When you have the type of season that Michigan edge-rusher Aidan Hutchinson had in 2021, you’re bound to ascend very high on draft boards. And for Hutchinson, he’s ranked as high as anyone in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
Hutchinson’s 14 sacks were the most in a season in Michigan history, and his impressive output made him just the fourth defensive player to finish second in Heisman Trophy Award history.
Here’s a quick look at some of the various honors Hutchinson had in 2021
- First-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media.
- Named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.
- Finalist for the Walter Camp Football Foundation Player of the Year
- Ted Hendricks Award winner
- Finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy (top scholar-athlete in college football)
- Rotary Lombardi Award Winner
- Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award winner
- Runner-up for Heisman Trophy Award
Hutchinson’s stock was already ascending before the combine, but then the 6-foot-7, 260 pounder ran a 4.74 40-yard dash and 6.73 three-cone drill.
When we talk about best fits for Hutchinson in the NFL Draft, we also have to factor in where he realistically will fall in the draft — and he won’t be falling far, there’s a good chance he’ll be the first overall pick.
No. 1 overall pick: Jacksonville Jaguars
Being drafted first is very rewarding in and of itself, but the destination isn’t the greatest this year. The Jaguars are a dysfunctional franchise who hired and fired Urban Meyer in less than a year and now have a lame duck general manager in Trent Baalke that the fanbase wanted fired. There’s nothing to suggest the Jaguars will become a winning franchise anytime soon, even with Trevor Lawrence as their quarterback.
The reality is there’s a good chance this is where Hutchinson lands, and he’ll make the most of his opportunity if he does indeed become a Jag. Mel Kiper projects this is who will draft Hutchinson, as does Daniel Jeremiah, Dane Brugler, and most other draft analysts. However, Todd McShay thinks Hutchinson will slip and the Jaguars will draft an offensive lineman.
“It’s not a done deal. His grade isn’t as high as Joey Bosa or his brother, Nick Bosa, or Myles Garrett,” McShay said. “I think he’s a little bit lower in terms of a grade than we’ve seen in some of the elite, elite pass rushers.”
No. 2 overall pick: Detroit Lions
Hutchinon is a native of Plymouth, Michigan and he’s on record saying that being drafted by Detroit would help his transition to the NFL.
“It would definitely be cool,” Hutchinson said. “I’d be living close to home. It would definitely make the transition a bit easier to the NFL just being so close to home and close to my parents.”
The Lions have an immediate need at edge-rusher and Hutchinson being drafted by Detroit is something Lions fans would be excited about. While the Lions may not have the most talented of rosters, they’re trending in the right direction under head coach Dan Campbell. The NFC North is a division that’s getting increasingly weaker, and Hutchinson could very easily get over ten sacks during his rookie campaign.
Hutchinson being drafted by the Lions would be a much better landing spot than Jacksonville, and he’d bring leadership with him to Detroit, the kind that will mesh will with the mind of Dan Campbell.
No. 4 overall pick: New York Jets
Let’s be clear, it’s highly unlikely Hutchinson falls past the Jets in the draft, so if Hutchinson was to slip past the Jaguars and Lions, the Houston Texans could opt for Hutchinson. While the Texans present a possible destination, the Jets represent a much better fit.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh is one of the brightest defensive minds in the NFL, and Saleh coached someone during his time as defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers that analysts compare Hutchinson to — Nick Bosa. If Hutchinson went to the Jets Saleh would find creative ways to maximize Hutchinson’s potential right away. The Jets may not be a team that many perceive have a chance of turning the corner next year, but ownership is willing to spend and trade to make the team better.
New York is a big market, but Hutchinson’s a grinder and an intense individual, which are things New Yorkers would like about him.