UM's Hutchinson moves to No. 1 on Mel Kiper's NFL Draft evaluation for ESPN
Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson is the new No. 1 on ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper’s “Big Board” leading a top five that includes four defensive players.
Hutchinson previously was No. 5 on Kiper’s top-25 draft-eligible players and moved to the top spot this week. Hutchinson is a Heisman Trophy finalist and set Michigan’s single-season sack record with 14 — he had two three-sack games in the final month, at Penn State and in the regular-season finale against Ohio State.
Also, Michigan's David Ojabo, who has 11 sacks this season, has moved up one spot to No. 9.
ESPN Draft analyst Todd McShay also this week has elevated Hutchinson to the No. 1 spot on his draft board.
Michigan (12-1) is the No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff rankings and will face Georgia in a national semifinal on Dec. 30.
“He has been unreal down the stretch and is now a Heisman Trophy finalist,” Kiper wrote. “Since I last updated my rankings, he has doubled his sack total. He now has 14 and two forced fumbles, showing powerful moves and relentless pursuit of quarterbacks.
“Three of those sacks came in the win over Ohio State, as he dominated the Buckeyes' O-line. Hutchinson played only 144 defensive snaps last season before he injured his leg against Indiana … and the Michigan defense cratered after he was hurt.”
More: Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson wins Lombardi Award
Kiper wrote that the battle for the No. 1 over NFL Draft selection at this stage will come down to Hutchinson and Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, No. 2 on the “Big Board”. Thibodeaux has decided to begin preparations for the NFL Draft and skip Oregon’s appearance in the Alamo Bowl.
This fall, Kiper also continues to be impressed by Ojabo, who became more of an impact player once the Big Ten season started in earnest at Wisconsin in early October. Ojabo also has five forced fumbles playing opposite Hutchinson.
"He has flashed advanced pass-rush moves and his athletic traits pop on tape," Kiper wrote. "While Ojabo needs to work on his all-around game, there's a lot to like. He's still young; he could develop into a elite edge rusher."