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- American football player
One of the first things you learn as an aspiring NFL draft analyst is that sample size matters. That’s critically important in the ongoing discussion about Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson in the wake of his underwhelming performance in the Wolverines’ playoff loss to Georgia on New Year’s Eve.
Hutchinson recorded four total tackles, including one tackle for loss, and was largely neutralized by Georgia’s offensive line and scheme. He did not sniff Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett all night.
If this was the first time someone really watched Hutchinson, they might wonder what all the hype is about. Hutchinson is universally projected as one of the top two picks in the 2022 NFL draft, with his hometown Detroit Lions and the No. 2 overall pick a wildly popular pairing. Hutchinson had very little impact on the game, a 34-11 Georgia blowout win where the Bulldogs offense scored the first four times it touched the ball.
It was not a good game for Hutchinson. But it was just one game, one piece of the draft prospect puzzle. While it’s a prominent piece, that one game cannot have undue influence on the total evaluation.
The context of how Georgia attacked Hutchinson, and Michigan as a whole, matters in the evaluation of his game. QB Stetson Bennett frequently got rid of the ball quickly. He did several designed rolls, nearly all directly away from Hutchinson’s side (and at David Ojabo, who was completely invisible all night). There were some chips from the tight end or back dedicated to slowing down Hutchinson, too. The quick-hit passes and swing passes just over or behind Hutchinson effectively neutralized the Heisman Trophy finalist.
Not every offense did that. Not many could, for that matter. Hutchinson dominated some very good offensive lines throughout the season. What he did in a tour de force performance against Ohio State doesn’t just evaporate because of a rough night versus Georgia. Each game fits into the proper overall evaluation for Hutchinson.
It’s why watching as much of a prospect as possible is important. Understanding the game concepts and context also matters too, which is why just perusing highlight clips on YouTube isn’t nearly enough to form a proper opinion. Hutchinson still deserves to be one of the very first players selected in the 2022 NFL draft. It’s perfectly acceptable to inject some more skepticism into his ability to dominate, but it’s not right to write him off for one bad night.