Aidan Hutchinson was once viewed as a potential prospect for the 2021 NFL Draft. But when an injury obstructed his path forward, the Michigan DE was forced to wait another year. Nevertheless, the steely competitor for the Wolverines has a rare physical skill set, and his drive keeps him going. After a dominant final season, can Hutchinson use his NFL Draft scouting report to be the first player off the board?
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 2022. David Ojabo and Daxton Hill are both highly regarded prospects, and players like Andrew Stueber, Hassan Haskins, Josh Ross, Vincent Gray, and Brad Hawkins also have a good chance to be drafted. Hutchinson, however, might be at the top of this entire list.
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 saw more of that ability in 2021. He was on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list in the 2021 offseason. According to a source quoted in Feldman’s article, Hutchinson has a 4.6-second 40, a mid-30-inch vertical, and 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 decent 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 can stand his ground against opposing power and force. Additionally, the Michigan product has above-average explosiveness, lateral agility, and great twitch. He also flashes solid weight-transfer ability when shuffling between gaps.
Hutchinson also has decent flexibility. At his size, he has impressive torso flexibility and ankle flexion. He’s not the most bendy rusher, and his hips can tighten up at the apex. However, Hutchinson can reduce his surface area a bit. He can also absorb blocks with ease and hold up in run defense.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Hutchinson has moved around the line in the past. His blend of length, energy, and twitch gives him upside at multiple alignments. But in 2021, Hutchinson played full-time on the edge, and he was dominant. His explosiveness, hyperactive twitch, and agility certainly helped, but Hutchinson compounds his athleticism with great skill and ferocity as well.
As a pass rusher, Hutchinson uses fast, violent hand swipes to bombard opponents. With his explosiveness and ability to load and shoot his hands, he can cultivate immense point-of-contact force. He’s an urgent mover who can chop his feet and flash his hands to bait tackles into extending. He can also use swift rip moves to disengage, and he has several rip combos in his arsenal, as well as a ruthless swim.
Hutchinson’s red-hot motor ties his game together and makes him a constant tackling threat, maximizing his athletic tools. His hustle never dies, which helps the Michigan DE remain a factor on every down. He also has constant leg drive, both around the edge and when attacking the torso.
Hutchinson’s run defense is solid, too. 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 get free and wrap up ball carriers when they enter his area.
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. There were some concerns on tape regarding Hutchinson’s ability to play to his athletic maximum. Hutchinson maximized his skill set in 2021, but some notable athletic questions still persist.
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. Watching back his 2021 tape, these issues still pop up at times.
Hutchinson’s burst off the line, while above-average, is not elite. He’s also not a very efficient or fluid mover. He flails around a lot and is very upright as a runner. He can be stiff laterally. His high pad level prevents him from attaining proper leverage at times, and he can’t always change directions with ease. The good thing is, improving his efficiency of motion could help fix these issues. These aren’t necessarily built-in limitations.
Even with his strong intangibles, Hutchinson can keep refining his hand speed and usage. With his wasted motion, he sometimes lacks coordination and doesn’t always use his violent hands with precision.
Hutchinson’s NFL Draft scouting report overview
My evaluation of Hutchinson has been a roller coaster, quite frankly. I wasn’t a huge fan and saw him more as a Day 2 prospect over the summer. Then the 2021 season happened, and the hype took over. Some elements of his game popped over that span, most notably his red-hot motor, violent hands, lateral agility, and speed-to-power conversion.
However, rewatching the 2021 tape unearthed some concerns that may have been lost in the midseason hype. Hutchinson has above-average explosiveness off the line, but he’s not elite like his teammate Ojabo. His upright style further erodes that explosiveness. He often plays with his pads too high. With a high pad level, he can’t always launch out of his stance at full speed, and he can’t attain superior leverage and attack the torso consistently.
Hutchinson isn’t an efficient mover, and he can be prone to stiffness as a result. Furthermore, he lacks elite hip flexibility. He can absorb power with his torso, but his hips can lock up at the top of his rushes, preventing him from pinching the corner. His length also isn’t elite, and he’s average at best with his proportional frame.
Hutchinson still has a passable athletic skill set. And that skill set is compounded tenfold by his relentless attitude, never-ending motor, constant twitch, and combative, violent hands. That constant motor, combined with an athletic profile above the requisite threshold, is why the Michigan DE is viewed as a top-10 pick. I won’t have him quite that high, simply because I don’t see the ceiling as astronomical. But he can still be an impact starter with his motor, relentless violence, and above-average physical tools.
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.
Hutchinson’s career at Michigan
As his physical traits demanded, Hutchinson saw the field fairly early in his collegiate career. He appeared on the defense almost every week as a true freshman, 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 had a great deal of respect nationwide. He earned preseason All-American honors from some outlets, and he also received some early first-round hype for the 2022 NFL Draft. He wasn’t a consensus first-round prospect, however, until his 2021 season came around.
Hutchinson was dominant in 2021, amassing 62 tackles, 14 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles. He broke the Michigan school record for sacks in a season, also earning recognition as the Heisman runner-up to Alabama QB Bryce Young.
Hutchinson’s NFL Draft ascension
No one should diminish what Hutchinson was able to do in 2021 — setting the school sack record and dominating the college football landscape. Some see him as an early first-round prospect, and those views are validated. However, watching him alongside his teammate Ojabo, I think an echo chamber effect has taken hold on Hutchinson. He’s great, but he’s not the flawless prospect he’s perceived to be at times — and Ojabo has a visibly higher ceiling.
Hutchinson could glean more explosiveness from his frame and fix some issues with stiffness if he can improve his stance and play with a lower pad level in the NFL. As it stands, however, that lack of elite burst, high pad level, and inefficient motion prevents me from running with him as a bona fide top-10 prospect. He can also strive for more hand precision, even if his hands are violent.
Nevertheless, Hutchinson has enough upside to be a productive long-term starter with some scheme versatility. He plays standing up often, but playing from more 3-point and 4-point stances might help with his burst and pad level off the line. Whatever the case, he has the ruthless motor, violence, twitch, and necessary athleticism worth investing early capital in.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Aidan Hutchinson
Positives: Impact defensive front-seven player with an explosive style. Fires off the snap, plays with a relentless attitude and has a violent nature to his game. Effectively breaks down, uses his hands incredibly well, and jolts blockers with tremendous hand punch. Gets off the snap with an explosive first step.
Easily changes direction and alters his angle of attack. Bends off the edge and flattens to pursue plays from the back side. Gets a lot of momentum going up the field, can be tough to stop, and gives effort defending the run.
Negatives: Gets out-positioned from the action by bigger opponents. Does not display great lateral speed. Does a lot of bull rushing opponents off the line.
Analysis: Hutchinson moves towards the draft as the darling of the media, and while he had a great senior campaign, there are areas of concern in his game for me. His style and relentless attitude help him make plays, but he’s not as athletic as many of the top players in this year’s draft.
Hutchinson must improve his strength at the point of attack but has the versatility to be used out of a three-point stance or standing over tackle. While I don’t feel he has a great upside, Hutchinson is polished and is the safe pick.