2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report


Aidan Hutchinson Scouting Report

July 12, 2021 1:00 PM EST


Aidan Hutchinson Scouting Report picture

School: Michigan

Height: 6'6"

Weight: 270

Eligibility: SR

Uniform: #97

Position: DL


Evaluated by: Austin Smith
Smith.Austinj14@gmail.com
Twitter: NFLDraftAustin
July 12, 2021

Prospect Overview


2018: 7 G, 12 tackles, 1 TFL
2019: 13 G, 69 tackles, 10 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 6 PD, 3 FF
2020: 2 G, 13 tackles, 1 PD

A four-star recruit, Hutchinson was the top player coming out of the state of Michigan in the 2018 class. His father was a defender for the Wolverines and currently ranks in the top 15 all-time in tackles for loss.


Aidan Hutchinson Scouting Report image 1

Hutchinson was able to earn playtime right away during his freshman campaign and was named the team Rookie of the Year Award on the defensive side of the ball. Still, it would be his sophomore year where the six-foot, six-inch defensive end would break out. His 69 tackles were fourth on the team and tops among defensive linemen, while his six deflected passes ranked second and his ten tackles for loss ranked third. Those numbers helped him earn All-Big Ten honors by the coaches and media. Additionally, Hutchinson has garnered a spot on the Academic All-Big Team each of the last two seasons.

Hutchinson was named a captain as a junior but saw his season cut short when he suffered a fracture to his leg that required surgery. Still, he was as active as ever against the run, securing 13 tackles in the first two contests, the third-best total of any Wolverine in that span.

While his numbers against the run have been impressive, Hutchinson is still looking to break out as a pass rusher. That is something many will scouts will look to see from him in his fourth year. If he can put up a career-high number in sacks while continuing to be the menace he's been against the run, it's going to vault him up even higher on a lot of boards.

Aidan Hutchinson Scouting Report image 2

Positives

It doesn't take long to realize that Hutchinson's listed size (6'6", 270 lbs) translates on the field. He is a powerful player who can press his opponents, allowing him to keep their hands off his frame.

Another reason is a combination of factors. First of all, Hutchinson is going to put up an impressive number in his 40-yard dash during the pre-draft process. It's evident on tape when he gets into his pursuit, and it doesn't shock me that he was an All-State lacrosse player in high school. This guy runs well for his size, and I'm not sure adding some bulk to his frame will have much of an effect in that regard. Even so, the guy has a motor that rarely runs cold.

He doesn't cut off his pursuit when he knows the play is outside of his range or likely to end before he gets there. Hutchinson puts himself in a position to get involved, and once he gets near the ball, he fights to get in on the stop. This is something he's been lauded on since high school, well before he had the kind of size he has now. So much is made of the speed at the NFL level, and this is part of the reason why. There are always 11 players running to the football in pursuit.

Perhaps his most underrated quality and one that doesn't show up to average fans are the instincts and awareness Hutchinson plays with on the field. He just has a natural feel for the game. He understands his opponent's positioning in an attempt to block him and pairs that with his responsibility to put himself in the right spot. I've yet to see a screen on his half of the field fool him. Players release on him, and he instantly adjusts his approach and has gotten a hand on several balls that way while also tracking down receivers for the stop, including an impressive stop on Jerry Jeudy.

When the play flows away from him, he instantly gets his eyes on the quarterback or a possible reverse option before getting into pursuit. When his man pulls, he plays with the same discipline before turning on the gas. It just seems like he gains a quick understanding of what the offense is trying to accomplish very early in the snap, and it's impressive.

I'll add that his hand placement is well on the way to being a strength and already is in the run game. He gets his punch on the right shoulder or in the chest according to his gap responsibility to gain proper leverage. It seemed as if he had much more two-gap responsibility as a sophomore before being more of an edge player as a junior. It's crucial to use good hand placement in either regard, and this will help him have the kind of position flexibility that will put him on every team's radar, regardless of scheme.

Areas for Improvement

While I mentioned his hand placement above, I think his hands are far less deliberate against the pass. There are examples of him using proper hand techniques to gain an edge or leverage in his bull rush, but it's far less often. I'd like to see that improve, especially if he is going to rush off the edge because his athleticism will rarely be good enough to blow his opponent away. Yes, I think he is an impressive athlete for his size, but he's never going to be the kind of edge rusher that teammates Kwity Paye or Josh Uche were coming off the edge.

On the interior, Michigan does a lot of stunts with him where he loops around the outside, and he shows good timing and angles in this regard. Still, I wish they'd let him fire off and get after the quarterback from the interior more often because there have been a few impressive reps where he's shown that he can get penetration or a push in that scenario.

Speaking of tandem rush packages. Hutchinson is very good at executing his responsibility here. There are times he is meant to drive the tackles outside shoulder to help open up the inside for a blitzer. He is terrific in that regard because of his strength and burst off the snap. As I said, he does an excellent job of looping around, and his understanding of the design helps him time it well to be waiting if/when the quarterback is flushed to that side.

Also, I mentioned his burst off the snap. For his two games in 2020, it was severely improved from the prior years. He popped straight up too often in those seasons and was more likely to catch the blocker rather than fire into him. He was also late off the snap too much. Still, in the limited tape last fall, he was firing off low consistently. If that is going to be the norm moving forward, we can cross this concern off the list.

I'm also going to throw in his leg drive. Too often, his legs go dead at the point of contact, whether it is taking on a block or making a tackle. I want to see his feet get active more often because that will only increase the amount of power he plays with. Part of this may be adding strength to his lower half. While he has good power, I think he could add some bulk to both his upper and lower frame.


Aidan Hutchinson Scouting Report image 3

Draft Stock

Every year there seems to be a defensive lineman or two with first-round potential that I feel are suited best to play an interior end position. Two years ago, I felt A.J. Epenesa fit that bill. Last year, Carlos Basham was that kind of player. However, both slipped into the latter point of the second round because not every team has a role for a player like that, and not all those teams need or value that kind of player in the first round.

Hutchinson has that kind of skillset, and I believe he has first-round talent in that role, whereas his value drops a bit as a true edge rusher. In his sophomore year, he played in this kind of role most of the time before lining up more as an edge player in his two games of 2020. It will be interesting to see how he chooses to attack the pre-draft process. Will he bulk up with the understanding that he'll need to weigh around 285 to be a five-tech in the NFL, or will he slim down to prove he can be an edge player? This is going to be a big decision for his draft value.

Still, he's going to be highly coveted in the top 100 regardless. Hutchinson is just too big and talented to get out of day one or two. He's got a great approach to the game, with tons of energy and passion, and the awareness he plays with is an indicator that this guy spends plenty of time in the film room.

Hutchinson was named a captain last year and will be returning in that role in 2021. He did suffer an injury last fall, but it was a bone fracture which typically doesn't affect a player's draft stock. As I said earlier, perhaps the biggest factor in him cementing himself in the first-round conversation is added production in the passing game. He's terrific against the run, and if he can show similar success getting after the quarterback, he will be one of the first defensive linemen drafted next April.


Aidan Hutchinson Scouting Report image 4

Player Comparison

I have to say, Hutchinson reminds me quite a bit of J.J. Watt at Wisconsin. Obviously, Watt has become one of this generation's most dominant defensive linemen, but I'm just talking about the player he was in his final year at Wisconsin. Going into that year, Watt was a similar player as someone who played both as an interior end and on the edge. He was much more active against the run and had a frame with room to bulk up. In his final year, he collected seven sacks and led the Badgers in quarterback pressures in addition to collecting 21 tackles for loss. He paired exceptional power with surprising athleticism for his size.

I'm not saying that Hutchinson will have the kind of professional career that Watt has, but he comes in a similar package, and I think he is going to have the kind of breakout campaign that Watt did in 2010. Watt also showed a terrific feel for the game while at Wisconsin. The size, athleticism, and motor are all there and fit best in that five-tech position that Watt played for so many years in Houston. Still, I'm comparing him more to what Watt was at Wisconsin.

Games Evaluated

  • at Wisconsin (9-21-19)
  • vs Iowa (10-5-19)
  • vs Notre Dame (10-26-19)
  • vs Ohio State (11-30-19)
  • vs Alabama (1-1-20)
  • at Minnesota (10-24-20)
  • vs Michigan State (10-31-20)

Notes from Film

  • Terrific size, length and bulk to be a versatile player along the defensive line. There aren't going to be many schemes his build can't fit, but an interior-shaded end position is likely his best fit whether it's in a hybrid or odd-man front. No doubt he's north of six-feet, five inches, and while he is listed around 270 pounds, I wouldn't be shocked if he built up north of 285.
  • He only played two games in 2020 so most of my film is coming from his sophomore campaign. Early in that year, I'm noticing he's popping straight up and trying to catch the blocker rather than firing off. However, a couple of short yardage situations against Wisconsin stand out about what he is capable of when he fires off low. Good penetration and puts himself in position to be part of the stop. I'd like to see him fire off low more often though.
  • Really interesting rep where he lined up over the center then dropped into zone coverage against Wisconsin. He read the quarterbacks eyes and broke on the throw and was part of the tackle. That's an impressive rep from a player his size. Not saying it's something he should do more often, but it's a sign of tremendous athleticism for his size. Another good example of his athleticism is his tackle on a screen to the perimeter early in the second quarter of the same game. He's at it again, reads screen quickly and chases the running back down. Throw in a rep where he chases down the jet sweep before the receiver scores and it's safe to say he's going to impress with his pre-draft workouts. I should add, he was able to track down Jerry Jeudy on a perimeter screen. That is not an easy guy to get ahold of.
  • His power is noticeable in his press. He gets his hands on blockers, presses them to get extension and he separates quickly to get involved in the play. Early on, he's really giving tight ends all they can handle and I'll be interested to see if this becomes more common against tackles as I keep watching.
  • There is a reason he chases down plays other than just his athleticism. His motor doesn't quit very often. That's especially true when the play stays in the box. His effort keeps him in plays and he doesn't motor down until he knows he's out of the play or the whistle blows. On top of that, he really fights to get to the ball. Not just fighting to get off the block but through traffic.
  • On first tape, he mainly lined up as a five or six tech, then as a nose on obvious passing downs. First snap of Iowa tape he lines up as a three and gets a TFL with a forced fumble. Drove the center into the backfield before separating and putting a shot on the ball. Good strength and balance on this play.
  • His awareness really shows up when the ball is around him. He has a terrific feel for the game and understands the flow of play. We often see him fight across the grain when the play is inside of him. He's been on top of screens no matter where he has lined up, and nearly picked one off. Batted one down against Notre Dame too. Tackle ran by him and he didn't take another step up the field. Got his eyes on the quarterback and timed his jump to break up the throw.
  • He doesn't often line up on the edge and rush like true defensive end. However, when he does, he's not out of place. He's got active hands and that paired with his long arms make him tough to lock on to. With a player that has his kind of strength, that's not a recipe for keeping him out of the backfield. The one area he needs to improve coming off the edge is his ability to turn the corner. He gets low and leans into the blocker but he's got to continue to accelerate. His feet seem to go dead and that's an issue I've seen in a few scenarios.
  • The more I watch him, the more I see how good he is as part of a tandem rush. They use him on a lot of stunts where he loops from the nose around multiple players that slant hard down. He also does a good job setting up a gap for a blitzer.
  • One area I am noticing he must improve is off the snap. Not only does he pop up too often as I mentioned earlier, but he also gets a late start from time to time. I'd like to see him get better in that area.
  • Thus far, Hutchinson has given most of his opponents fits with his size, length and power. However, Notre Dame gave him some issues trying to get off blocks. This isn't a surprise as I circled this game because the Fighting Irish are always so well-coached with their technique. Still, Hutchinson was still able to have some reps where he still pressed the blocker, separated and made the play. Had some issues with it against Alabama too.
  • I'm seeing him fire off the ball much better in the Minnesota tape which was the first of his two games last fall. He's routinely firing into his opponents and recreating the line of scrimmage which was rarely the case in 2019. He's also got a bit more burst to his game.
  • There really is more room on his frame to add more bulk, both in his upper and lower half. Not sure if Michigan wanted him to play closer to 260 in order to give them more off the edge but if a team wants him as a 5-tech in an odd-man front or hybrid scheme, the room is there to play north of 285 and the power will only get better. He especially needs to get stronger in his lower half. Double teams often get movement on him, and I think his ability to struggle turning the corner would help if his leg drive had more power as he tries to accelerate around the corner.
  • His hands are always active but have far more purpose against the run. His placement is better and he sets up his disengagement with a punch followed by a swat, rip or swim. Even on the 2020 tape, we still aren't seeing that same level of technique on passing downs.
  • He's playing a lot more as a natural defensive end in 2020, whereas Michigan lined up in odd-man fronts much more often in 2019. Could be why he is still playing in the 260's.


Scouting Video Courtesy of Michigan Mixtapes




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