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Aidan Hutchinson one of three finalists for Defensive Rookie of the Year

The accolades just keep rolling in for Lions rookie Aidan Hutchinson.



Michigan football, Aidan Hutchinson
Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson collected three sacks against Ohio State. Syndication Detroit Free Press | © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s that time of the year when we look to the NFL Honors to determine who had the best seasons from the previous year. Wednesday morning, finalists for eight of the Associated Press 2022 NFL Awards were announced. Attached to one of the awards this year was a familiar name to most Michigan football fans: Aidan Hutchinson.

Hutchinson flew into the forefront in 2021 as he had a stellar senior season wearing the maize and blue. On the year, Hutchinson recorded a Michigan football record 14 sacks, along with two forced fumbles. He would be selected as a Heisman finalist and the No.2 overall selection in the NFL Draft, taking his talents down the road to the Detroit Lions.

Rookie Season

With Hutchinson going No. 2 overall in the draft, naturally, plenty of debate followed as everyone has opinions. Many had concerns about his arms, which measured below average in length, and many attributed his success in 2021 to having David Ojabo on the other side of the defensive line.

Still, he did not budge as he would go on to have a phenomenal rookie season. On the year, Hutchinson recorded 52 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and two fumble recoveries. One of the craziest stats, however, might be the fact that he also recorded three interceptions on the year. These were not only his first interceptions in the NFL but also the first interceptions he’d recorded in his entire football career.

Aside from stats, Hutchinson was a significant part in helping the Lions to their first winning season since 2017. Detroit went 9-8 on the year and was in the running for a playoff spot up until the very last day. The future for the Detroit Lions is bright, and Aidan Hutchinson will be a big part of it.

DROY Competition

While Aidan Hutchinson may have had a great season overall, he wasn’t the only rookie to take major steps forward this year. He’s one of three finalists for the award, with Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner and Seahawks cornerback Tariq Woolen taking the other two slots.

Like Hutchinson, Gardner was a high draft pick and had expectations through the roof. He went No. 4 overall in the first round and played like he deserved it. On the year, Gardner recorded 75 tackles and two interceptions. While the interception numbers weren’t necessarily there, he more than made up for it in passes defended as he led the league with 20. 

Tariq Woolen, on the other hand, slipped quite a bit in the draft as he was selected in the fifth round as the No. 153 pick overall. Picking him up turned out to be an absolute steal for the Seahawks, as Woolen had a fantastic rookie season and has an excellent argument for defensive rookie of the year. Woolen recorded 63 tackles, six interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and 16 passes defended this season.

Both Gardner and Woolen had incredible seasons, not only for a rookie but for the entire league. I can’t help but wonder if Aidan Hutchinson’s versatility should give him the edge, but ultimately it’s not up to me. This NFL season provided some of the best rookie talent we’ve seen in recent memory, so whoever wins the award will be more than deserving.

The winner of the award will be announced during the annual NFL Honors ceremony on February 9, 2023, at 9:00 p.m. EST. The event will air live on NBC, NFL Network, and Peacock.

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A recent graduate from Kalamazoo College, Tyler has four years experience in sports writing. He currently works as assistant editor for Blue By Ninety and specializes in a variety of sports such as football, swimming and diving, and basketball.