It’s time to start talking about Aidan Hutchinson at No. 1 overall

·3 min read

Ever since he set foot on the college football field, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux has been the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

As the 2021 college football season winds down, he might just have a worthy challenger in Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson.

While Thibodeaux has been as advertised throughout his collegiate career, despite playing through injuries this season, Hutchinson has made the most of his decision to return to Ann Arbor for another season. The Wolverines’ star defender was likely destined for Day 2 of the 2021 draft, but his dominant senior campaign has launched him from the 2nd/3rd-round range into being a top-five lock.

Hutchinson has dominated just about every offensive tackle that has dared line up across from him this season, saving perhaps his most impressive performance for the biggest stage of the year so far. In Saturday’s 42-27 win over Ohio State (Michigan’s first victory over their most bitter rival in eight years), Hutchinson bagged three sacks, setting a new single-season school record with 13 sacks in 2021.

He’s still got at least two more games to go, so that record number is likely to go even higher before Hutchinson makes the jump to the pros.

Speaking of the NFL ranks, it won’t be surprising if whoever ends up with the No. 1 overall pick (sure looks like it’ll be the still-winless Detroit Lions) still opts for Thibodeaux, thanks to his rare blend of size, athleticism and explosiveness. But it’s also possible that the Lions who whoever else will look at Hutchinson and see the kind of complete defender with polished technique and a nonstop motor who is also worthy of the top spot.

With no quarterback worthy of this year’s No. 1 overall pick, the focus will surely be on the next level of premium positions. Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal might get some consideration, and with good reason. LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. might even get some votes, despite missing most of this season due to injury. Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton is a top-five talent, but nobody is spending the first pick on a safety.

That leaves a potential two-horse race between a pair of elite prospects at the same position. It’s a fantastic decision to get to make, choosing between two dominant edge defenders who can take over a game all on their own.

After what we’ve seen from Hutchinson so far this season, if the team that owns that selection decides he’s the best player in this draft, it will be anything but a shock.

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