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Mike Hughes Should Be a Sure-Fire Day One NFL Draft Pick

UCF in the NFL Draft

Mike Hughes (Photo: Derek Warden)
Mike Hughes (Photo: Derek Warden)

This is our first NFL Draft Preview article, where we will go over the top four UCF Knights projected to be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. We'll have one coming out each day or so leading up to Thursday's 1st round. For updates, follow @UCF_Banneret on Twitter.

Today we begin with Mike Hughes.

Mike Hughes

Defensive Back/Kick Returner

Mike Hughes USF War on I-4
UCFs Mike Hughes races to the end zone on his game-winning 95-yard kickoff return against USF. Photo: Derek Warden
Photo: Derek Warden

Hughes came to UCF at the end of a circuitous road. He started his college career at North Carolina in 2015, but was booted off the team after being charged with an assault after five games.

He then picked up the pieces of his career at Garden City Community College in Kansas. In 2016, he recorded 47 tackles, two interceptions, and returned three of his 58 punt returns for touchdowns. He also caught ten balls - three for touchdowns - as a receiver.

Hughes then landed at UCF just days before the 2017 season and immediately made an impact, moving into a starting CB role by mid-season, returning a pick for a TD against Memphis, a punt for a TD against ECU, and a kickoff for a TD against Austin Peay, and the now-legendary 95-yard return TD with barely a minute to go against USF. He also broke up 11 passes and blocked a kick in 2017.

Hughes finished the year with four interceptions, including a clutch pick against USF, and finished with 49 tackles, 37 of them solo.

He elected to leave UCF with a year remaining in his eligibility.

Measurables

  • Height: 5' 10"
  • Weight: 189 pounds
  • 40 Time: 4.53
  • Bench Press (225 pounds): 20
  • Vertical Jump: 35.5

Stats

Defensive

Year Team GMS Tkls (Total/Solo) INT Yards TD Ret PD FumFrc FumRec
2015 UNC 10 11/10 0 0 0 3 0 0
2017 UCF 13 49/37 4 92 1 11 1 0

Special Teams

Year Team GMS KO Ret Yds Avg TD Punt Ret Yds Avg TD
2015 North Carolina 10 4 125 31.1 0 0 0 0 0
2017 UCF 13 20 635 31.8 2 14 233 16.6 1

Honors

  • First Team All-AAC
  • 3rd in NCAA in Punt Return Average
  • 5th in NCAA in Kickoff Return Average

UCF Highlights

Scouting Combine Workout

Outlook

Very good. Hughes' ability as a kick returner was on full display in the War on I-4 game when his speed and elusiveness cemented him in UCF lore with his game-winning kickoff return. But his pass defense was a huge key to UCF's bend-but-don't break defense. In the AAC Championship against Memphis, he went toe-to-toe with Anthony Miller of Memphis and played him essentially to a draw in one-on-ones.

Hughes' outright speed, aggressiveness on defense, field vision and willingness to sacrifice for special teams will make him a valuable asset to teams in the late first to early second round. Indeed, his special teams prowess outshines his shutdown corner potential.

Projections

  • Scott Wright (NFL Draft Countdown): Round 2, Pick #33 (Browns)
  • Dan Kadar (SB Nation): Round 1, Pick #23 (Patriots)
  • Charlie Casserly (NFL.com): Round 1, Pick #14 (Packers)
  • Maurice Jones-Drew (NFL.com): Round 1, Pick #23 (Patriots)
  • Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com): Round 1, Pick #24 (Panthers)
  • Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Round 1, Pick #28 (Steelers)
  • Luke Easterling (USA Today): Round 2, Pick #35 (Browns)
  • Scott Dochterman (Land of 10): Round 2, Pick #35 (Colts)

Day 1. Likely late first round, although Hughes is right on the cusp of the first/second round line.

Teams to Watch

Patriots, Browns.

Next up: Tre'quan Smith