We are still in the first week of 2022 NFL free agency, and while the Detroit Lions have been relatively quiet, they have shown up in force on the pro day circuit. On Wednesday, the Lions sent linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard and front office executive Chris Spielman to Georgia, to get an up-close look at their linebackers (among other positions).
On Friday, according to Dave Birkett of the Free Press, Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn took the short trip to Ann Arbor to check out edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson and his fellow Wolverine teammates at Michigan’s pro day.
Beyond the Lions, Birkett noted that the event was heavily attended by NFL teams, including head coaches like the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin (who was also in Georgia on Wednesday) and Texans’ Lovie Smith (who holds the third overall pick in the draft).
Hutchinson is, of course, the big draw as he is in contention to be the first player selected in this year’s NFL draft. For most of the offseason, Hutchinson has been connected to the Lions based on team need and personality compatibility, so it makes sense that the team that holds the No. 2 pick would send their heavy hitters for a closer look.
At the NFL Combine, Hutchinson took part in every drill except the bench press, but he did the drill in Ann Abror and put up 28 reps, per Anthony Broome, formerly of SB Nation’s Maize and Brew and currently with Wolverine.com
️ushin’ 28 @aidanhutch97 fresh off the press#GoBlue // #ProBlue pic.twitter.com/9T2ePc5wBL— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) March 18, 2022
Broome also noted that Hutchinson said he planned on meeting with teams picking on the top five leading up to the draft, and per Birkett, he made time for Holmes and Glenn on Friday, talking with them after the day concluded. Hutchinson also took time to meet with Lions’ multimedia team reporter Dannie Rogers in a sit-down interview that will surely be on the Lions website in the near future.
While Hutchinson has basically concluded his draft preparation for the offseason, fellow potential first-round edge rusher David Ojabo saw his offseason end more abruptly after being injured during a workout.
A scary sight at @UMichFootball pro day. Edge rusher David Ojabo sustained injury in pass rush drill. Went down clutching left leg. Not sure if ankle or leg but he had to helped off field. pic.twitter.com/moL8FmbYb0— Jeffri Chadiha (@jeffrichadiha) March 18, 2022
“Ojabo went down taking a pass drop at Pro Day,” MMQB’s Albert Breer reported, “—caught the ball, planted, pushed off, went to the ground. There are obvious(ly) serious concerns with a non-contact injury suffered this way, but nothing confirmed yet.”
Per Birkett and Broome, Ojabo left Michigan’s facility on crutches with a walking boot and a wrap on his left leg that nearly reached his knee.
It’s a tough spot for Ojabo, who had garnered first-round attention based on his athletic traits and upside, despite still being very raw in most technical elements of his game. It’s difficult to project if this type of injury will hurt his draft stock, but if it’s long-term or something that could keep him from training camp or the start of the season, it’s entirely possible he slides on draft day.
The third potential first-rounder on Michigan’s defense is Daxton Hill, who told Birkett that he met with Glenn at the pro day. Hill is expected to be selected late in the first or early in the second round, and with the Lions currently holding picks No. 32 and No. 34, he appears firmly in the mix.