ESPN's Mel Kiper high on draft prospects for UM's Aidan Hutchinson, Dax Hill
Former Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson is still trending as the projected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft.
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper said in light of all the offseason maneuvering by the Jacksonville Jaguars to shore up their offensive line, all signs point to them taking Hutchinson. The three-day NFL Draft begins April 28 in Las Vegas with the Jaguars picking first and the Lions second.
In Kiper’s latest mock draft, Hutchinson will be selected No. 1 and former Michigan defensive back Dax Hill is projected to go No. 25 overall to Buffalo. Outside linebacker David Ojabo, who had 11 sacks and five forced fumbles for the Wolverines last season, was moved to Kiper’s second-round projections, No. 34 to Detroit. Ojabo suffered an Achilles tear during Michigan’s Pro Day last month.
Hutchinson’s 14 sacks last season set a single-season Michigan record. He was a consensus All-American, was named the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year and was a Heisman Trophy runner-up.
“In terms of Aidan, the year he had kind of made him,” Kiper said Thursday during an ESPN conference call.
Kiper detailed how the Jaguars spent the offseason focused on their offensive line.
“All that allowed them to go defense instead of offense (in the draft), because we thought Hutchinson might be there for the Lions at two,” Kiper said. “But it worked out where they committed to the offensive line heavily and now they can get the pass rusher in Aidan Hutchinson to go opposite (end) Josh Allen and get after all these great quarterbacks in the AFC.
“The year he had, the attitude, the approach, the energy he plays with, how he makes everybody around him better is the reason why, once (the Jaguars) solidified the offensive line, he was certainly the best defensive end, best pass rusher in this draft.”
The 6-foot, 192-pound Hill worked under defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale in his first year on Michigan's staff last season and added a new role as nickel. He became what Clinkscale called “a jack of all trades” with his versatility in the defensive backfield. Hill had 69 tackles, two interceptions and 11 pass breakups.
Hill's numbers at the NFL Combine were impressive, as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, the three-cone drill in 6.57 seconds and 20-yard shuttle in 4.06 seconds.
“I’ve always liked Daxton Hill,” Kiper said. “Here’s a guy who did everything at Michigan. He can be slot corner, he can play center field, he tackles so well, he can get after the quarterback, he intercepts passes. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, No. 1 safety, speed to the football, everything that shows you he’s going to be ready to go. He’s perfect for the way the game is played today.”
In terms of defensive backs overall, Kiper ranks Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner No. 1, either LSU's Derek Stingley Jr. or Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton at No. 2 and Hill, he said, would be next on that list.
“He’s one of the best overall defensive backs in this draft,” Kiper said.