Michigan Pro Day is set to begin Friday morning at 9 a.m. ET, and all eyes will be on star edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson.
We’re almost exactly six weeks away from the start of the NFL Draft and as it stands, Hutchinson is the second-highest graded prospect according to the TDN scouting team. That’s largely because of his long list of strengths across the board. He has good fundamentals and technique, he’s strong and he’s able to use that strength and his length to his advantage to win in pass-rush scenarios. But could the second-ranked prospect be taken with the first overall pick?
The Michigan star followed up his very impressive final season with a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine to start this month. He measured in with arms a bit shorter than fellow top edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and his 40-yard dash time was a bit slower as well, but he dominated drills that test for explosiveness. Plus, Hutchinson had among the lowest 10-yard splits of all defensive ends who ran the 40 at the Combine and he was top 10 in the vertical leap.
What really popped, though, were his times in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle run. His 6.73-second time in the three-cone was not only the fastest of all defensive ends but was also the sixth-best time of all athletes invited. His 4.15-second shuttle run made him the quickest defensive end at the Combine and tied him for fourth quickest of all players who participated. To add a little more context, only two receivers had better times in each drill.
Looking ahead to Hutchinson’s pro day participation on Friday, there are a few things I’m hoping to see from him.
First, I’d love to see him replicate the success he had in the agility drills at the Combine. Since Pro Day times tend to be faster anyway, I expect his performance to at least be similar; somewhere around (or even below) 6.7 seconds in the three-cone again would be phenomenal for someone of Hutchinson’s size. It would be even better if he backed it up with another sub-4.2 time in the 20-yard shuttle. A faster 40-yard dash time with a similar 10-yard split would be the icing on the cake.
Second, since he didn’t participate in the bench press at the Combine, it will be interesting to see how his strength measures up to his fellow defensive ends, particularly Thibodeaux. The Oregon edge rusher pumped out 27 reps with ease at the Combine. Hutchinson has shown all year that he’s a strong dude who can use his strength to control the point of attack, so 25 reps on the bench press shouldn’t be too tall an ask and would be a win for him.
Third, it would be nice to see Hutchinson look a little looser in positional drills. During the Combine, the Michigan star looked a bit tight in the hips, particularly in the hoops drill. For a lot of the drill, it looked like he was standing straight up. If he gets the chance to show off better bend, it would provide an extra bump to his already high draft stock. Pass rushers like Hutchinson need to get low to avoid getting blown up by blockers, so hopefully he’s worked on his hip flexibility a bit more since the Combine.
Unless something catastrophic happens at Michigan Pro Day, how Hutchinson performs in Ann Arbor on Friday is not likely to affect his draft stock all that much. By the end of the Combine, expectations were that he’d probably stay in state, going to the Lions with the second pick since at the time, the Jaguars were thought to likely be taking an offensive tackle first overall. However, the Jags placed their franchise tag on offensive tackle Cam Robinson since then and could be considering other options, after all.
Now, per BetOnline, it’s actually Hutchinson as the odds-on favorite to be the first player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. He can’t raise his draft stock much higher than that. As long as he is able to at least match the success he had in Combine drills on Friday, he could very well be staring down the absolute ceiling come draft day.