No player this season has impressed more and improved their stock more than Aidan Hutchinson has. The Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year is coming off dominant performances against top lines and linemen like Ohio State’s unit, Washington’s Jaxson Kirkland, and Michigan State. After these big-time games, the former four-star, and top recruit in Michigan, has drawn Heisman talk and is clearly the best defensive player in the nation. On the other hand, we have to look at how his game may translate to the NFL. Is he the player people are talking him up to be? Let’s find out.
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Name: Aidan Hutchinson
Jersey: No. 97
Weight: 265 lbs
Games Watched: Ohio State (2021), Washington (2021), Michigan State (2021), Penn State (2021), Wisconsin (2021), Northwestern (2019)
Major Injury History: Fractured leg/ankle (2020)
Pass-rush Skills (14.75/15)
Hutchinson grabs a near-perfect score here. To make it simple, his pass-rush is elite. We see a mix of hand combinations, finesse moves, and overall sheer strength to defeat whatever tackle he’s lined up against. The 13 sacks (and counting) on Hutchinson’s ledger are almost all legitimate, meaning not just coverage sacks and other mop-ups. Again, Hutchinson can beat you in any way possible and constantly puts pressure on the quarterback.
Then there’s the extra drive he has. You’ll see on several big downs, Hutchinson gets even more explosive, even more powerful, and almost always gets in the backfield. It’s also important to note that Hutchinson gets held all the time. It’s astonishing how much it happens, whether it’s called or not. When Hutchinson gets on the field, he’s the best player out there and a big reason for that is because of his pass-rush.
This is another area where Hutchinson excels. He’s able to explode right into the blocker and get to work within milliseconds it seems. The best example of Hutchinson’s explosiveness can be seen in the Ohio State game. Here, on fourth down, Hutchinson burst off the line and knocked potential first-round pick Nicholas Petit-Frere right over and got pressure on the quarterback. As good as Hutchinson’s polished pass rush is, it’s helped tremendously by his explosiveness.
First Step (8.5/10)
Hutchinson’s first step is pretty solid most of the time but we do finally see some weaknesses. Quite often, Hutchinson is able to time the snap up really well. He gets into the blocker quickly and makes his move from there on out. Where he struggles is facing tempo. Michigan moved him around their line all the time and Hutchinson struggled to get his best step off the line when the offense went hurry-up. Overall, however, he’s still very good here and gets only a sly knock.
This is Hutchinson’s worst ability. At 6’6″, it’s almost natural that he doesn’t have a great bend but it’s also very normal for guys his size to be graded much lower in this category. We talk about the differences between Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and it is seen right here. Thibodeaux has freakish bend, which is his attraction, where Hutchinson is more of a Nick Bosa, J.J. Watt (in his glory days) type lineman.
Hand Usage (9/10)
Here we have one of Hutchinson’s best areas and best areas of improvement. He’s always had the raw power and crazy ability to continuously drive a lineman back but the counters have gotten much better since 2019. We still see times where he gets jammed up, it’s not uncommon, but there’s also plenty of examples where Hutchinson can just rip off of a blocker and get to the quarterback very quickly.
You won’t see a more competitive player in college football than this guy. There’s just constant energy from Hutchinson, relentless pursuit of the quarterback, and pure love for his team and the Michigan program as a whole. It’s obvious he turns it up in the big moments but that doesn’t mean he slacks off at other times. Every down is a huge one for him and it’s a true sight to see. A motor like this cannot be taught but it’s something Hutchinson has and will make NFL teams fall in love with him.
This is an area that is a tad bit two-fold. In pass-rush Hutchinson gets to the quarterback and wraps him up. He never makes mistakes there. Sometimes in the run, however, he does allow running backs to slip away from his grasp. It’s not like he whiffs on those tackles though, he just allows backs to get out of his reach based on positioning. This is a very minor hindrance to Hutchinson’s tackling and should be a very minimal concern in the future.
Strength at the LOS (10/10)
This one is not even debatable. Hutchinson never gets knocked back by a lineman and is often the guy who puts the blocker on his back. There’s not much else to say here as we’ve raved on and on about his raw play strength. No matter what the number he puts up on the bench at the combine is, Hutchinson’s on-field strength is unmatched and should not be overlooked one bit.
Run Defense (8.5/10)
Run defense is certainly not Hutchinson’s strong suit but this guy is great at everything if you haven’t learned by now. He does struggle sometimes to get off his blockers but that’s more when the team he goes up against is favoring inside runs. On the outside, Hutchinson is able to set the edge really well and doesn’t see problems there, you just hope he can improve it by getting a little more active on the inside.
Lining up in different spots, in different stances are what makes an edge rusher versatile and Hutchinson does just that. Almost every down you see him switching where he’s lining up and changing from a stand-up stance or having a hand on the ground. The one very small knock is he doesn’t line up on the inside but not many edge rushers do these days and Hutchinson has a great build to do it if ever necessary.
What more is there to say about an incredible player like Hutchinson? The debate about him being the best player in the draft is a warranted one. He is or is incredibly close, to being better than Thibodeaux, and all thanks to his play from this season. At this point, whoever has the first pick between these two might just need to go based on scheme and ceiling. Hutchinson will give you a consistent double-digit sack season but Thibodeaux’s upside can give you the best edge rusher out there. Overall, Hutchinson is the best player we’ve got in this draft and should not drop past the two spot come April.
Rookie Projection: DROTY Contender
Third-Year Projection: Potential Top-12 Edge Rusher
Final Grade (92.25/100): Potential Top-10 Pick
Player Comp: Nick Bosa
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images