Michigan hasn’t had a player in the Heisman discussion since 2016, when Jabrill Peppers finished 5th in the voting — and 3 of the finalists are now high-profile NFL quarterbacks. Peppers, a do-all defensive back, was expected to be a Heisman candidate when he arrived to Ann Arbor.

Aidan Hutchinson? Well, he probably wasn’t expected to do that. Everyone knew he would be a good-to-great player at Michigan, but nobody was throwing the Heisman tag on the 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end, who’ll likely be a top-5 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

He should at least get a mention. Some sort of nod. He’s definitely on the short list for the Bednarik, awarded to the best overall defensive player. But he should get some sort of play when people talk about the best overall player in the country.

He’s a team captain. He’s on pace to tie or break Michigan’s single-season sack record (12). He’s a surefire All-American. He is, without a doubt, the type of player that coaches love to have on their rosters. Hutchinson is the Wolverines’ best defensive player of the Jim Harbaugh era, and that’s saying a lot.

Players such as Rashan Gary, Chris Wormley, Devin Bush, Jourdan Lewis and Mo Hurst were all stars in their own right.

But Hutchinson seems to be on a different level.

This past weekend, a college football analyst mentioned that Georgia — which has the No. 1-ranked defense in the land — could end up putting a defensive player into the Heisman conversation. He said something along the lines of “you could pick at random.”

The Bulldogs have a dominant defense.

Defensive players aren’t normally considered for the Heisman. But if said defensive player is among the best overall in the country, he needs to be mentioned.

In 2012, Notre Dame LB Manti T’eo finished 2nd behind Texas A&M’s Johnny Football (Johnny Manziel). T’eo was only the third primarily defensive player to finish in the top 3 in Heisman voting since 1980: In 1997, Michigan CB Charles Woodson won it all (the only primarily defensive player to do so); in 1980, Hugh Green, a defensive lineman for Pittsburgh, finished 2nd.

If you’re not a QB, RB or WR, you’re probably not going to get a serious look.

That’s unfortunate, because Hutchinson — and past dominant defenders like him — should absolutely be in the discussion.

There are still some that feel Iowa DL Alex Karras was the best in all of college football, regardless of position. In 1957, he finished 2nd, behind Texas A&M RB John David Crow.

Will people look back, years from now, and reconsider? “Hey, that Hutchinson kid was definitely among the best players in 2021, if not the best … maybe he should have at least been mentioned.”

College football shows us great players every year. Truthfully, it’s difficult to choose just one as the best of the best — most seasons, anyway. Some years, there are clear-cut favorites and no-brainer picks. This year, though, is different. The consensus Heisman favorites don’t truly represent the best in college football.

The Heisman committee needs to take a broader look.

This year, the top 5 candidates are offensive players. Caleb Williams, who took over for Spencer Rattler at Oklahoma, is on that list. He’s had a great season so far, but the Heisman committee seemingly just replaced one Sooners QB with another. Some of the logic behind “favorites” defies common sense.

Mix it up a little. If a defensive player is among the top players in the country, throw his name in the conversation.

Hutchinson deserves at least a whisper. He’s one of the most dominant college DEs over the past handful of seasons. He’s Michigan’s best defensive player of the Harbaugh era.

And he’ll be playing on Sundays for a long time, which is more than can be said for a good portion of Heisman finalists.

Back in mid-October, PFF analyst Anthony Treash declared Hutchinson as the best in the nation. Right now, PFF grades Hutchinson as the best pass-rusher in college.

“The term ‘unblockable’ is often thrown around loosely, but it certainly applies with Hutchinson,” Treash said in October. “He is the only player in the country who has earned a spot on PFF’s Team of the Week three times this season and already has multiple elite performances on his grading profile.”

If Hutchinson doesn’t fit what the Heisman is supposed to embody, no one does.