he started to field offers from Power Five teams as a JUCO transfer. Oklahoma, Utah, TCU, and Nebraska all offered Hutchinson, but he chose to stay in Iowa and signed with the Cyclones.
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Once he arrived in Ames, Hutchinson knew nothing but production. He caught 64 passes for 771 yards and four scores in 2020. 83 catches for 987 yards and five scores in 2021. And in 2022, he amassed career-highs in all categories, with 107 catches for 1,171 yards and six touchdowns.
A 2022 Biletnikoff semifinalist with massive numbers to his name, it’s a foregone conclusion that Hutchinson will see the field on Sundays. But how does he project, and where might he come off the board in April?
Xavier Hutchinson Scouting Report
Production, size, experience — Hutchinson passes a lot of the surface-level eye tests. But does his profile hold up when we put it under the microscope? Let’s dive in.
Whether you use film or analytics as your primary mode of evaluation, you’ll find that Hutchinson checks a lot of boxes. We’ve already noted his production, and as one might expect, he’s a very well-rounded receiver on the field.
First and foremost, Hutchinson brings solid size and athletic ability. He’s a well-built receiver with good height and weight and has great accelerative capacity off the line.
Hutchinson can gear up quickly with urgent steps and shows off good burst upfield when attacking space or surging inside on mesh and drag routes. And while he’s not a burner downfield, he does have enough speed to stack DBs with long-strider acceleration.
Hutchinson isn’t quite an elite athlete, as his NFL Combine performance showed. But he does pass the desired functional athleticism threshold. At around 6’2″, 203 pounds, his 36″ vertical jump and 6.91 three-cone are both strong numbers. And as his 4.53 40-yard dash shows, he’s not a liability in terms of long speed, either.
Expanding on Hutchinson’s athletic skill set, the Iowa State WR possesses good lateral twitch and loose hips in space. He’s shown he can sink to a degree and levy quick cuts to create space and disrupt tackling angles. He’s also able to press upfield at sharp angles out of cuts after starting horizontally.
To a degree, Hutchinson’s athleticism translates to good natural route-running potential. He flashes smooth lateral athleticism at stems and can square up defenders with split releases, then roll his hips and stack upfield.
The Cyclones star has the loose hips and lateral agility to cut stems quickly and attack sharp angles, and he can also press upfield, tempo his advance into stems, and explode laterally on out routes.
Overall, Hutchinson has above-average timing and zone awareness as a route runner. He can sneak into blind spots and attack open windows. Additionally, he’s shown he can manipulate DBs with lateral twitch and stride variations on double moves.
With his lateral freedom and quickness, Hutchinson can use a dead-leg move to freeze DBs at the stem. In a similar vein, Hutchinson can manipulate DBs with initial attack angles before displacing laterally and exploding upfield.
Hutchinson’s lateral agility allows him to gain separation with relative ease, as well as line up in the slot or on the boundary. But what truly accentuates his profile as one with early-round upside is his elite catching instincts. Hutchinson is extremely natural at the catch point and impressively consistent across different situations.
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Hutchinson can naturally corral short passes over the middle of the field in stride, cradling with his hands. He’s also shown he can elevate and extend beyond his frame to bring in high passes, and he actively clamps down with his hands to secure throws.
The Iowa State WR has excellent ball-tracking ability downfield as well. He can roam under passes and guide with his hands while extending beyond his frame, and he very naturally adjusts to passes high or behind him with smooth body control.
Hutchinson can make high-difficulty adjustments with little response time as a catcher. He flashes especially absurd focus and coordination on deflected passes, as he can instantly recalibrate and reposition himself.
Hutchinson’s hands also enable him to convert in these situations. His hand/eye coordination is exceptional in high-difficulty situations, and he consistently uses diamond technique to get his hands in the right spot.
Hutchinson’s proven he can secure passes with his hands while diving or making catches from other points of imbalance. In these instances, he showcases exceptional hand strength when working amidst contact and can maintain possession through the catch process.
His hands are authoritative in 50/50 situations, and he seeks out the ball with zeal. But he also makes an effort to keep the ball away from his frame, minimizing body-catching before securing and protecting the ball with his frame.
With his size, Hutchinson has proven he can get an edge on defenders with targeted physicality, play strength, and frame usage. Over the middle of the field, he’s able to secure passes amidst contact.
Furthermore, Hutchinson can also use proactive, targeted physicality to pry past defenders at stems. He’ll utilize double swipes to compound separation before breaking inside, and he can sync his swipes with lateral moves to maximize space.
Hutchinson’s physicality and play strength shows up after the catch as well. While he doesn’t often bounce off first contact, he can fight and step through arm tackles and recollect his feet to carry acceleration forward. Moreover, he can reset his feet quickly after catches to align himself for contact, and he has the size and leg drive to churn through solo tackles for decent yardage.
Lastly, Hutchinson is, at the very least, a willing blocker who can square up defenders and use his frame to box out opponents on running plays.
Hutchinson’s Areas for Improvement
While Hutchinson is a solid overall athlete for his size, he’s not quantifiably elite in any one physical area.
Hutchinson doesn’t have elite explosiveness upfield or out of breaks, and he lacks elite deep speed, showing a visible cap in the downfield range. Moreover, Hutchinson lacks the elite agility, foot speed, and twitch to immediately sink, decelerate, and evade tackles after securing throws in stride. When aiding direction changes, he can’t always uncoil quickly after gaining momentum.
Hutchinson’s non-elite athletic traits don’t tank his upside in the NFL, but they do necessitate further growth as a route runner because the margin for error may be a bit smaller for him.
At times, Hutchinson can be more disciplined pressing upfield ahead of stems on quick hitches and comebacks. He sometimes drifts back a bit after breaking, and he’ll also rotate around on quick breaks, failing to freeze DBs.
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Overall, Hutchinson is a bit tall and upright as a route runner and lacks elite hip sink. Naturally, he can be a bit sharper and more efficient with transitions at times. He occasionally unhinges his hips too early at stems, keying in DBs on breaks. On a related note, he can be more consistent in squaring up at stems to hold DBs, and he sometimes drifts a bit on vertical paths.
Hutchinson can seek more efficiency with his usage of physicality as well. Although he’s fairly proficient at using targeted physicality, he occasionally gets too grabby in contact situations, risking offensive pass interference penalties.
Among other things, Hutchinson doesn’t have the elite hand strength to consistently convert on acrobatic one-handed opportunities, and he sometimes lets the ball bounce free at contact with the ground.
While he has decent length, his proportional length is middling and slightly limits his catch radius. And as a blocker, he sometimes only seeks to obstruct and doesn’t sustain blocks or engage with hands.
Current Draft Projection for Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson
Hutchinson grades as a top-100 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, and he’s worth consideration in the mid-to-late Day 2 range. He doesn’t quite have the dynamic ability to inflate his stock past a certain point, but his reliability and versatility to play the slot and the boundary should grant him some security in the middle rounds.
Hutchinson has good size, decent length, and a solid overall athletic skill set. Although he plays a bit tall at times as a route runner, he has the necessary lateral agility, twitch, hip fluidity, and burst to create separation. He has enough juice as a long-strider to stack DBs. And few WRs in the 2023 NFL Draft are better than Hutchinson at the catch point.
Since he’s not a quantifiably elite athlete, Hutchinson should work to keep refining his route-running efficiency at the next level. There’s still some wasted motion at times, and he can work to expand his route tree and release package a bit more.
That said, there’s enough route-running skill present with Hutchinson already. He has enough foot speed and hip sink to work with, and as his Senior Bowl performance showed, he can displace cornerbacks one-on-one and separate independently. And Hutchinson can also be a RAC threat in space with his play strength, leg churn, and lateral agility.
As a movement Z who can man both the slot and the boundary, Hutchinson presents a lot of projected appeal. He can win in one-on-one situations or use space to his advantage. On Day 1, he can be a valuable addition to a WR rotation, and he has enough physical upside to develop into an above-average NFL starter with safety blanket value.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Xavier Hutchinson
Strengths: Reliable and super-productive wideout who projects as a possession receiver. Sells routes and possesses terrific short-area quickness and soft hands. Tracks the pass in the air, easily adjusts to the errant throw, and reaches back to make the reception in stride. Displays eye/hand coordination, consistently extends to make the reception away from his frame, and displays strong hands.
Quickly exits breaks, uses his frame to shield away defenders, and competes to come away with the difficult catch. Sturdy, makes the reception with opponents draped on his back, and takes a big hit while holding onto the throw. Works to help out the quarterback when the passer is in trouble. Displays plenty of discipline.
Weaknesses: Lacks natural quickness. Gathers into routes. Plays to one speed.
Overall: Hutchinson was a tremendous receiver for Iowa state, totaling 254 receptions and 2,929 receiving yards over the past three seasons. He’s an average athlete, but Hutchinson’s a terrific football player whose reliability and approach to the game should help him secure a roster spot this fall.