The Wolverine

February 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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FEBRUARY 2022 THE WOLVERINE 9 BY ANTHONY BROOME I t was never in doubt given the way the season played out, but fourth-year junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson said his farewell to the U-M football program Jan. 5. He thanked his team- mates, family and the com- munity for his time in Ann Arbor before turning his fo- cus to the 2022 NFL Draft. "I spent years visualizing the actual moments that unfolded in my final season at Michigan," Hutchinson posted on social media. "No- vember 27, 2021 was 10 years in the making and could not have been a more unfor- gettable night with my brothers. They proved with me time and time again this season that nothing is impossible and 2 percent is still 2 percent. I will relive all those glorious moments for the rest of my life and forever be grateful to my team for joining me in giving everything we had. "My Michigan legacy is complete," he continued. "And it was truly the best time of my life. Onward and upward to the 2022 NFL Draft. Thank you for ev- erything, Wolverine Nation and beyond. Breathe in God and forever Go Blue!" Hutchinson's program-record 14 sacks and level of play from start to finish cata- pulted him up draft boards. Most mocks have had him safely inside the top two picks for several weeks. The teams that occupy those slots are now official. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions entered their regular-season fi- nales with the No. 1 and 2 picks, respec- tively. The Houston Texans, New York Jets and New York Giants round out the top five, in that order. Opinions on where Hutchinson lands have mainly revolved around the Jaguars and Lions. "The Jaguars should think about [the] offensive line especially if left tackle Cam Robinson doesn't return as a free agent, but with wholesale changes looming, it's hard to pass on a cornerstone defensive disruptor," Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer wrote after slotting Hutchinson at No. 1 to Jacksonville. "[He] plays with great energy and power, and is still developing his strong pass-rush moves. He's ideal for a 4-3 end, so his availability might push Jacksonville toward that kind of scheme with a new coach." ESPN's Todd McShay went a different direction in his Jan. 10 mock draft, sending Ala- bama offensive tackle Evan Neal to the Jaguars, while Hutchinson went second to the Lions. "Even with some late-sea- son victories, the Lions still land the player they would've selected at No. 1," McShay said. "Hutchinson would come to Detroit and instantly become the star of their defense, his attitude matching that of his head coach Dan Campbell." The perpetually rebuilding Lions need a franchise quar- terback in a draft that may not feature one. That kicks the door wide open for the Wolverine star to play 45 minutes away from where he spent his college years. "Detroit is loaded with draft capital and there is no need to force a quarter- back if there isn't one they fully believe in," The Draft Network's Joe Marino said. "With that in mind, Detroit's philosophy should simply be to add good football players and not be married to needs, es- pecially this high in the draft. "Aidan Hutchinson is the perfect mar- riage of a blue-chip prospect at a pre- mium position of need. The Michigan roots are the icing on the cake for a guy with the potential to be a game-wrecker in the NFL." Hutchinson and his fellow Michigan draft hopefuls have begun work on the pre-draft process. The 2022 NFL Draft is set for April 28-30 at Las Vegas. ❑ Inside Michigan ATHLETICS The NFL Draft Order Is Set At The Top Of The Board, Where Aidan Hutchinson Is Projected To Go Hutchinson set a program record with 14 sacks in 2021 and is predicted to be a top-two pick in the 2022 NFL Draft as of mid-January. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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