Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo stole the spotlight for the Michigan Wolverines defense in 2021, but they weren’t the only major contributors on the defensive line.
Defensive tackle Chris Hinton showed significant improvement in his junior season in Ann Arbor following two years of underwhelming play. He was one of two five-star recruits Jim Harbaugh brought into Michigan in the 2019 recruiting class. His size, power and legacy name helped him become one of the top prospects in the nation.
With that kind of resume, any recruit is going to see playing time early, and just that happened for Hinton. He played in four games in his freshman season and five in his shortened sophomore year. Unfortunately, a lot was left on the table in those games as he struggled against some of the top offensive lines from the Big Ten Conference.
That all changed (as did the whole defense) under Mike Macdonald his one year in Ann Arbor. The new Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator sparked something in a lot of the talent in Ann Arbor. Hinton took pretty significant advantage of a scheme change and became an every-down lineman. He posted 32 tackles and had a sack, two swatted balls and two forced fumbles.
What is going to attract NFL teams to him is his ability to eat up holes in the run game thanks to immense strength and a solid base. He’s not the most athletic player, nor is he well-adept with his pass-rush moves, but there should be enough upside there that a team will take a chance on him being a rotational piece on their squad. Let’s see which NFL teams would best suit him:
Macdonald was the one to finally tap into Hinton’s potential. Who’s to say he couldn’t do even more? There won’t be a coaching staff that knows Hinton more than the Ravens with John Harbaugh at head coach and Macdonald leading the defense. Schematically, the fit will also be apparent because Hinton played on that 3-4 defense and fits well into the role.
Now, Hinton likely will not be a starter immediately, but there are some talented players in Baltimore who can help him out. At the top of the list is one of the best in the business in Calais Campbell, who plays a similar position to what Hinton would at the next level.
The Ravens aren’t afraid to spend picks on defensive linemen with five selections in the last three drafts. But none have risen to the point where it isn’t a position of need for Baltimore, and Hinton could be a piece that could help complete the puzzle.
This one just feels like a slam dunk.
This is another solid option for Hinton. His father, Chris Hinton Sr., played five Pro Bowl seasons for the Colts as a left tackle in the ‘80s. A return to Indy for his son would be quite the story. On top of that, the Colts have one of the best defenses in the NFL led by new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who has a rich history of coaching elite defenses — he was the defensive play-caller for the Legion of Boom in Seattle.
While this would be a shift back to a 4-3 scheme for Hinton, interior defensive help is a hole on a Colts’ squad with a lot of potential. DeForest Buckner would be a great defensive tackle to learn behind, and he’d get to line up next to former Michigan teammate Kwity Paye.
Los Angeles Chargers
Renaldo Hill implemented a 3-4 scheme in Los Angeles last season, and players were praising the innovative approach prior to the season’s start. The Chargers moved to just outside the top 10 in run defense because of the change, but that is without solid depth on the defensive interior.
Selecting Hinton would add depth to a position of great need for the Chargers. Additionally, it would be a place he could have an impact right away with how weak the depth chart. Some good OTA and a solid first offseason at the next level could afford him well.