Michigan football defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is projected to be a top-three pick in this spring’s 2022 NFL Draft, after finishing as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy while leading the Wolverines to the Big Ten title and a College Football Playoff berth.
Top possibilities for Hutchinson include Jacksonville at No. 1, Detroit at No. 2 and Houston at No. 3. Speaking with Sports 610 Radio in Houston while at the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award ceremony this week, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh discussed an NFL comparison for Hutchinson.
“Relentless. He’s a relentless player,” Harbaugh said. “He does not take a play off. It’s every single play — he’s all-out. And then I watch him in practice — he’s the same way, every single day.
“It’s kind of interesting, our strength coach, Ben Herbert, was the strength coach at Wisconsin. He’s been asked that question, and I’ve asked him, ‘who would you compare him to?’ He said he would compare him to the Watt brothers. J.J. Watt is who he compared him to, in his mind, somebody that was with him as both a strength coach at Michigan and Wisconsin.”
Watt, of course, is a five-time All-Pro selection and a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The comparison was apt for Harbaugh’s conversation, given that Watt spent most of his career with the Houston Texans, before moving on to Arizona. His brother, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, is the NFL’s sack leader this season and the favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Harbaugh continued to rave about Hutchinson, who registered 62 tackles, 16.5 stops for loss and 14 sacks during the 2021 season, while adding 74 pressures on the quarterback.
“There’s the relentless play, the high motor that everybody can relate to,” Harbaugh said. “He’s all-out, all the time. But the talent is there, the production is there. You have to look at that he set the single-season record in sacks. I think he had the most pressures in the country when you talk about getting to the quarterback. He can physically stop the run and play the edge, as well. He’s a tremendous talent.”
The character is there, as well, Harbaugh noted, which is important for NFL teams looking to invest a lot of capital into a player. Hutchinson was a two-time team captain at Michigan and was credited for helping lead the team in the right direction this past year.
“The intangibles are off the chart, as well,” he explained. “In terms of leadership, in terms of bringing other guys along, the work ethic, the intelligence.
“And then you’re talking about a 6-6, 268 pounds, runs extremely well — freakish in his balance and his athleticism.
“There’s nothing not to love about Aidan Hutchinson. I made the statement already — I’m already on record — I think he’ll be the No. 1 pick in the draft. If he’s sitting there at No. 3, my gosh, that would be a heck of a thing for your hometown team.
“I think everybody is going to see it, the way he can affect a game, what kind of teammate he is. Everybody talks about what kind of guy a guy is in the locker room — he’s a team guy all the way, really smart. He’s got everything going for him, so he’s worthy of the No. 1 pick.”