The 2022 NFL Draft has wrapped, and here are the Michigan-related results:
Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was taken in the 1st round (#2 overall) by the Detroit Lions.
Safety Daxton Hill was taken in the 1st round (#31 overall) by the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.
Outside linebacker David Ojabo was picked in the 2nd round (#45 overall) by John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens. Ojabo would almost certainly have been a 1st round pick if not for a torn Achilles suffered at Michigan’s pro day.
Running back Hassan Haskins was drafted in the 4th round (#131 overall) by the Tennessee Titans, where he will have a chance to run behind former Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan.
Offensive tackle Andrew Stueber went to the New England Patriots in the 7th round (#245 overall), joining former Wolverine Michael Onwenu on the offensive line. Outside linebacker Joshua Uche and inside linebacker Cam McGrone are also with the Patriots.
Undrafted free agent signings include:
CB Vincent Gray to the New Orleans Saints
S Brad Hawkins to the Atlanta Falcons
DT Chris Hinton to the New York Giants
DT Donovan Jeter to the Pittsburgh Steelers
QB Brandon Peters, who transferred to Illinois, to the Los Angeles Chargers
LB Josh Ross to the Baltimore Ravens
DE Luiji Vilain, who transferred to Wake Forest, to the Minnesota Vikings
It’s NFL Draft time! The draft starts tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. EST. Here is a look at the various Michigan players eligible for the draft.
Aidan Hutchinson, DE Captain and all-time season sacks leader Aidan Hutchinson will be the first Wolverine off the board. At 6’7″ and 260 pounds, Hutchinson showed off good (not great) speed with a 4.75 forty at the Combine and also has elite quickness with a 4.15-second 20-yard shuttle. His arms are considered to be a little short (32 1/8″), but that doesn’t seem to be limiting his draft stock. In general, he’s considered to be nearly a lock to go in the top two to the Jaguars or Lions. Projected round: 1st
Daxton Hill, S At 6’0″ and 191 pounds, Hill is a little bit small for a traditional safety role. However, his speed (4.38 in the forty) and athleticism (10’1″ broad jump) are tantalizing and he’s a willing and able tackler in the open field. He could be a starter from day one, especially as a nickel corner. Scouts seem to like his man coverage abilities, and he could also be a major asset on special teams. Most projections seem to have in the bottom half of the first round, and he’s battling with Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton to be the first safety off the board. Projected round: 1st
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HIGH SCHOOL Hawkins was originally from Camden (NJ) Camden in the 2016 class, where he was a teammate of eventual Michigan signee Cesar Ruiz. He signed with Michigan in 2016 but had to attend prep school at Suffield (CT) Suffield Academy and reclassify to the 2017 class. In the meantime, he went from being committed as a receiver to then coming in as a safety in 2017. He was ranked as a 3-star, the #66 wide receiver, and #425 overall in that 2017 class.
COLLEGE Hawkins played in all twelve games as a freshman and then started one game as a sophomore in his home state of New Jersey when the Wolverines played at Rutgers. He then became a full-time starter in 2019 and was named the team’s most improved player; Pro Football Focus even jumped in and named him their First Team All-Big Ten player at the Flex position, which is reserved for hybrid players, since Hawkins was largely a safety/linebacker hybrid.
CAREER STATISTICS 178 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovery, 2 forced fumbles, 8 pass breakups 6 kickoff returns for 83 yards
AWARDS Third Team All-Big Ten (2021)
SUMMARY Hawkins is one of those seemingly rare cases of a Michigan recruit who goes to prep school and actually ends up at Michigan. It seems like most recruits who have academic issues just end up going elsewhere rather than working their way into Michigan. Originally recruited as a wide receiver – who spent his prep year also playing wide receiver – it seemed odd that he came in as a safety immediately. I had issues with Hawkins early on because of some stiffness and a lack of top-end speed, but safety is one of those positions where experience really matters. As the years wore on, he made fewer and fewer mistakes. And whether he was just reacting quicker or whether he actually improved physically, he seemed to play faster and faster, to the point where he was a very solid player his last couple years. While he wasn’t flashy as a senior (60 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 FF, 1 FR, 4 PBU) and never made an interception in his career, he was always in the right spot. He did a good job of filling on the run, made some excellent plays when he was supposed to hold the edge, and had very few bad plays in 2021. He’s a great example of why freshman safeties make me nervous and why it’s nice having veterans on the back end of the defense.
I WILL REMEMBER HIM FOR . . . . . . playing at Michigan forever. Okay, technically it was only five years (2017-2021), but since Hawkins was committed in the 2016 class, too, it feels like he’s been a staple of Michigan’s program. And that makes sense because he played in 56 career games, an all-time high for a Michigan player. (Due to COVID-19, he was able to play six games in 2020 and still return for a fifth year.) That’s a record that’s going to be very hard to break.
PROJECTION I was surprised to learn that Hawkins was not even invited to the 2022 NFL Combine. After all, he has to be one of the most experienced safeties in the country, and he played for two high-quality defensive coordinators: Don Brown, who has put oodles of players in the NFL, and Mike Macdonald, who parlayed his year at Michigan into a defensive coordinator job with the Baltimore Ravens. Perhaps teams feel like they have nothing to learn about a guy who has 56 games of tape available, but I have to think the NFL’s general concerns mirror mine from earlier in his career, regarding stiffness and overall athleticism. It only takes one team to jump up and draft you, so perhaps he becomes a late round pick. I would have pegged him for a 6th/7th round pick, anyway, but the lack of a Combine invitation makes me think he might just have to go the undrafted route.
There are eight Michigan players who have been invited to perform at the NFL Combine:
CB Vincent Gray
RB Hassan Haskins
S Daxton Hill
DT Chris Hinton
DE Aidan Hutchinson
DE David Ojabo
LB Joshua Ross
OG Andrew Stueber
A few draft-eligible players were not invited, including WR Daylen Baldwin, S Brad Hawkins, and C Andrew Vastardis. I guess this is my time to reiterate how weird it is for Baldwin to have declared for the draft, since he did not factor much into the Michigan attack this past season. It’s also interesting that Hawkins was not invited despite being literally the most experienced player in Michigan history (by games played).
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MICHIGAN Michigan is #22 in pass defense (194.7 yards allowed/game) and #11 in passer rating defense. They have allowed just 6.0 yards per attempt, which ties them for #6 nationally. Only four teams have topped even 200 yards passing against them.
The primary reason for Michigan’s good pass defense is the edge rushers. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson set a school record with 14 sacks, and outside linebacker David Ojabo wasn’t far behind with 11. They often line up wide and come tearing off the edge with reckless abandon, but they’re athletic and disruptive enough to make quarterbacks do things they don’t want to do, such as step up in the pocket and make quick decisions.
On the back end, cornerback Vincent Gray has had a bounce-back season after an abysmal 2020, and counterpart Christian Turner has turned into Michigan’s best cover guy with 2 interceptions and 7 pass breakups. Safety/nickel corner Daxton Hill (2 INT, 8 PBUs) has been taken advantage of by some slot fades against quick slot guys, but overall, he has also been very good.