Going into last season, Aidan Hutchinson was barely projected as a first round pick. Now, he sits atop nearly every mock draft following a strong performance last season. The 6’6, 265 pound defensive end notched 14 sacks on the way to Michigan’s first Big Ten Championship since 2004. As a result, Hutchinson is now being considered in the company of Chase Young, Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett and Von Miller, who are among recent defensive ends that have been drafted in the top 5 picks in the last 10 years. Hutchinson is a good player, but upon review of his game tape, I am not sure he is quite ready to produce at the elite level that a #1 overall pick is expected.
Hutchinson does have good traits. He is extremely strong and has a quick burst off the line of scrimmage. If his initial strike is on the offensive tackle’s inside shoulder, Hutchinson will beat the tackle with brute force. His best pass rush technique is the straight bull rush, which he can win with consistency. Hutchinson can manhandle offensive linemen if he can square his shoulders and get inside their pads. Hutchinson is also a solid run defender.
However, bull rushing is not going to work in the NFL on a regular basis. Pass rushers need speed and finesse to get to the QB at the next level, as offensive tackles are bigger and stronger and can more easily defend a bull rush. Hutchinson is an opportunistic pass rusher; he will disrupt the play if the offensive line makes a mistake. However, he cannot regularly create pressure, as his feet are too slow. His jab step takes too long to develop, and by the time he can start to beat the OT, the ball is already out of the QB’s hand. Previous top draft picks at DE constantly wreaked havoc on opposing offenses throughout the game from all angles, while Hutchinson frequently goes invisible on tape. This is because he can be taken on 1-on-1 by offensive linemen and even tight ends in pass sets. He is a streaky pass rusher that can be quickly shut down.
Hutchinson is also not a scheme fit for a 3-4 defense. When dropping into pass coverage, he does not look comfortable and does not excel in open field tackling. He also is not as effective in a 2-point stance. He is considerably slower when firing out of this stance and leaves his pad level too high. He also does not have the speed to line up in a wide-9/ghost 6 technique. His aiming point is too deep in the pocket and he cannot use raw speed to get past the tackle to meet the QB at the peak of his drop. Hutchinson is best suited as a 5-technique DE because he will be lined up directly on the OT’s outside shoulder, allowing him to get his hands involved in the play and to use his power. A 4-3 scheme would be the best fit for Hutchinson.
Aidan Hutchinson is a talented player. Putting up 14 sacks in the Big Ten is not an easy thing to do. He has some good physical traits. He can produce if put in the right system in the NFL. However, I can’t see him ever tallying more than 10 sacks in a single season. He does not have the variety of rush skills that elite DEs possess. Ten sacks is still a serviceable player worthy of a regular spot in the lineup, but not what the ceiling should be for a #1 overall pick. Hutchinson has been propelled by media hype, but his actual value is in the lower half of the first round, if not the second round.