Knows what to do with the ball after making an interception
Excellent returner on special teams
Loose hips to turn to run with speed receivers
Can play off-man coverage
Can play zone coverage
A little short
Could use more weight
Gives up a few passes from not finishing plays
Could have issues with big receivers
Could be picked on in the red zone
Has some off-the-field concerns
Summary: Hughes started out his collegiate career at North Carolina before transferring to Central Florida. In 2017, Hughes was excellent for the Knights as their No. 1 cornerback while also providing a lot of big plays on special teams. He totaled four interceptions, 11 passes broken up, a forced fumble and 49 tackles on the year. Hughes also averaged 31.8 yards per kick return - with two touchdowns - and 16.7 yards per punt return - with another touchdown.
Hughes is a natural cover corner with speed, quick feet, and agility. He is very fluid and does a good job of running the route with receivers to prevent them from gaining separation. Hughes keeps wideouts from coming open and is quick to recover if they get a step. Hughes has nice hips to turn to run downfield with speed receivers. He also is a willing tackler.
Hughes has dangerous ball skills. He is very talented in slapping passes away and timing his contact well while being a threat to pick off the pass. Hughes has good hands and is a dangerous threat to pick passes off. When he gets the ball in his hands, Hughes knows what to do with it as he is dangerous to rip off big returns. His speed and elusiveness in the open field is very impressive. That is also what makes him a dynamic special teams returner. Hughes is very fast, has good vision, and follows his blocks well. Once in the open field, he hits the afterburners, and defenders can't catch him from behind.
There are some areas that Hughes can improve upon for the pros. Sources say that Hughes can give up some completions from not finishing, but that is something that he could improve on in the pros with more coaching and experience. He also has off-the-field issues that concern some teams, which has hurt him with some around the league. Hughes is taking a lot of pre-draft visits to team facilities, and that is in large part for teams to vet any character concerns.
For the NFL, Hughes has the ability to be an outside corner as well as a nickelback. He could provide a serious impact on special teams as a returner, but his NFL team could pick certain spots and limit how many times they use him on returns to protect him from injury. As a top-three corner, his team might be afraid of using him very much on special teams.
Some team sources think that Hughes is the best cover corner in the 2018 NFL Draft. Others have him lower, but Hughes is expected to be a mid- to late first-rounder.
Player Comparison: Leodis McKelvin. Team sources have compared Hughes to McKelvin. That makes a lot of sense as McKelvin (5-10, 188) and Hughes are almost identical in size. Both of their skill sets also involve being fast cover corners who could run the route to prevent separation. They also share return skills. McKelvin was a high first-round pick, and Hughes could be a mid- to late first-rounder.
NFL Matches: Oakland, San Francisco, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle, Dallas, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New Orleans, Minnesota, New England, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Hughes in the 2018 NFL Draft. In the first round, the Raiders and 49ers both could use more cornerback help. Going as a the top-10 pick could be too high for Hughes, but if either team trades down, it could consider Hughes.
Green Bay has used a lot of picks on cornerbacks, but it remains a position to potentially address for the Packers. Hughes could get consideration as a cover corner. In Los Angeles, the Chargers could use a cornerback to go with Casey Hayward. Jason Verrett is nearing the end of his contract and has had durability issues.
Seattle cut Richard Sherman and will need more corner talent for their defense. Hughes may not have the size to fit the Seahawks' system though. Dallas could use more cornerback talent, and Hughes could make sense for the organization in the second round.
In the 20s, there are a lot of options for Hughes. The Bills could consider him with their second first-round pick due to having to find a replacement for Ronald Darby. The Vikings have to consider a replacement for Terrance Newman, while the Bengals could use a replacement for Adam Jones. Hughes could interest both Minnesota and Cincinnati. Atlanta could use a cornerback to replace Jalen Collins. The Saints have bigger needs, but they also might consider a corner if he is the best player available and find a partner to go with Marshon Lattimore.
The Patriots could consider taking Hughes with one of their first-round picks or their high second-round pick. Malcolm Butler left in free agency, while Stephon Gilmore was disappointing in his first year in Foxborough. Hughes' cover skills could make him a fit for New England. Philadelphia may not sign Darby to a long-term extension, and Hughes could be selected by the Eagles as a future replacement.
If Hughes were to slip to the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, there are a lot of potential fits. The Browns have to upgrade their cornerback talent, and Hughes would make a lot of sense for one of their second-round picks, if he gets there. Tampa Bay could use more young cornerback talent to go with Vernon Hargreaves, and Hughes would make sense for the Bucs in the second round. The Colts need a young corner to go with Quincy Wilson and replace Vontae Davis.