When projecting how a draft pick will perform at the next level, it’s easy to seek out comparisons. Even top-level NFL decision-makers are susceptible to making these comps.
In an interview with “The Rich Eisen Show” on Friday, Lions general manager Brad Holmes revealed his comparison for first-round draft pick Aidan Hutchinson, and it happened to be another former No. 2 overall selection.
“The first time I saw Aidan, really, was back in 2020, when I was still with the Rams,” Holmes said. “He was kind of playing a different position. He was kind of playing more of an interior role. … When I first saw him, he reminded me of Chris Long a little bit.”
Holmes, who spent the first 18 years of his career with the Rams, was a low-level scout when the Rams selected Long out of Virginia with the No. 2 pick of the 2008 draft. He would go on to play eight years with the franchise prior to signing with the Patriots and Eagles in the late stages of his career, winning Super Bowls with both of those teams.
When Holmes initially evaluated Hutchinson at Michigan as the Rams’ college scouting director, the defensive lineman was being used in more of an interior role, similar to the way Long was utilized at Virginia.
When the Rams drafted Long, Holmes explained how the team had to project how the player’s skill set would transfer to defensive end, where he’d play in their scheme. With Hutchinson, there was less mystery because he was moved to the edge at the end of his college career. In 2021, he set the school’s single-season record with 14 sacks.
“He just shows a whole new toolbox that I was like, ‘Wow,'” Holmes said about the evolving evaluation of Hutchinson. “There was an uptick in excitement and life for him.”
Beyond their playing styles, there are other similarities between Hutchinson and Long. Both brought similar, high-level athleticism entering the league, with elite speed, agility and explosion for a defensive lineman. Additionally, both have been praised for their outstanding character.
A multi-time captain with the Rams, Long was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2018 while with the Eagles. The prestigious award honors outstanding community service off the field and excellence on the field. That year, among other things, he donated all of his weekly game checks to fund scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, and support programs that promoted educational equity in the three NFL cities in which he has played.
In 11 seasons, Long never earned All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors, but he would start all 16 games five times, racking up 70 career sacks and 15 forced fumbles, to go along with the two Super Bowl victories. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, his career total ranks 98th all-time.