Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan DE | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson has a solid scouting report, but how high might he rise in the 2022 NFL Draft? Can he crack Round 1?

He was once viewed as a potential prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft. But when an injury obstructed Aidan Hutchinson’s path forward, the Michigan DE was forced to wait another year. Without a strong closing season, Hutchinson’s NFL Draft scouting report remains incomplete. The steely competitor for the Wolverines has a rare physical skill set, but his drive is what will keep him going in 2021 and beyond. How does Hutchinson’s profile stack up at this point, and what does he need to do in 2021 to keep trending up?

Aidan Hutchinson NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Defensive end
  • School: Michigan
  • Current Year: Senior
  • Height: 6’6″
  • Weight: 269 pounds

Aidan Hutchinson Scouting Report

Welcome to Ann Arbor, Michigan — home of the NFL defender. The Wolverines have long had a record of production on the defensive side of the ball, spanning back to the days of Ty Law and Charles Woodson. So far through the 21st century, they’ve further bolstered that reputation, laying claim to NFL stars like Ian Gold, Cato June, LaMarr Woodley, Frank Clark, Devin Bush Jr., and Rashan Gary. Just this past April, Michigan had three defenders selected — Kwity Paye, Ambry Thomas, and Cameron McGrone.

For decades, the Michigan football program has been a pipeline of NFL talent, which won’t change in 2021. There are quite a few names to watch as Jim Harbaugh looks to rebound from a down year, but one of the most notable returning prospects is Michigan DE Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson is coming off a season in which he was sidelined early due to injury. Now expected to be fully healthy for fall camp, Hutchinson is undoubtedly aiming to redeem himself and enter the NFL trending up. But, does the Michigan DE have the skill set to do so?

Hutchinson’s athletic profile

Hutchinson didn’t always play to his athletic potential in 2020, but he might test as an elite athlete — and we’re seeing more of his ability in 2021. He was on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list earlier in the offseason. According to a source quoted in Feldman’s article, Hutchinson might run a 4.6-second 40, log a mid-30-inch vertical, and post a three-cone time in the mid-6-second range. Those are insane numbers for a 6’6″, 269-pound defensive lineman.

It’s safe to say that Hutchinson’s composite athletic profile holds plenty of appeal. With his frame, Hutchinson possesses solid length, which he uses with universal proactivity. He extends quickly, sets the edge well in run defense, actively disrupts passing windows, and seeks to make opposing QBs uncomfortable.

Among other things, Hutchinson has good grip strength, which he can use to wrench down opposing anchors. He also has a strong base and good balance. As a result, Hutchinson is able to stand his ground against opposing power and force. Additionally, the Michigan product has great explosiveness, lateral burst, and twitch. He also owns solid weight-transfer ability when shuffling between gaps.

Hutchinson’s best athletic trait, however, might be his flexibility. At his size, he has impressive hip flexibility and lean. He can absorb blocks with ease — he’s hard to move because of this.

Execution beyond the physical traits

Hutchinson’s athletic skill set alludes to some positional versatility along the line — and that versatility shows up on tape. Although he’s strongest from the edge, Hutchinson can line up from the 0-position to the 5-technique or outside the tackle’s shoulder. His length — combined with his natural balance — gives him this positional flexibility, and his blend of length, energy, and twitch gives him upside at multiple alignments.

On the edge, Hutchinson might be one of the strongest run defenders in the 2022 NFL Draft. As mentioned above, he has a strong anchor, good balance, and solid flexibility. But beyond that, the Michigan DE also boasts excellent footwork and awareness. He knows to reset his feet periodically to maintain leverage. Additionally, he can disengage and wrap up ball carriers when they enter his area.

As a pass rusher, Hutchinson wasn’t always consistent in 2020. But in 2021, he’s dominated. He uses fast, precise hand swipes. His length helps him assume superior leverage, and it also helps cultivate immense point-of-contact force. Hutchinson’s red-hot motor ties his game together and makes him a constant tackling threat, maximizing his athletic tools. His hustle never dies, and that helps the Michigan DE remain a factor on every down.

Areas for improvement

Coming into 2021, Hutchinson had a stellar NFL Draft scouting report as a run defender. He also showed some pass-rushing utility with his positional ambiguity. There were some concerns on tape regarding Hutchinson’s ability to play to his athletic maximum, but those concerns have been all but nullified by his 2021 play.

Upon initial viewings of Hutchinson’s 2020 tape, I was concerned by his maximum pursuit speed, short-area burst, and foot speed as a mover. But at the time, I was unsure if these were issues regarding his athletic ceiling, or his efficiency of motion and his ability to channel his athletic traits. His 2021 play supports the latter hypothesis, as the Michigan DE is playing fast and athletic week in and week out.

Although Hutchinson has quelled these athletic maximum concerns, even with his strong intangibles, he can still keep refining his hand speed and usage and train himself to carry more momentum with his hands. Luckily for Hutchinson, he’s shown improvement here in 2021 as well.

Hutchinson NFL Draft scouting report overview

Hutchinson may be listed as a defensive end, but he isn’t your traditional edge rusher. The Michigan DE can play from a host of alignments. He can stand up, or play from three-point and four-point stances. No matter where he goes, he has great burst, energy, and urgency as a pass rusher. He compounds those traits with aggressive hand usage. And in run defense, his length, functional strength, and balance enable him to hold strong.

Hutchinson is a superb run defender, and he has added pass-rushing utility as a chess piece who can move around the line. And now that he’s shown he can play to his athletic maximum and refine his hand usage, he’s a true three-down player, and a potential blue-chip player on the edge. By now, he’s safely trending into Round 1 territory. The offseason should only lock him in.

Aidan Hutchinson’s Player Profile

Some players don’t know where their leap to the college level will take them, but Hutchinson knew as early as the seventh grade. He wanted to play football at the University of Michigan, where his father, Chris Hutchinson, played from 1989 to 1992. That goal drove Hutchinson through junior high and high school. He started as a lanky kid, barely above 6’0″. However, he grew to be over 6’6″ with a 249-pound frame by his senior season.

As Hutchinson grew, so too did his impact on the field. And soon, he garnered the respect and attention of some of the nation’s most prestigious schools. As a four-star recruit in the 2018 class, Hutchinson had offers at defensive end from Wisconsin, LSU, and Boston College. But when the Michigan Wolverines offered him a chance to carry on his family’s legacy, the choice was set in stone.

Aidan Hutchinson’s career at Michigan and NFL Draft ascension

As his physical traits demanded, Hutchinson saw the field fairly early in his collegiate career. As a true freshman, he appeared on the defense almost every week, earning 12 total tackles and a tackle for loss with his limited opportunities. That true-freshman season, while relatively quiet, served as the springboard toward a standout sophomore year. Hutchinson broke out as a starter, amassing 69 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 6 deflections, and 3 forced fumbles.

For his performance in 2019, Hutchinson earned third-team All-Big Ten honors. Additionally, the stellar campaign fueled excitement for another potential leap in 2020. Hutchinson was voted as a team captain heading into his junior year, and he was expected to complete a fearsome line combination opposite eventual first-round pick Paye. Instead, a right ankle fracture derailed Hutchinson’s season, and he was required to have surgery after just three games.

Despite his injury-shortened 2020 campaign, Hutchinson still has a great deal of respect nationwide. He’s earned preseason All-American honors from some outlets, and he’s also received some first-round hype for the 2022 NFL Draft. Can Hutchinson validate that excitement and close on his career on a positive note? If his journey to this point is any indication, he won’t spare any effort in doing so.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and his voice and face on Pro Football Network Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ian_cummings_9.

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