If you’d like to see Aidan Hutchinson wearing Honolulu Blue and Silver next fall, the momentum — from the media at least — is pointing to your dreams coming true.
ESPN’s Todd McShay is the latest to mock Michigan’s standout defensive end to the Detroit Lions with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
At 1-11-1, the Lions are in need of everything, so general manager Brad Holmes and his scouting staff should be taking whoever they feel will be the best player four or five years down the road. They also own the Los Angeles Rams’ first-rounder — we’ll get to that pick in a minute.
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“The Lions need to take the best player available, and right now, that’s Hutchinson,” McShay wrote Tuesday. “The production speaks for itself: He has 14 sacks, 73 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and a pair of forced fumbles, and he tends to play at his best in the biggest spots. Detroit is in the bottom five in yards allowed per play (5.9), points allowed per game (27.2) and sacks (20), and while Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara, Trey Flowers and a host of others can be impact players, Hutchinson could be the guy on the edge for the Lions.”
If you haven’t seen much of Hutchinson, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting and has picked up numerous postseason awards for his 14-sack season, he and the Wolverines will play Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals at the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31.
His coronation was a dominant three-sack performance against Ohio State, and he added another sack in the Big Ten championship game, helping Michigan to a 42-3 rout of Iowa.
“It’s hard to capture exactly what Hutchinson means to this team, from his decision to return for another season, to his infectious work ethic, to the astounding motor week in and week out,” the Free Press’ Michael Cohen wrote Nov. 29 after the OSU game. “That’s why offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said no single player has been more important to U-M’s turnaround than Hutchinson.”
The Dearborn Divine Child product is 6 feet 6 and 265 pounds.
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With the Lions’ second pick in the first round projected at No. 25, McShay mocks North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell. The Tar Heels went a disappointing 6-6 this season.
“The UNC product reads the field well and shows good touch and timing on his throws,” McShay wrote.
“Jared Goff’s dead money would fall from $30.5 million in 2022 to $10 million in 2023 and $5 million in 2024, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit drafts someone like Howell at the end of the first round to secure the fifth-year option and lets him learn behind Goff for a year before handing over the keys.”
North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell stiff arms Pittsburgh defensive back Brandon Hill as he runs the ball during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field, Nov. 11, 2021 in Pittsburgh.
Howell is the fifth quarterback taken in this mock behind Kenny Pickett (No. 12 to Pittsburgh), Matt Corral (No. 13 to Washington), Malik Willis (No. 17 to Denver) and Desmond Ridder (No. 19 to New Orleans), though McShay wrote he likes Howell a little more than Ridder.
A 6-1, 220-pound junior from Indian Trails, N.C., Howell in 2021 passed for 23 touchdowns against nine interceptions, with a QBR of 77.6 (18th in the nation). He threw for 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2020, and 38 touchdowns and seven picks as a true freshman in 2019.
ESPN’s Scouts Inc. rates Howell as the 33rd best player in the draft with a grade of 87.
McShay was on ESPN to discuss his mock and said Howell “might be the most physically gifted quarterback, but the performance and play was up and down. He lost four players at running back and wide receiver to last year’s draft, and he just wasn’t the same quarterback this past year with a lot of young guys around him.”
Michigan’s other defensive end, David Ojabo, goes 10th overall to Philadelphia in McShay’s mock.
“Philly jump-starts its three-pick Round 1 party with an explosive pass rusher. Ojabo’s first step is lightning fast, and he closes on the QB extremely well — his 11 sacks and 14 tackles for loss this season prove it.”
Read more for McShay’s entire first-round predictions (subscription required).
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions get ‘most physically gifted QB’ in mock draft