Chris Hinton, Michigan DT | NFL Draft Scouting Report

His father was the fourth overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, earning seven Pro Bowl berths and one All-Pro selection. Can Michigan DT Chris Hinton use his scouting report to follow the same path through the NFL Draft and reach the lofty standard set by his predecessor?

Chris Hinton NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • School: Michigan
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 310 pounds

Chris Hinton Scouting Report

Michigan has been one of the better recruiting teams in the nation under head coach Jim Harbaugh. From 2019 to 2021, the Wolverines pulled in three top-15 classes. In 2019, they earned a top-10 class, complete with two five-star recruits and 14 four-star recruits by 247 Sports‘ count.

Hinton was one of those five-star players. His five-star billing, combined with his strong NFL roots, built sky-high expectations for the Norcross, Georgia native. Statistically, Hinton hasn’t reached those expectations yet, but does his NFL Draft scouting report provide more reason for optimism?

Hinton’s athletic profile

Hinton is an interesting NFL Draft prospect, and the nature of the 2022 defensive tackle class only makes his projection more intriguing. Even when he earned five-star billing from several recruiting sites, he didn’t boast top-flight athletic testing numbers. Nevertheless, the 6’4″, 310-pound lineman flashes several promising traits on occasion.

Hinton’s size is what stands out first. He doesn’t have elite length or overwhelming girth, but he has great width, density, and a strong base. He’s built like an offensive lineman in some respects; this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given his familial background. His lower body is particularly strong and sturdy, and he can use his width and density to absorb double-teams, as well as withstand copious amounts of power.

Athletically, Hinton isn’t bursting with potential, but there is some upside that appears untapped. He demonstrates decent lateral mobility for his size when stunting. He can also use that lateral mobility to shade into gaps as a run defender. There’s torso flexibility present as well; he can contort to wrench down anchors, then use his momentum to surge forward.

Execution beyond the athletic traits

For a prospect like Hinton, who isn’t an elite athlete at his position, channeling one’s athletic traits through proper execution is crucial. While he can continue to improve here, he does display some positive tendencies. Most notably, Hinton can use his length to generate power. He knows how to extend inside the torso and knock linemen off-balance. His power generated through extension gives him some upside on bull rushes, as does his steady leg drive.

Going further with Hinton’s pass-rushing ability, he flashes fast, forceful hands in glimpses. His lateral mobility factors in here as well, even if it hasn’t been maximized yet. Hinton’s above-average balance compounds this energy; he can lower his pad level and stay on his feet, a trait that’s undoubtedly important in close quarters.

Among other things, Hinton can disengage and wrap up ball carriers in a timely manner in run defense. He also has the awareness to identify and get in front of screen passes. Furthermore, the Michigan DT boasts solid versatility on the interior line. He can play anywhere from 0-technique to 3-technique. His strong base enables him to take on a host of different attack angles.

Areas for improvement

Hinton has some merit as an NFL Draft prospect, but he’s far from a perfect prospect by virtue of both athletic limitations and undeveloped areas. The Michigan DT is somewhat lumbering with his lower body, and he’s not exceptionally light on his feet. Additionally, he doesn’t quite have elite length, and he can sacrifice his balance by lurching to try and compensate. His middling length also may limit the amount of momentum his hands can carry. He lacks elite explosiveness, and his first-step is average at best.

In run defense, Hinton sometimes struggles to reach the point of attack first. He both lacks the burst, and comes up with his pad level too high at times. Once he loses at the contact point, he can be fairly easy to move off-base. Moreover, he isn’t consistent at generating displacement in run defense. The Michigan product can stand his ground with his strong base, but he doesn’t often create negative plays for the defense. He’s hardly disruptive, and he didn’t progress much in 2021.

As a pass rusher, Hinton is similarly unspectacular. Although he has the necessary capacity, his hands aren’t consistently fast or violent. His hand placement is also streaky. The Michigan DT doesn’t sustain rushes particularly well and can add more counters to his arsenal. Furthermore, he can be easily flushed out of plays against bootlegs and misdirections. His lacking explosiveness severely limits his upside.

Hinton’s NFL Draft scouting report overview

Hinton’s recruiting pedigree and NFL bloodline will generate some excitement. And on tape, there are occasional flashes, especially in run defense. He has a strong base and an NFL frame, and he can be a decent rotational lineman on early downs.

Having said all this, there are some concerns regarding Hinton’s upside. His explosive capacity remained a question heading into 2021, and more often than not, he failed to get off the line with requisite quickness. He’s not an overwhelming elite athlete, and he doesn’t have exceptional length or power, either.

Stylistically, Hinton is more of a space-eating lineman than a penetrator at this point — but he’s also a bit too small to play nose. If he can further tap into his athletic upside, perhaps he can expand beyond that designation. There’s also the possibility that Hinton could add weight to his frame and move into a full-time nose role.

Nevertheless, Hinton currently fills a mold that’s slowly becoming outdated in the modern NFL. And in a defensive tackle class that’s steadily appearing stronger, he could be flushed down the board. As of now, he looks like a late Day 3 pick at best. His run defense could earn fans, but he doesn’t offer great upside beyond that.

Chris Hinton’s Player Profile

The elder Hinton, Christopher Jerrod Hinton, played offensive lineman for Northwestern University in the 1980s. He was drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the fourth overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft and played with there for seven seasons before moving on to the Atlanta Falcons. Over the course of his career, he earned Pro Bowl honors seven times and All-Pro honors once before retiring with the Minnesota Vikings.

Beyond his control, this is the career that will hover over Chris Hinton’s head. His father was a successful NFL player, and now, the younger Chris Hinton faces the same expectations. Time will tell if he can realize his potential, but his potential alone has always been apparent. He was a five-star recruit on 247 Sports’ 2019 recruiting board and a fringe four-star on ESPN.

Hinton drew offers from prestigious schools like Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, and LSU. Some, like Alabama and Clemson, had proven track records of development on the defensive line. But Hinton craved the Big Ten environment that his father experienced. Thus, he signed with the Michigan Wolverines.

Chris Hinton’s career at Michigan and NFL Draft ascension

True to his five-star reputation, Hinton was able to avoid the redshirt designation as a true freshman. He wasn’t given a starting role on Day 1, but he did factor into the rotation on the defensive line. The Michigan DT played in 12 games in 2019, starting one, amassing 10 total tackles and a half-tackle for loss over that span.

In 2020, COVID reduced the Michigan football team’s slate of games to six, but Hinton was still able to carve out a larger role. Of the Wolverines’ six contests, Hinton started four, putting up 13 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 2 pass deflections. And through it all, he was able to earn Academic All-Big Ten honors.

2021 wasn’t the ascendant year Hinton wanted it to be. The Michigan DT at least maintained a steady presence as a run defender, amassing 32 tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack, 2 deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. But he left evaluators wanting more. If he can show it at the NFL Combine, perhaps he could earn an opportunity as a rotational defensive lineman with some versatility.

Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Chris Hinton

Positives: Slightly undersized but explosive one-gap tackle who projects to the three-technique spot. Explosive, plays with outstanding leverage as well as proper pad level, and fires off the snap with a great first step. Quick in all his actions, immediately gets his hands up, and possesses a closing burst to the play.

Quickly changes direction, moves well laterally, and gets down the line in pursuit of the action. Displays a variety of moves to get off blocks, moves fluidly when asked to twist or stunt, and gets penetration behind the line of scrimmage.

Negatives: Lacks bulk and gets handled in one-on-one blocking situations. Underwhelming production the past three seasons.

Analysis: Hinton is an explosive one-gap defender who showed consistent improvement in his game and comes with an upside. He still has a ways to go, but if Hinton improves his playing strength, he could eventually start in a four-man line on Sundays.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @IC_Draft.

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