Aidan Hutchinson deserves a trip to NYC – and a long, hard look from Lions

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If Aidan Hutchinson is being honest, he just wanted to surpass his dad. Chris Hutchinson was an All-American defensive lineman at Michigan who racked up 11 sacks in 1992, second most in a season in school history. Aidan entered Saturday's regular season finale against Ohio State with 10 sacks to his name.

And then he went berserk. He went bonkers. He went ballistic, from the first snap of the game to the last. The Buckeyes have NFL talent on their offensive line, but they never had an answer for Hutchinson. He racked up a ridiculous 15 QB pressures, disrupting nearly a third of C.J. Stroud's pass attempts. And he finished with three sacks to surpass his dad, and everyone else in school history, for Michigan's single-season sack record.

"Man, it was crazy. I can’t really put it into words," Hutchinson said. "I really just wanted to beat my dad, and I went a little farther."

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Stroud hadn't been sacked more than twice in a game this season. Hutchinson got him three times by himself. He had been pressured about eight times per game. Hutchinson nearly doubled that; Michigan tripled it as a team. By the end of the day, the Buckeyes were holding onto No. 97 for dear life, and sometimes the officials even called it. Michigan finally stopped Ohio State, and booked a trip to Indy, in large part because Ohio State couldn't stop Hutchinson.

"Aidan Hutchinson, his performance was dominant," said Jim Harbaugh. "Single-season sack record already. Definitely should be in strong consideration for the Heisman Trophy."

Only one defensive player has ever won the Heisman. Hutchinson won't join Charles Woodson in a field headlined by Stroud and Alabama QB Bryce Young, not to mention Kenneth Walker III. But after the Wolverines travel to Indy for the Big Ten Championship, Hutchinson deserves a trip to New York City the following weekend for the Heisman ceremony. He's worthy of the nomination. So was Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers in 2016 and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young in 2019, two players who stood head and shoulders above their competition.

"I’ve been extremely lucky in my time here to go against great defensive ends," Michigan offensive tackle Andrew Stueber said Saturday. "I can truly say I think Aidan is the best of the best."

While Hutchinson was making mincemeat of Ohio State's O-line, there were a dozen or so NFL scouts watching from the press box. One of them was from the Lions. Detroit is likely to pick first overall in next year's draft. You may have heard the club could use a quarterback. It could also use a pass rusher. The Lions have the second fewest sacks in the NFL. They're on track to finish in the bottom five for the third year in a row. It's no stretch to say Hutchinson would be their best pass rusher right now.

"His ability to do any move, he really has it all," said Stueber, who's spent countless reps blocking -- or trying to block -- Hutchinson in practice. "I know the struggles in camp just getting beat by him. Seeing him do it to other tackles gives me straight joy. I love when he beats tackles on the edge. My favorite is when he bull-rushes them to the ground, which I think he did one play this game. You’ll see it on the film."

Hutchinson didn't pick on any old tackles against the Buckeyes. He abused a couple NFL talents in Nicholas Petit-Frere and Thayer Munford. He beat them with spin moves, with swim moves, with speed off the edge. He beat them with burst and flat-out force. He beat them with everything, and he kept on coming. The Lions have been linked for a long time to Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, an explosive player in his own right. Hutchinson might be better.

Huthinson was better than every defensive player in college football this season, according to Pro Football Focus. His overall grade of 93.7 was tops in the nation. So was his pass-rushing grade of 93.0. Thibodeaux, who missed the first few games of the season with an ankle injury, had an overall grade of 83.9 and a pass-rushing grade of 91.5. They're both elite talents, worthy of the No. 1 pick. But Hutchinson stood out against better competition.

Is there a quarterback worthy of the No. 1 pick next year? Probably not. The last thing the Lions can afford to do is waste another high pick by reaching at a position of need -- Jeff Okudah, anyone? And beyond quarterback, is there a position in today's NFL more valuable than defensive end? Definitely not. Washington drafted Young second overall in 2020, one pick before the Lions drafted Okudah, and he instantly helped one of the NFL's worst defenses become one of its best.

The Lions shouldn't consider drafting Hutchinson because they need a defensive end. That's a lucky coincidence. They should consider drafting him because he might be the draft's best player, at one of the game's premium positions. The Lions will do their due diligence on quarterbacks. They'll go to work on Thibodeaux. And they should look long and hard at Hutchinson, if Saturday's look wasn't enough.