The Wolverine

June-July 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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JUNE/JULY 2021 THE WOLVERINE 9 BY AUSTIN FOX T he 2021 NFL Draft wrapped up May 1, and prognosticators wasted no time in putting out mock drafts for 2022 as soon as this year's event ended. Projections from several of the big- gest media outlets in sports were re- leased in early May, with one Michi- gan football player in particular consistently appearing as a future first-round pick — junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. It's easy to see why draft experts are so high on the Dearborn, Mich., native, when considering he has ad- equate size (6-6, 269 pounds) and plenty of collegiate production al- ready under his belt (98 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks). A leg injury in the Nov. 7 loss at Indiana this past year caused him to miss the rest of the campaign, but he is expected to be fully recovered by the time the 2021 season kicks off. Out of the notable 2022 projections released in the days following the conclusion of this year's draft, Char- lie Campbell of was by far the highest on Hutchin- son. He pegged him to land with the Philadelphia Eagles as the No. 2 overall pick. "Hutchinson has excellent size for the next level in that he could be a base end in a 4-3 or a 3-4 five- technique defensive end," Campbell explained. "Improving his pass-rush production would help Hutchinson, but he is a phenomenal run defender who flashes an ability to get to the quarterback." ESPN's Todd McShay also views Hutchinson as a top-10 pick, project- ing him to be selected by the New York Giants at No. 8 overall. "[Hutchinson] was creeping up my 2021 board before suffering a frac- tured leg in November and return- ing to school for another season," McShay wrote. O t h e r p ro g n o s t i c a t i o n s h a d Hutchinson coming off the board late in the first round, with Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports, for example, tabbing him to go No. 24 to the Cleveland Browns. "We were glad Hutchinson re- turned to school because we thought he needs to continue to improve his game before declaring for the draft," Wilson wrote. "He has the size and bulk for the part; now he just needs to play with more consistency." Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News and Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report each projected Hutchinson to get picked at No. 26, while Dane Brugler of had him going No. 28 to the Miami Dolphins. "Hutchinson was considered a bor- derline first-rounder last fall before a fractured leg ended his season and forced him to return to school," Bru- gler stated. "He is on pace to be fully healthy for the fall, and scouts will be interested if he shows the same pre- injury lower-body agility and upper- body power." Ian Cummings of Pro Football Net- work was the lowest on Hutchinson of the bunch, but nevertheless still had him sneaking into the first round as the No. 32 pick by the Kansas City Chiefs. What was perhaps a bit surpris- ing about the early 2022 projections was that no experts had any other Wolverines coming off the board in the first round. Sophomore safety Daxton Hill, in particular, is heavily expected to be a high pick next year if he chooses to come out, but he was absent from all the early mock drafts. Regardless, if Hutchinson (or any other Wolverine) does indeed wind up hearing their name called in the opening round of next year 's draft, it will mark the fourth consecutive year that Michigan has produced a first-round pick. Defensive end Kwity Paye went No. 21 overall to the Indianapolis Colts this year, center Cesar Ruiz was picked at No. 24 by the New Orleans Saints in 2020, and linebacker Devin Bush Jr. and defensive end Rashan Gary were chosen at No. 10 by the Pittsburgh Steelers and No. 12 by the Green Bay Packers, respectively, in 2019. There have only been four other streaks in school history (outside of the current one) where U-M has had at least one player taken in the first round in three consecutive drafts — from 1991-96, 1978-82, 1972-75 and 1941-45. ❑ Inside Michigan ATHLETICS Aidan Hutchinson Projected To Be A First-Round Pick In Early 2022 Mock Drafts Hutchinson, a junior defensive end, has posted 98 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks thus far in his U-M career. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN

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