Thursday, April 26, 2018

Analysis: Vikings select UCF cornerback Mike Hughes at No. 30

Photo: College Football Talk
The Vikings selected UCF cornerback Mike Hughes to provide additional depth in the secondary. Daniel House provides his thoughts on the selection.

The Vikings entered the draft with offensive line as one of the main priorities. However, they used the No. 30 selection to address a secondary in need of additional depth. UCF cornerback Mike Hughes provides the Vikings with another versatile option at defensive back.

Hughes is a very physical cornerback who plays with above average ball skills. He is very aggressive at the stem of routes, causing wide receivers to redirect their routes. Hughes measures in at just 5-foot-10, 189 pounds, but plays more physical than anyone would expect. He was a playmaker, grabbing four interceptions and getting into passing lanes on a consistent basis (11 pass breakups). He added 49 tackles and was aggressive to help in run support.

In Minnesota, he can play inside or on the boundary, but for the moment, based upon his skill-set, nickel cornerback seems like a logical fit. He started just one season at Central Florida, so his overall sample size and experience are relatively small.

When you watch his tape, you see a player who keeps wide receivers on his hip and can be very reliable when asked to play man coverage. His lower body quickness/explosion are a few traits you simply cannot teach with a prospect like this. Hughes' footwork and technique need polishing, as he has a tendency to take false steps. Oftentimes, his speed and athletic ability help him compensate for this weakness. However, this isn't a consistent problem and is correctable.

Hughes also will need to improve his technique, limiting the tendency to be grabby. There were a few occasions where he was called for pass interference because of it. Hughes is somewhat of a project with limited overall experience, but has the potential to take a step under the instruction of head coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray.

Not only is Hughes valuable as a cornerback, but he is an excellent return man. He was Pro Football Focus' highest graded returner, averaging 31.9 kick return yards. He had three combined punt and kick return touchdowns, showing impressive explosiveness in the open field.

The overall upside is very high as the Vikings have a chance to develop a young talent within a system that fits his skill-set well. He needed to go to a team that plays a plethora of man coverage and the Vikings are that team.

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