The UCF Knights became the darlings of the college football world in 2018. They have all the charm of a feisty squad of misfits and underdogs -- except that those same players are extremely talented.
Linebacker Shaquem Griffin (deservedly) gets the lion’s share of the accolades, but they have several more players who should be starting on NFL rosters. Cornerback Mike Hughes, for example, is one of the best defensive backs in the draft, but also one of the least discussed.
As it so happens, the New York Giants have a serious need at the cornerback position, lacking both a starting slot corner and starter-caliber depth behind Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple.
Could they look at the undersized but highly talented Hughes?
- Very quick feet and hips. Easily able to stick with receivers in tight coverage.
- Great closing burst.
- Able to play press or off man coverage, or zone.
- Good ball skills.
- Willing and aggressive tackler.
- Unafraid to come downhill in run support or as a blitzer.
- Physical taking on blockers with surprising play strength.
- Undersized and lack of mass could get him bullied by bigger corners
- Doesn’t have the long speed to keep up with true burners.
- Occasionally gets over-aggressive as a tackler, giving up yards after contact.
- Lacks ideal length.
What They’re Saying
SOURCES TELL US
“I wish he would have stayed. I don’t see him as a ‘one’ and I think he could have been with another year. He’s just raw right now but he’s got the ability to become a really tough ball challenger.” -- NFC regional scout
Does He Fit The Giants?
Mike Hughes is a fun player to watch on tape. So much so that, at times, it’s easy to get frustrated with TV coverage for rarely showing the entirety of a defensive back’s rep. Hughes has a lot of the traits that you would want to see from a starting corner, with quick feet, oily hips, a versatile game, and plenty of confidence. However, the NFL will likely ding him because of his size -- or lack thereof.
He will likely get classified as a “slot” corner, but considering the prevalence three receiver sets in the NFL, the slot is basically a starting position on defense.
After moving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from slot corner to free safety, to off the roster, the Giants just so happen to have a hole at slot corner. They brought in a few free agent defensive backs who could compete for depth, but the primary option appears to be Donte Deayon. And while Deayon was a favorite of the previous coaching staff, it is unknown how the new regime will feel about him. Hughes has the ability to seize the job (and if it doesn’t it promises to be a great camp battle) and provide starter-quality depth on the outside.
Excepting his his size, Hughes has first round talent, but, for better or worse, the NFL drafts measurables in the first round, and Hughe’s lack of size and speed could cause him to fall. If he does, he could be an absolute steal on the draft’s second day.