Detroit Lions take Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson with No. 2 pick in NFL draft

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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LAS VEGAS — Aidan Hutchinson won’t have to go far to find his new home.

The Detroit Lions took Hutchinson with the second pick of Thursday’s NFL draft, tabbing the Michigan star to be the defensive face of their rebuild.

Hutchinson is the first of what is expected to be two first-round picks for a Lions team coming off a 3-13-1 season and that allowed the second-most points in the NFL last year. The Lions also have the 32nd pick, which they acquired in the 2021 trade of Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.

Hutchinson set a Michigan single-season record with 14 sacks last year, led the Wolverines to their first-ever college football playoff appearance and was considered by many the best prospect in the draft.

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Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (97) in the second quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: IMAGN-476743 ORIG FILE ID:  20211204_neb_br2_127.JPG

“He’s a guy that gets you out of your seat,” Stanford coach David Shaw told the Free Press on Wednesday. “I mean, he’s going to make plays. He makes them in college and his skills are translatable to the NFL. Length, speed, technique. Aggression. Effort. I love putting the film on and seeing half a guy’s tackles are effort plays, where initially he was blocked or the ball’s thrown and he turns around and makes a play down the field. And that’s what you see from him. It is hair on fire, every single play. I think he’s elite. I think he’s special.”

The Lions are counting on Hutchinson to be a force multiplier for their team and defense. They have not made the playoffs since 2017, are coming off four consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC North and ranked 27th in the league in sack percentage last year.

Second-year Lions coach Dan Campbell said he wanted “a Day 1 starter” out of the No. 2 pick, and general manager Brad Holmes said he was looking for “a game-changer,” not unlike what the team believes it has in last year’s No. 7 overall pick, offensive tackle Penei Sewell.

Sewell started 16 of a possible 17 games as a rookie, splitting his time between left and right tackle.

The Lions return sack leader Charles Harris from last year’s defense and expect Romeo Okwara back from a torn Achilles tendon sometime this summer, but Hutchinson is well-rounded enough to play significant snaps at defensive end on the Lions’ revamped even-man front.

He is considered a polished pass rusher — having learned the game from his father, former Michigan defensive lineman Chris Hutchinson — and plus run defender, and Shaw said his upside is similar to that of three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson poses on the red carpet before the first round of the NFL draft Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Las Vegas.

“He’s got the natural tools, he’s got the physical tools, he has the speed and explosion and he gives great effort,” Shaw said. “That’s who you’re looking for. I’m not saying he’s J.J. Watt, but I don’t think he’s that far behind. I think that’s the guy we’re talking about.”

Hutchinson, 6 feet 7 and 260 pounds, grew up in Plymouth and played high school football and lacrosse at Dearborn Divine Child. He had a productive career at Michigan, where he was voted a two-time captain and finished runner-up for the Heisman Trophy as a senior.

Along with Hutchinson, the Lions were believed to be considering a group of prospects that included pass rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon and Jermaine Johnson II of Florida State at No. 2.

The Jaguars took Georgia pass rusher Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick. 

The Lions have seven picks remaining in this year’s draft, including No. 32 at the end of the first round and the second pick of Friday's second round, No. 34 overall. They entered the draft with five of the first 100 selections.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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