Sunday’s matchup at Ford Field between the Detroit Lions and the Jacksonville Jaguars will provide something of an instant — albeit likely unfair — referendum on the success of the two teams’ top picks in April’s NFL draft.
The Jaguars, picking No. 1 overall, went with Georgia edge rusher Trayvon Walker and left Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson to the Lions at No. 2. Through 11 games, it looks like the Lions have come out ahead — and yes, we know how rarely the words “Lions” and “come out ahead” end up in the same sentence — on the stat sheet. Walker has 37 tackles (with three tackles-for-loss), 2½ sacks and an interception while Hutchinson has 31 tackles (four TFLS) and a team-high 5½ sacks to go with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
On Thursday, Hutchinson was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for November, adding another plaudit in his case for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Hutchinson had said he’s happy he ended up with his hometown squad, though he also said, on Thursday, that the Jags’ call “will stick with me forever.”
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And on Sunday, he’ll have his first chance to make that known in person. The meeting of the Jags and Lions is the 12th time this century that the teams with the Nos. 1-2 picks have faced off the following season (including a double-dip in 2019). The good news for Hutchinson and the Lions? The squad that drafted No. 2 is 8-3 in the other 11, including wins in the past six showdowns. Here’s how all 11 matchups since the start of the 2000 season have gone:
*Team won head-to-head matchup.
2001: No. 1 QB Michael Vick* vs. No. 2 OT Leonard Davis
Sept. 30: This one’s something of a split decision. The individual glory (as much as an offensive lineman can get) goes to Davis by default — he played, at right guard, while Vick sat behind Atlanta veteran Chris Chandler. But the Falcons prevailed, 34-14, and mostly shut down the Cardinals’ offense; Arizona mustered just 90 yards on the ground and quarterback Jake Plummer was sacked four times for a loss of 31 yards.
Down the line: Both played just six seasons for their original team, but for vastly different reasons. Davis was shuffled from right guard to right tackle to left tackle and struggled, with 21 false starts over 31 games in his final two seasons in the desert; the Cards opted not to use a franchise or transition tag on him, and he departed for the Dallas Cowboys via free agency. Vick, meanwhile, became a superstar, leading the Falcons to the playoffs in Year 2 while making the Pro Bowl and finishing fourth in MVP voting. But it came crashing down after Year 6, when he spent 21 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring.
2008: No. 1 OT Jake Long* vs. No. 2 DE Chris Long
Nov. 30: The Dolphins’ offensive lineman from Michigan (and Lapeer) and the Rams’ defensive lineman from Virginia — no relation — went head-to-head for most of this one in St. Louis. Although Miami QB Chad Pennington went unsacked, Chris Long applied pressure several times, finishing with a tackle-for-loss and two quarterback hits. Jake Long, meanwhile, was flagged once, for a false start, in the first quarter. We have to hail Jake as the victor on the scoreboard, though, as the Dolphins edged the Rams, 16-12.
You can watch their head-to-head moments here:
Down the line: This one goes to Jake, too; the former Wolverine made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons as well as the All-Pro team in Year 3, while the highest honor for Chris — despite several solid years — came in Year 1, when he made the All-Rookie team. (Oddly enough, the two were teammates for two seasons, playing in St. Louis from 2013-14, when the Rams went 13-19.)
2009: No. 1 QB Matthew Stafford vs. No. 2 OT Jason Smith*
Nov. 1: No head-to-head matchup here, as the Lions’ QB and the Rams’ right tackle never shared the field. Stafford, in his first game back after missing two weeks with an injury, was hardly sharp, completing 14 of 33 passes for 168 yards and an interception while getting sacked twice. Smith, working on the right side of the line meanwhile, kept his QB unsacked and cleared the way for running back Steven Jackson, who gained 56 yards and a touchdown on his six carries to the right side as the Rams beat the Lions, 17-10.
Down the line: The Lions easily came out ahead here, though it took a couple of seasons for Stafford to recover from numerous injuries. In all, he played 12 seasons with the Lions, leading them to three playoff berths and making one Pro Bowl. Smith, meanwhile, saw his rookie season cut to eight games by a serious concussion; he lasted just three seasons in St. Louis and another with the New York Jets.
2010: No. 1 QB Sam Bradford vs. No. 2 DT Ndamukong Suh*
Oct. 10: Suh was the clear winner here, both individually and with his team. Although he didn’t have any sacks or QB hurries, Suh piled up three tackles and an interception from the middle of the Lions’ line — he tipped a Bradford pass into the air, then caught it and rumbled (and rambled) 20 yards in the fourth quarter. The Lions, meawhile, led 24-6 at halftime and won by 38 points, as Bradford completed just 51.1% of his passes for 215 yards and two picks.
Down the line: This is almost as much of a blowout as the game at Ford Field — before Suh departed after five seasons for a mega-contract with the Dolphins, he was Defensive Rookie of the Year, made four Pro Bowls and received three All-Pro nods. Bradford, meanwhile, was limited by injuries to just 49 appearances over four seasons — though he was Offensive Rookie of the Year — before finishing his career as a journeyman with the Eagles, Vikings and Cardinals and retiring after the 2018 season.
2013: No. 1 RT Eric Fisher* vs. No. 2 RT Luke Joeckel
Sept. 8: No need to break down the tape on this one, as CMU’s Fisher tasted victory in Week 1, 28-2, while keeping Chiefs QB Alex Smith off the ground. Joeckel, out of Texas A&M, saw QB Blaine Gabbert sacked six times as the Jags mustered 228 yards of total offense and, again, TWO POINTS.
Down the line: Although the Rochester Hills Stony Creek product didn’t quite become the road-grader the Chiefs hoped for at No. 1, he played for nine seasons — eight in Kansas City — and made two Pro Bowls, with a Super Bowl ring in 2019. Joeckel, meanwhile, lasted just four seasons in Jacksonville before finishing his career with 11 games for the Seattle Seahawks in 2017.
2015: No. 1 QB Jameis Winston vs. No. 2 QB Marcus Mariota*
Sept. 13: Week 1’s matchup was virtually over by halftime, as Mariota threw four first-half TDs for his Tennessee Titans and Winston threw two first-half TDs to his Tampa Bay Buccaneers and another one to the Titans. It wound up a 42-14 win for the visiting Titans. It was so lopsided, it’s tough to properly judge their performances, especially as Mariota, up 35-7 at the half, attempted just three passes (all completions) after the break. Winston was bad in both halves: 6-for-12 for 70 yards and two picks in the first, 10-for 21 for 140 yards in the second.
Down the line: A rare draw in the big picture, as neither wound up as the franchise QB their teams needed. Winston passed for nearly 20,000 yards in his five seasons with the Bucs, including a league-leading 5,109, with 33 TDs, in Year 5. But that season also featured an NFL-high 30 interceptions. Mariota, meanwhile, couldn’t stay healthy for an entire season, missing at least one game in each of his five seasons in Tennessee; at least his injury in Week 6 of the 2019 season opened the door for the Titans’ current run with Ryan Tannehill under center.
2017: No. 1 DE Myles Garrett vs. No. 2 QB Mitchell Trubisky*
Dec. 24: Garrett, out of Texas A&M, didn’t get much in his Christmas stocking, bringing down Trubisky, out of North Carolina, just once for an 8-yard loss. That was part of Cleveland’s five sacks of Trubisky, who had the last laugh as his Bears beat the Browns, 20-6. Trubisky completed 14 of 23 passes for a pedestrian 193 yards and rushed seven times for 44 yards and a touchdown (from 4 yards out).
Down the line: When he’s healthy, Garrett is one of the NFL’s most feared pass-rushers, with 68½ sacks over six seasons to go with three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nods. Trubisky, meanwhile, is on his third team — the Steelers, who benched him after five games in favor of rookie Kenny Pickett.
2019: No. 1 QB Kyler Murray vs. No. 2 DE Nick Bosa*
Oct. 31, Nov. 17: These two division rivals got two head-to-head meetings just 18 days apart; Ohio State’s Bosa came out ahead in both, with the 49ers winning 28-25 on Halloween in Arizona and then 36-26 at home, as the Ohio State product had four tackles, no sacks and a QB hit in the two games combined. Bosa’s teammates brought down Murray, out of Oklahoma, seven times, though he went 41-for-57 (71.9%) for 391 yards, four TDs and no picks in the two games. (He also averaged 50.5 yards rushing.)
Down the line: Bosa and Murray won their respective Rookie of the Year awards, and both have two Pro Bowls. Murray has already signed a mega-extension for five years and $160 million in guaranteed month, while Bosa’s mega-deal — though almost certainly not that big — will arrive this offseason. But if we need a tiebreaker, there’s this: Bosa’s Niners are 36-24 with two NFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance, while Murray’s Cards are just 28-31-1 with a lone playoff loss.
2020: No. 1 QB Joe Burrow vs. No. 2 DE Chase Young*
Nov. 22: This duo’s meeting was a costly one for the Bengals, both on the scoreboard — a 20-9 loss at Washington — and the roster, as Burrow suffered an ACL tear that cost him the final six games of his rookie season. (The LSU product excelled in the game before the injury, though, completing 22 of 34 passes for 203 yards and a TD.) Young, out of Ohio State, had a solid game; though he didn’t bring down Burrow, he had three tackles and a forced fumble.
Down the line: Young gets the edge in Year 1 as the Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowl nod after he had 7 ½ sacks and 44 tackles, including 10 TFLs. But he suffered tears of his ACL and MCL nine games into Year 2 (and has yet to return for the Commanders), while Burrow bounced back to win Comeback Player of the Year last season while leading Cincy to a surprise Super Bowl appearance.
2021: No. 1 QB Trevor Lawrence vs. No. 2 QB Zach Wilson*
Dec. 26: Wilson’s New York Jets got the win, 26-21, but it was only slightly due to the BYU product’s production (14-for-22, 102 yards and a TD, plus a 52-yard TD run). On the other side, Lawrence — freed three weeks earlier from the tyrannical reign of coach Urban Meyer — began to look like the star he was at Clemson: 26-for-39 for 280 yards. Lawrence led the Jags 74 yards to the Jets’ 1 in 95 seconds before the Jets’ defensive stiffened with a fourth-down stop.
Down the line: After leading the league with 17 interceptions last season, Lawrence looks reborn under new coach Doug Pederson: 2,655 yards, 16 TDs and six picks in 11 games. Wilson, meanwhile, has been limited by injuries (and mono), but he’s starting to get the whiff of a bust, as he was benched before last week’s game against the Bears.