Aidan Hutchinson's legacy, draft stock shouldn't take a hit after Georgia game
Going into the College Football Playoff, there was a ton of attention on potential No. 1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. The Heisman Trophy runner-up had been a game-wrecker all season.
But Hutchinson was a bit underwhelming in Michigan’s loss to Georgia. In fact, there are a couple of plays where he just looks … well, not like a Heisman finalist.
Aidan Hutchinson on skates. 🥴🥴🥴🥴 pic.twitter.com/Bde8Qkl5ji
— T (he/him/his) (@TravisPharma) January 1, 2022
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) January 1, 2022
Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken had a great game plan. The Bulldogs spread Michigan out by attacking the edges and trusting that their wide receivers could block in space. (They were up to the task). They had star tight end Brock Bowers chipping Hutchinson before running a route, and then Stetson Bennett got rid of the ball quickly. Hutchinson got the attention that someone like Chase Young or a Bosa brother would get. The Bulldogs did things to neutralize him, and it led to a performance not really befitting of a Heisman finalist who will likely be the No. 1 overall pick.
Hutchinson declared for the NFL Draft on Wednesday, making official what we already knew was coming. As he takes the next step, I don’t think the subpar showing against Georgia impacts his draft stock at all, nor do I think it tarnishes his legacy. That first point is certainly more debatable than the second, because there are obviously a lot of great players each and every year who are worthy of being taken in the top few picks.
But if you thought Hutchinson was the No. 1 pick before the Georgia game, I don’t think there was enough where he got exposed that he would fall out of that slot.
For starters, he actually didn’t have that bad of a game. Rather, he had a few bad plays that made the rounds on social media. Hutchinson finished the season with 14 sacks, but he didn’t tally that one big play that made everyone go, “Wow!” The margins are so small for defensive players who rely on an interception or sack in the box score to make it look like they made an impact.
But as you can see below, Hutchinson did what he did all year and made disruptive plays.
Hot take: Aidan Hutchinson played pretty well vs. UGA, he just wasn’t dominant bc they (smartly) gave him the Bosa treatment.
A lot of quick game to negate the pass rush. When the QB did drop back, there was a RB/TE chipping #97 constantly. Just a well-executed gameplan by UGA. pic.twitter.com/UMENB0wgqe
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 3, 2022
Aidan Hutchinson recognized this screen perfectly 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ABpERFd7QW
— Boom or Bust: The Draft Show (@BoomOrBustDraft) January 1, 2022
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) January 1, 2022
Hutchinson has been a well-rounded player all season, easily earning the highest PFF grade for an edge defender. While we already know Hutchinson is an elite pass rusher, he also had PFF’s second-highest grade for an edge defender against the run. He is the total package.
If a team is taking Hutchinson No. 1 overall, is he going to be expected to play against constant double teams right away? Of course not. This is the NFL, where he will conceivably be playing with other players capable of taking some of the attention away from him. He won’t be the center of every game plan like he was in college. And if he is getting double-teamed, that means he is playing really, really well. That’d be a good problem to have.
As far as his Michigan legacy is concerned, no one will remember this game 10 or 20 years from now. He was the heart and soul of Michigan’s first Big Ten champion in 17 years and first team to reach the College Football Playoff. His legacy is secure.
Hutchinson didn’t play against Georgia the way we were accustomed to seeing him play all season, but it would be a mistake to downgrade him after this performance. It didn’t help his stock, but 1 game doesn’t hurt it either, not when he made so many great plays this season.