His father was the fourth overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, earning seven Pro Bowl berths and one All-Pro selection. Can Michigan DT Chris Hinton use his scouting report to follow the same path through the NFL Draft and reach the lofty standard set by his predecessor?
Chris Hinton NFL Draft Profile
Position: Defensive Tackle
Current Year: Junior
Weight: 305 pounds
Chris Hinton Scouting Report
The results on the field haven’t reflected this, but Michigan has been one of the better recruiting teams in the nation under head coach Jim Harbaugh. Over the past three years, the Wolverines have pulled in three top-15 classes. In 2019, they earned a top-10 class, complete with two five-star recruits and 14 four-star recruits by 247 Sports‘ count.
Hinton was one of those five-star players. His five-star billing, combined with his strong NFL roots, built sky-high expectations for the Norcross, Georgia native. Statistically, Hinton hasn’t reached those expectations yet, but does his NFL Draft scouting report provide more reason for optimism?
Hinton’s athletic profile
Hinton is an interesting NFL Draft prospect, and the nature of the 2022 defensive tackle class only makes his projection more intriguing. Even when he earned five-star billing from several recruiting sites, he didn’t boast top-flight athletic testing numbers. Nevertheless, the 6’4″, 305-pound lineman flashes several promising traits on occasion.
Hinton’s size is what stands out first. He doesn’t have elite length or overwhelming girth, but he has great width, density, and a strong base. He’s built like an offensive lineman in some respects; this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given his familial background. His lower body is particularly strong and sturdy, and he can use his width and density to absorb double-teams, as well as withstand copious amounts of power.
Athletically, Hinton isn’t bursting with potential, but there is some upside that appears untapped. He demonstrates solid explosiveness off the snap as a pass rusher, and he also has good lateral mobility for his size when stunting. There’s torso flexibility and natural balance present as well; he can contort to wrench down anchors, then explode forward with momentum.
Execution beyond the athletic traits
For a prospect like Hinton, who isn’t an elite athlete at his position, channeling one’s athletic traits through proper execution is crucial. While he can continue to improve here, he does display some positive tendencies. Most notably, Hinton can use his length to convert explosiveness into power. He knows how to extend inside the torso and knock linemen off-balance. His power generated through extension gives him some upside on bull rushes, as does his steady leg drive.
Going further with Hinton’s pass-rushing ability, he displays the capacity for fast, forceful hands. He exhibits amped-up upper body movements, and there is definite twitch, even if it hasn’t been maximized to this point. Hinton’s balance compounds this energy; he can lower his pad level and stay on his feet, a trait that’s undoubtedly important in close quarters.
Among other things, Hinton can disengage and wrap up ball carriers in a timely manner in run defense. He also has the awareness to identify and get in front of screen passes. Furthermore, the Michigan DT boasts solid versatility on the interior line. He can play anywhere from 0-technique to 3-technique. His strong base enables him to take on a host of different attack angles.
Areas for improvement
Hinton has some merit as an NFL Draft prospect, but he’s far from a perfect prospect by virtue of both athletic limitations and undeveloped areas. The Michigan DT is somewhat lumbering with his lower body, and he’s not exceptionally light on his feet. Additionally, he doesn’t quite have elite length, and he can sacrifice his balance by lurching to try and compensate. His middling length also may limit the amount of momentum his hands can carry.
In run defense, Hinton sometimes struggles to reach the point of attack first. Once he loses at the contact point, he can be fairly easy to move off-base. Moreover, he isn’t consistent at generating displacement in run defense. The Michigan product can stand his ground with his strong base, but he doesn’t often create negative plays for the defense. He flashes an urgency that helps to maximize his movement, but he can be more consistent with this trait.
As a pass rusher, Hinton is similarly imperfect. Although he has the necessary capacity, his hands aren’t consistently fast or violent. He can also improve his consistency regarding his hand placement to better channel his power and energy. The Michigan DT doesn’t sustain rushes particularly well and can add more counters to his arsenal. Furthermore, he can be easily flushed out of the play against bootlegs and misdirections.
Hinton’s NFL Draft scouting report overview
Hinton’s recruiting pedigree and NFL bloodline will generate natural excitement. And on tape, there are enough flashes to warrant optimism heading into his junior season. He has a strong base and an NFL frame, and he’s already a solid run defender. Hinton also has enough explosive capacity to potentially be a three-down player on the interior.
Having said all this, there are some concerns regarding Hinton’s upside. He doesn’t appear to be an elite athlete, and he doesn’t have exceptional length, either. Stylistically, he’s more of a space-eating lineman than a penetrator at this point. If he can further tap into his athletic upside, perhaps he can expand beyond that designation. However, he currently fills a mold that’s slowly becoming outdated in the modern NFL. He needs to fulfill his pass-rushing upside in 2021 if he wants to command an early selection.
Chris Hinton’s Player Profile
The elder Hinton, Christopher Jerrod Hinton, played offensive lineman for Northwestern University in the 1980s. He was drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the fourth overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft and played with there for seven seasons before moving on to the Atlanta Falcons. Over the course of his career, he earned Pro Bowl honors seven times and All-Pro honors once before retiring with the Minnesota Vikings.
Beyond his control, this is the career that will hover over Chris Hinton’s head. His father was a successful NFL player, and now, the younger Chris Hinton faces the same expectations. Time will tell if he can realize his potential, but his potential alone has always been apparent. He was a five-star recruit on 247 Sports’ 2019 recruiting board and a fringe four-star on ESPN.
Hinton drew offers from prestigious schools like Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, and LSU. Some, like Alabama and Clemson, had proven track records of development on the defensive line. But Hinton craved the Big Ten environment that his father experienced. Thus, he signed with the Michigan Wolverines.
Chris Hinton’s career at Michigan and NFL Draft ascension
True to his five-star reputation, Hinton was able to avoid the redshirt designation as a true freshman. He wasn’t given a starting role on Day 1, but he did factor into the rotation on the defensive line. The Michigan DT played in 12 games in 2019, starting one, amassing 10 total tackles and a half-tackle for loss over that span.
In 2020, COVID reduced the Michigan football team’s slate of games to six, but Hinton was still able to carve out a larger role. Of the Wolverines’ six contests, Hinton started four, putting up 13 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 2 pass deflections. And through it all, he was able to earn Academic All-Big Ten honors.
The 2021 season will be a crucial precipice for Hinton’s NFL Draft scouting report. The Michigan product has flashed NFL ability in spurts, but he hasn’t been able to put things together. Will 2021 be the year that sends his stock into the upper tier, or will it further dilute his outlook and relegate him to the middle rounds?
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