2020 Season Countdown: #4 Aidan Hutchinson

2020 Season Countdown: #4 Aidan Hutchinson

October 19, 2020
Aidan Hutchinson (image via Detroit News)

Name: Aidan Hutchinson
269 lbs.
High school:
 Dearborn (MI) Divine Child
Defensive end
Jersey number: 
Last year: 
I ranked Hutchinson #3 and said he would be a starting defensive end with 50 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks (LINK). He made 68 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 6 pass breakups, and 4 quarterback hurries.
TTB Rating:

There’s been talk on the blog over the years about comparing Aidan Hutchinson to Rashan Gary, so here are the sophomore numbers for each:

Player A: 65 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 FF, 7 QB hurries
Player B: 68 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 2 FF, 6 PBU, 4 QB hurries

If you were paying attention up above, you know that Player B is Hutchinson in 2019, playing with Kwity Paye at the opposite end and nobody noteworthy at defensive tackle. Player A is, of course, Rashan Gary in 2017 with Chase Winovich on the other side, plus Maurice Hurst, Jr. at nose tackle and future first round pick Devin Bush, Jr. at middle linebacker.

This is not to say that Hutchinson is better than Gary or will even be a first round pick, but it does show that Hutchinson is producing just as well as Gary, despite lesser surrounding talent.

This season Hutchinson and Paye will be of utmost importance with Michigan’s cornerback situation. Lavert Hill’s graduation and Ambry Thomas’s opting out of the 2020 season have left the Wolverines scrambling to find consistency, which has necessitated moving rotational safety Sammy Faustin to corner for depth. Hutchinson is both a run-stopper and a solid pass rusher, and his knack for knocking down passes at 6’6″ (6 in 2019) is sometimes forgotten. Michigan needs to be great up front to make up for their inexperience on the back end.

Prediction: Starting strongside end


  1. Comments: 6285
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Oct 19, 2020 at 1:33 PM

    I think the comparison to Gary is a good one. A big dual-threat end who can do it all. Hutchinson is on a very similar track to being an excellent player and a high draft pick. Hopefully that won’t be disappointing to people.

    I definitely hope he stays healthy and has a monster season. Nice to see a legacy player become a standout too!

    • Comments: 79
      Joined: 10/3/2015
      Oct 20, 2020 at 10:12 AM

      Think it just depends on his junior year performance. Through 2 years I agree that they’re very comparable. I feel like the Gary “disappointment” is largely due to the junior year injuries / lack of productivity.

      Who was the last 5* player to come through Michigan and leave with the fanbase feeling like they fulfilled their potential? Maybe Ruiz (even though he was more of a high 4*)? Perhaps that says more about our expectations for 5* recruits than their performance at Michigan. Peppers certainly fulfilled his potential from an accolades and NFL draft standpoint, but hard not to feel like his college career was ‘incomplete’.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Oct 20, 2020 at 11:27 AM

        I think expectations are exactly the issue. A number 20 national recruit will NOT be an all amercian 90% of the time. A guy like Jabril Peppers – it’s almost impossible for him to exceed expectations, even when he becomes a heisman finalist and 1st round pick.

      • Comments: 6285
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Oct 20, 2020 at 12:02 PM

        I feel like Peppers exceeded reasonable expectations and pretty much hit his ceiling at Michigan, aside from the injuries. But yeah, losing that freshman year and then having him go down right before FSU sucked. He was still a joy to watch and maybe the best player on the best Michigan defense since ’97 at least. But some will cherry pick stats and say “only 1 interception?!”.

        3 years is all you can expect from elite talent. Michigan fans shouldn’t be surprised if this is the last year we get from Milton, Mayfield, Hayes, Hutchinson, Gray, Barrett, McGrone, etc. Injuries are just part of the game. No guarantees you’ll even get 3 years out of guy who has obvious NFL talent.

        • Comments: 3844
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Oct 20, 2020 at 1:29 PM

          I will still be surprised if any one-year contributor leaves other than maybe QB. It’s one thing to leave after three years if you have film and production over two to three years, but a guy like Barrett should be here still in 2021. There are only so many guys who can get drafted or contribute in the NFL. So we can look at Michigan and say “These guys are elite and should play in the NFL next year so they don’t get hurt,” but then you factor in all the OSU guys, the Clemson guys, the Alabama guys, the PSU guys, etc., and you realize that having another year of experience under your belt is a good thing.

          Milton should stay, too. The track record of QBs who leave after one year as a starter or after their redshirt sophomore year is not good. Quarterbacks need experience. Just look at Mitch Trubisky, Dwayne Haskins, etc. If I’m an NFL general manager, I’m not wasting a high pick on a guy who only starts for one year, ESPECIALLY if that one year is a season shortened by COVID to 9-ish games.

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Oct 20, 2020 at 2:22 PM

            I’m not expecting Milton to play good good enough to be an NFL pick but if he does there’s not a lot of reason to come back. Mayfield was going to be a 1st round pick supposedly based on one year of solid but not exceptional play at RT. He might have been a backup were it not for an injury in 2019. Rashan Gary played well throughout his college career at SDE but never put up big sack numbers and got drafted as a pass rusher anyway. The NFL is always drafting on potential.

            • Comments: 6285
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Oct 20, 2020 at 2:24 PM

              Shea Patterson should have gone pro after 2018. Even if he wasn’t drafted he would have gotten more of a look from the NFL.

              • Comments: 3844
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Oct 20, 2020 at 2:47 PM

                Maybe he should have, but he played plenty at Ole Miss in 2016 and 2017 to make that jump a lesser deal. Patterson attempted 392 passes prior to starting at Michigan for two years.

            • Comments: 3844
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Oct 20, 2020 at 2:39 PM

              There is reason to come back, and I just outlined it: Quarterbacks who only start in college for one year are failures.

              Mayfield declaring for the draft is basically an unprecedented situation. He declared when his second year as a starter was canceled . . . and then it became un-canceled. I think we can forget about that. Even if the virus is still around in 2021, I think we can assume that we will have enough of a handle on dealing with it from this 2020 season that a fall 2021 season can be managed. I don’t think we’ll see another situation next fall where the season is on the brink of cancellation and nobody knows WTF is going on. So someone like Milton is going to know with pretty good certainty that the 2021 season is happening. He wouldn’t be skipping the NFL draft in April only to be screwed over in July and told “Sorry, no college season this year!”

              • Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Oct 20, 2020 at 3:06 PM

                But Mayfield didn’t have to come back – as Thomas didn’t. They’re both juniors who spent one year starting.

                Mayfield is taking on a big risk. I’m happy about that as a Michigan fan but you also can understand a guy like Thomas or Collins saying “I have millions of dollars lined up that I don’t want to risk.”

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Oct 20, 2020 at 8:37 PM

                  I think you’re veering off the path. Nobody “has to” come back. They’re free to drop out of school, retire from football, and go work at a vape shop if they want.

                  This year is a weird year, so I’m not going to make any grand, sweeping statements based on people opting out of the 2020 season and still getting drafted in 2021 or whatever.

                  But in general, at least two years of starting or at least being a heavy contributor is preferable. If Mayfield wanted to solidify himself as a first round pick, he probably needed to play in 2020. There are some positions where athleticism takes over, which we’ve talked about (RB, WR, CB, etc.). There are some positions where experience and technique are very important (QB, OL, etc.).

                  The least experienced first round offensive lineman in 2020 was Isaiah Wilson, who redshirted as a freshman and then started 24 games in 2018 and 2019.

              • Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Oct 20, 2020 at 3:14 PM

                If Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray are failures I’d like to see more failures playing QB at Michigan.

                • Comments: 3844
                  Joined: 7/13/2015
                  Oct 20, 2020 at 8:28 PM

                  Dwayne Haskins has thrown 11 TD and 10 INT, got benched for Kyle Allen, and is probably going to start bouncing around the league.

          • Comments: 6285
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Oct 20, 2020 at 3:04 PM

            You’re brining up a few different and distinct issues. Age, experience, production can be different. And at the pro level are you seeking a high draft spot (stay longer to get drafted higher) or long-term success and career earnings. Because if you want to talk earnings you have to account for the year of income you threw away in college (except at LSU of course).

            NFL GMs take guys based on one good year all the time. Specific to QB. Kyler Murray and Gardner Minshew are a couple NFL guys who had one big year in college and moved on. Dwayne Haskins was a 1st round pick and has 14M dollars so hardly a cautionary tale despite his current struggles, and his career is far from over anyway. Trubinsky spent 4 years in college. Jake Rudock was a 5th year guy but not on any NFL radar until one solid year at Michigan. One good year is all it takes for a league starved for good QB prospects. You can’t do well there if you don’t get a shot (as Patterson and Speight can attest).

            Sometimes it’s doesn’t even take that. Josh Uche has 9 career starts on team that started a walk-on on their DL.

            IMO the game has evolved to a point where GMs and scouts look less and less at circumstantial production. As a player that means you cash in when you can. If college is just a means to an end you get what you can when you can get it. If you love college life maybe you consider making that financial sacrifice. Going through the NCAA charade longer than you need to isn’t necessarily the best prep for pro success. Countless examples of how it didn’t work out well (the Michigan basketball team alone). Jalen Mayfield is doing something risky to play this year if he really is a guy who could go in the top couple rounds.

            With that all said – I agree with the GM take. It’s hard to win in the NFL if your first and second rounders aren’t producing quickly. QB excepted probably, but I’m surprised Uche and Ruiz went as high as they did since they both seemed a year away from being quality NFL players to me. I assumed Uche might just be a 3rd down guy but even that seems not to be happening yet.

            • Comments: 79
              Joined: 10/3/2015
              Oct 20, 2020 at 3:48 PM

              I think the criteria for whether or not a decision was ‘correct’ depends on the goal of the player. Thunder – you seem to be applying your own opinions as a GM here, which isn’t all that relevant. Ultimately NFL GMs are not going to stop selecting the Trubisky and Haskins types in the first round. If someone like Milton can get drafted in the first couple of rounds and his goal is to maximize financial return while limiting risk, he should leave. Trubisky and Haskins ultimately made the right choice.

              I just think that’s where college football has evolved to over time – players are increasingly making decisions through a ‘business-like’ lens, and making the best personal financial decision.

              • Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Oct 20, 2020 at 4:37 PM

                With pro and college sports operating more and more like businesses it’s hard to not expect players to make decisions like business people.

                I think you are right in that you can’t assess success without knowing what the goal is.

                It does seem like for some people the goal is getting drafted highly. If that’s the case then sticking in college longer is generally going to help you – though in a case like Mayfield maybe not. Guys ranging from Jake Butt to Shea Patterson saw their stock fall significantly.

                If your goal is career earnings it gets much harder to judge. On one hand you need to prepared enough to be successful. Some guys only get one shot and then get waived. On the other hand if you are a good player you are giving up a year of earnings and cutting short your potential free agency years to stick around college. If an NFL team is willing to pay you to develop that is probably better than colleges who won’t. If you get a serious injury you better hope it’s in the NFL rather than in college.

              • Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Oct 20, 2020 at 4:58 PM

                It’s interesting to look at the example of Michigan basketball, where there is more freedom compared to football because you can leave after 1 year instead of 3.

                There are far more guys who made mistakes by coming back to college than those who made mistakes by going “early” when they could.

                Almost everyone who left before their eligibility was up (aside from Trey Burke) was criticized at the time but has turned out to have some level of success at the pro level. Even Darius Morris had a nice little career for himself for a guy who couldn’t shoot and got to fulfil his childhood dream of being a Laker. Meanwhile guys like McGary, Levert, and Robinson sacrificed a lot of money to come back to Michigan and see their draft stock fall. No Michigan fan is going to criticize them for coming back, but in hindsight we know they probably would have been better off moving on when they could. Furthermore, the guys who did seem to max out their production in college (Stauskas and Burke) and were generally viewed as justified in making the decision they made have been somewhat disappointing in the pros relative to their draft position. Perhaps their development was stagnated, even as they flourished, at the college level.*

                My point isn’t that you should leave college or shouldn’t it’s just that there’s not much evidence that it’s beneficial to stick around after the pros think you are worth cutting a check to. You don’t really need to hone your craft in college when there are better leagues elsewhere. It might even stagnate your growth to stick around.

                Is a kid going to get better faster by beating his classmates or losing to his big brother? I’d say the latter.

                *I will note that the Levert/Stauskas argument can be flipped around. Levert stayed 4 years and is having a much better NBA career while Stauskas left after two. But some of us saw back then that Caris was physically and skillwise the best NBA prospect to come through Michigan since the 90s.

              • Comments: 3844
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Oct 21, 2020 at 10:52 AM

                Interestingly, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately (as in for probably 3-4 hours last night and this morning). Daniel Jeremiah, Dane Brugler, and Lance Zierlein have all repeated some of the things I’ve been saying.

                If Milton plays like a #1 pick, sure, leaving might be a fine idea if you just want one big contract and to sit on those tens of millions of dollars for the rest of your life.

                But if you’re playing like a 3rd or 5th round pick, leaving after one year is a bad idea, because the team that takes you is not financially tied to you. And there’s virtually no incentive/opportunity to keep around a developmental guy who’s not going to get many snaps in practice when you can find another veteran or a guy who maybe has less physical upside but has three years of college starting experience.

                EDIT: I was catching up on some of the “Prospects to Pros” podcast this morning with Brugler/Zierlein, and one episode was from right after Jalen Mayfield declared for the draft. They said he made a huge mistake to declare early with only last year’s film. They said he didn’t show nearly the aggression he should have on film to be drafted highly. IIRC, they were pegging him as a 4th round pick.

            • Comments: 3844
              Joined: 7/13/2015
              Oct 20, 2020 at 8:40 PM

              Gardner Minshew attempted 506 passes at East Carolina before becoming the starter at Washington State. He was not inexperienced by any stretch of the imagination. He was a grizzled, gray-haired veteran compared to Joe Milton at this stage.

            • Comments: 6285
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Oct 21, 2020 at 1:13 PM

              To reiterate, I do not expect Milton to leave. He is entirely unproven and came in needing a lot of development, by his own admission and everyone who saw him. So this is a hypothetical scenario where Milton has a very good junior year that well exceeds any reasonable expectations. We can all hope it turns out that way…

              But let’s say for a minute that happens and he is projected to be a 3rd or 4th round pick. Maybe something like Jacob Eason, but less heralded and a year younger. Big guy, big arm, needs further development.

              In Eason’s case the NFL decided he is worth developing. I know some will say he would have been better served by coming back to school and playing as opposed to getting snaps in NFL practices but I don’t think we can say which is better for development with any certainty. We know he got $3.3M with no expectation to start right away. He’s not alone here – most rookie QBs don’t start especially those taken in later rounds.

              Conventional opinion is you don’t leave early unless you are a top 2 round pick. Maybe that is true but we should probably acknowledge that there’s a bias in the narrative. At both the pro and college level there is preference for people to stick in college longer. The fan gains nothing by young players rushing off to the NFL on either end, same for scouts, GMs, college coaches, etc. So the talking heads will say this since it’s best for everyone else, but it’s less clear what is best for the player. Draft picks are like stock valuations – it’s more about what you might do than what you have done. Career ending injuries happen in college and draft stocks fall all the time. Conventional thinking can cost these young men a whole lot of money.

              The many undrafted early entrants are often cited as a cautionary tale, but I don’t think they are all mistakes. I know some people will say Karan Higdon made a mistake going early. But he graduated already and maybe probably was not going to be drafted one year later anyway. So he sacrificed some college glory for sure but he also avoided a year of working without a salary while putting a heavy physical toll put on his body.

              • Comments: 3844
                Joined: 7/13/2015
                Oct 21, 2020 at 2:18 PM

                A list of starting NFL QBs and their draft round:

                Kyler Murray, 1
                Matt Ryan, 1
                Lamar Jackson, 1
                Josh Allen, 1
                Teddy Bridgewater, 1
                Nick Foles, 3 (replaced Mitch Trubisky, 1)
                Joe Burrow, 1
                Baker Mayfield, 1
                Andy Dalton, 2 (replaced Dak Prescott, 4)
                Drew Lock, 2
                Matt Stafford, 1
                Deshaun Watson, 1
                Aaron Rodgers, 1
                Phillip Rivers, 1
                Gardner Minshew, 6
                Pat Mahomes, 1
                Derek Carr, 2
                Justin Herbert, 1 (replaced Tyrod Taylor, 6)
                Jared Goff, 1
                Tua Tagovailoa, 1
                Kirk Cousins, 4
                Cam Newton, 1
                Drew Brees, 1
                Daniel Jones, 1
                Joe Flacco, 1 (replaced Sam Darnold, 1)
                Carson Wentz, 1
                Ben Roethlisberger, 1
                Jimmy Garoppolo, 2
                Russell Wilson, 3
                Tom Brady, 6
                Ryan Tannehill, 1
                Kyle Allen, UDFA (replaced Dwayne Haskins, 1)

                If you want to be a starting QB in the league, you had pretty much better play as many years as possible until you become a 1st round pick. Because unless you’re Tom Brady or Russell Wilson – a truly great player who slipped through the cracks – teams are considering tanking in order to draft the Next Big Thing.

                Now if you’re just happy making a roster and making a few hundred thousand dollars or a million dollars for a few years, you can leave and become a 6th round pick after a mediocre year. But odds are that Jacob Eason is never going to be a full-time starter in the NFL. Pretty much every guy on this list was drafted to be the starter within a year or two of coming out of college. The only guys who were “developmental” guys that waited a while were Garoppolo and Brady, both of whom exhausted their college eligibility and got as much experience as the NCAA allowed them.

                As for Karan Higdon, I don’t think many people – including me – are worried about running backs, wide receivers, or corners leaving early. Those positions are highly dependent on athleticism, which you essentially either have or you don’t.

                It’s the positions that require processing and technique that are more concerning: OL, QB, etc.

                You can leave anytime and earn a paycheck for a couple years. But very few guys who get P5 scholarships want to be “just a guy” on an NFL roster. They pick Michigan, Ohio State, Clemson, etc. because they think they’re among the best of the best. If you leave early after a mediocre season, you can earn a paycheck…but you’re probably not going to have a long, storied career with multiple big contracts.

                I like to think I’m a pretty rational person. I’m not just look at this from a fan’s perspective. The numbers bear it out for the positions I’m talking about. I don’t know of any guys who pick Michigan whose mindset is, “Yeah, I would be totally happy with being the practice squad QB for the Seahawks.” They want to be The Man.

              • Comments: 6285
                Joined: 8/11/2015
                Oct 21, 2020 at 8:02 PM

                No offense intended.

                Where you go in the draft is relevant to probability of success of course, but it’s not so simple as you imply. We have a lot of relevant variables that are only loosely related to one another. Overall talent. Physical attributes. Age. College experience. College production. Draft position. NFL production. Development at each step.

                Some guys are just never going to be 1st round picks no matter how long they stay in college (like Brees and Denard) and other guys are 1st rounders whether they play 5 years or 3 (like Lawrence and Tagoviola).

                Guys can move up (like Rudock) or down (like Patterson) by staying in college and giving up a year of paychecks. They arguably never had a real shot at being The Man at the NFL level.

                Maybe Haskins didn’t either. Was he supposed to stick at an extra year just to maximize his development and readiness? Was Tua? Was Aaron Rodgers?

                Speaking of Rodgers, he was a first round pick and he spent 3 years cashing NFL checks to develop before becoming a starter. It happens, even to first rounders with multiple years starting in college.

                So yeah, of course first round picks are generally going to be more successful than lower rated picks but that doesn’t really speak to the issue of sticking around college develop and prove yourself over multiple seasons.

                I don’t think Jacob Eason was going to be a 1st round pick if he stayed another year or didn’t. We’ll never know.

                Ryan Mallett was another 3rd Round pick, only he put in his 2 full seasons as a starter. Would his career look any different if he had came out after 1? Would it look any different if he hung around for a 3rd year as starter? We don’t know and we’ll never know. You can say had he developed more he would have come into the NFL better prepared and ended up an All Pro. You can also say he had nothing to gain from even that second year at Arkansas and all he did was give up a million dollars in salary (his NFL career average) by coming back for year 4.

                Certainly the narrative of get better each year and raise your draft stock until you’re a 1st rounder does happen. Burrow is an excellent example of it, but it’s anything but a universal rule. The other first rounders would have gone in round 1 the year before. Jordan Love had a pretty bad year and still went in Round 1.

                Kyle Murray and Dwayne Haskins were both 1st rounders off one good year. Joe Milton could do that too. One looks like he’s in line for a long NFL career and the other looks like he may be a couple years from selling something or other in Columbus.

                I do appreciate the point you’re making — it is rare that an early entry candidate will be a high end NFL starter if he doesn’t go in round 1 or 2. That may be true but it’s also true for guys who stick around for 5 years.

                It’s really a case by case thing. If Milton has a good enough year to be considered a 3rd or 4th round pick he’ll have to weigh the risks and benefits of giving up a year of his earnings to move up to round 1 with no guarantee that he will be able to do that. It’s not at all cut and dry. Things like how much you want a degree and college life factor in. So does how much development you are getting. I suspect the McCaffrey’s don’t think so highly of Gattis and Harbaugh development at the moment. Maybe they are right and Milton shouldn’t waste anymore time than they did. Maybe the best play is neither Michigan nor the NFL and he should grad transfer to Mississippi State.

    • Comments: 6285
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Oct 20, 2020 at 11:53 AM

      And a captain too! The only one not a senior. I know some people don’t care about this kind of thing but I think it’s pretty cool to see a legacy player become a captain.

  2. Comments: 82
    Joined: 1/10/2017
    Oct 19, 2020 at 7:36 PM

    Thunder, congratulations on nailing (or at least getting close on) quite a few details in your predictions for several players (number of tackles, sacks, etc.).

    • Comments: 3844
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Oct 19, 2020 at 8:17 PM

      Thanks! Even a blind squirrel…

      That’s something I enjoy with trying to stat out players, but I feel like it’s kind of useless for this 2020 season. So that’s kind of disappointing. I have no idea how many games will actually be played, how many players will miss games due to COVID, etc.

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