Despite his performance and scouting report, Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson remains one of the most underrated receivers of 2023 NFL draft. It’s a deep class that can put Hutchinson at a disadvantage. But judging by the tape, he has the tools to secure an early role in the NFL.
Xavier Hutchinson NFL draft profile
- Position: wide receiver
- School: State of Iowa
- Present year: Redshirt Senior
- Height Weight: 6’3″, 205 pounds
Quietly, Xavier Hutchinson was one of the most prolific receivers in college football since 2020. He has received nearly 3,000 yards in that span and has been a target funnel for a pass attack from Iowa State, relying almost entirely on his presence.
When you see his production, you’d be almost surprised that Hutchinson wasn’t a hot-shot recruit out of high school. In fact, Hutchinson had to take the JUCO route to the FBS level.
Two years at Blinn JC helped put Hutchinson on the map. After a sophomore season catching 47 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns, he began submitting bids 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.
Since then, Hutchinson has known nothing but production. He caught 64 passes for 771 yards and four scores in 2020. 2021 83 catches for 987 yards and five scores. And in 2022, he had career-bests in all categories with 105 catches for 1,160 yards and six touchdowns.
As a 2022 Biletnikoff semifinalist with massive numbers to his name, it’s a foregone conclusion Hutchinson will see the field Sunday. But how is he projecting and where could he come off the board in April?
Xavier Hutchinson Scouting Report
Production, size, experience – Hutchinson passes many surface-level eye tests. But does his profile hold up when we scrutinize it? Let’s dive in.
Whether you use film or analytics as your primary assessment method, you’ll find Hutchinson ticks a lot of boxes. We’ve mentioned his performance before, and as you’d expect, he’s a very versatile receiver on the field.
First and foremost, Hutchinson brings a solid size and athletic ability. It’s a well-built receiver of great size and weight, and has great acceleration capacity off the line.
He can quickly equip urgent moves and shows a good burst in top field when attacking space or pushing inwards on mesh and drag routes. And while it’s not a downfield burner, it has enough speed to stack DBs with Long Strider acceleration.
Building on Hutchinson’s athletic ability, the Iowa State WR has good lateral twitches and loose hips in space. He’s shown to be able to sink to a degree and perform quick slashes to create space and disrupt attack angles. He is also capable of pushing up at sharp angles from cuts after starting horizontally.
To some extent, Hutchinson’s athleticism translates into good potential for running on natural courses. He flashes on stems with smooth lateral athleticism and can line up defenders with split releases, then roll his hips and stack up.
The Cyclones star has the loose-hipped and lateral maneuverability to quickly slice through logs and attack sharp angles, and he can also push up, speed up his dash into logs, and side-explode on outside routes.
Overall, as a route runner, Hutchinson has above-average timing and zone awareness. He can sneak into blind spots and attack open windows. He’s also shown that he can manipulate DBs with lateral twitch and stride variations on double moves.
Also, he can use a dead leg move to freeze DBs on the stem. Similarly, Hutchinson can manipulate DBs with initial attack angles before shifting sideways and exploding upwards.
Hutchinson’s lateral maneuverability allows him to reach the separation with relative ease for his size and line up in the slot or border. But what really accentuates his profile as one with an early-round advantage is his elite catching instinct. Hutchinson is extremely natural at the catch point and impressively consistent in a variety of situations.
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Hutchinson can naturally step in and cradle short passes down the middle of the field. He’s also shown he can elevate and extend beyond his body to make high passes, and he actively reaches down with his hands to secure shots.
The Iowa State WR also has excellent ball tracking ability in the downfield. He can roam under passes and lead with his hands while extending beyond his frame, and he adapts very naturally to passes up or behind him with gentle body control.
Hutchinson can make highly difficult adjustments with low reaction time as a catcher. He flashes deflected passes with particularly absurd concentration and coordination, as he can instantly recalibrate and reposition himself.
Hutchinson’s hands also allow him to convert in these situations. His hand-eye coordination is exceptional in difficult situations and he consistently uses the diamond technique to get his hands in the right place.
Hutchinson has proven he can secure passes with his hands while diving or other unbalanced catches. In these instances, he demonstrates exceptional hand strength when working mid-contact and is able to maintain possession during catches.
His hands are confident in 50-50 situations and he seeks the ball with zeal. But he also strives to keep the ball off his frame, minimizing body catches before securing and protecting the ball with his frame.
At his height, Hutchinson has proven he can give defenders an advantage with targeted physicality, skill and frame utilization. Over the middle of the field, he can secure passes on contacts. But he can also use proactive, targeted physicality to rip defenders past stalks.
He uses double punches to increase separation before breaking in, and he can synchronize his punches with lateral moves to maximize space.
This physicality and playing strength is also evident after the catch. While Hutchinson doesn’t often bounce off first contact, he can fight and kick through arm tackles and remember his feet to carry acceleration forward. Additionally, he can quickly reset his feet after catching to line up for contact, and he has the size and leg drive to handle solo tackles for decent mileage.
Finally, Hutchinson is at least a willing blocker who can line up defenders and use his body to box opponents on play-in-play.
Hutchinson’s areas for improvement
While Hutchinson is a solid athlete for his size, he may not be an elite in any physical area.
Hutchinson doesn’t have elite explosiveness in upfield or off breaks, and he lacks elite deep speed, showing a visible ceiling in downfield. Additionally, Hutchinson lacks the elite agility, foot speed, and twitch to immediately sink, slow, and dodge tackles after securing throws in the stride. When supporting directional changes, he can’t always unwind quickly after gaining momentum.
Hutchinson’s non-elite athletic traits don’t give him an advantage in the NFL, but they necessitate continued growth as a route runner, as he may have a little less margin for error.
At times, Hutchinson can be more disciplined when pushing up on quick shots and comebacks in front of the trunks. Sometimes it drifts back a bit after braking, and it spins around even on quick breaks and can’t freeze DBs.
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Overall, Hutchinson is a bit tall and upright as a route runner and lacks elite hip sink. Of course, it can sometimes be a bit sharper and more efficient with transitions. He occasionally releases his hips on stems too early and types in DBs during breaks. On a related note, he can be more consistent on trunks to hold DBs and sometimes drifts a bit on vertical paths.
Hutchinson can also strive for greater efficiency with his use of physicality. While he’s fairly good at using targeted physicality, he occasionally gets too grippy in contact situations and risks offensive pass interference.
Among other things, Hutchinson doesn’t have the elite hand strength to consistently execute acrobatic one-handed opportunities, and he sometimes bounces the ball freely when it hits the ground.
While it is a decent length, its proportional length is mediocre and slightly limits its catch radius. And as a blocker, he’s sometimes just trying to hinder and not sustain blocks or intervene with his hands.
Current projection draft for Iowa State WR Xavier Hutchinson
Hutchinson is rated as a solid Day 2 prospect at the wide receiver position. There may be variation within this range based on team preferences and individual ratings. But Hutchinson undoubtedly deserves consideration in the top 100, and a strong offseason — with Senior Bowl and NFL Combine shows on deck — could propel him up.
Hutchinson is of good height, decent length and overall solid athletic ability. Although he sometimes plays a little big as a route runner, he has the lateral agility, twitch, hip fluid and thrust power needed to create separation. As a long runner, he has enough juice to stack DBs. And few WRs in the 2023 NFL Draft are better at the catch point than Hutchinson.
Not being a quantifiable elite athlete, Hutchinson should work to further refine his running efficiency to the next level. Sometimes there is still some wasted movement and he can work on expanding his route tree and releasing the pack a bit more.
But there’s enough there already – he’s got enough footspeed and sink to work with. And Hutchinson can also be a RAC threat in space with his skill, leg sprain and lateral agility.
As a movement Z that can occupy both the slot and the boundary, Hutchinson presents a lot of projected attraction. He can win one-on-one situations or use spaces to his advantage. He can be a valuable addition to a WR rotation on Day 1, and he has enough physical potential to become an above-average NFL starter with safety blanket value.