Texas Christian Senior
PROS: Has good speed and a nice motor. Has excellent closing burst and does a good job in pursuit. Has a dangerous first step off the edge and usually beats every tackle he faces to the corner. Has experience working with his hand off the ground and dropping back into coverage. Is an athletic guy that shows potential to play in space. Passionate player that gives good effort. Shows potential as a bull rusher and flashes a developmental spin move.
CONS: Needs to improve his recognition and gets caught out of position too much vs. the run when he's playing in space. Not really a great run defender at the point of attack. Gets engulfed by blockers. Needs to improve his tackling and do a better job wrapping up. Doesn't like contact and prefers to run around blockers. Too easily chipped by backs and tight ends and not effective when double teamed. Needs to improve his hand use and shoulder dip when he's trying to turn the corner as an edge rusher. Doesn't have the hips, footwork, or natural feel for coverage yet. Needs to develop more pass rush moves, and overly relies on his edge speed and first step to win most battles.
OVERVIEW: Hughes is a pure pass rusher that has the speed and burst to be a dangerous player at the next level. But he's undersized to play on the line and needs to develop more polish to work in space.
NFL FORECAST: He's best fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. But he could develop into a decent hybrid end/linebacker in a 4-3 in the same mold as Brian Orakpo. But he's not a natural player in space, and probably won't impact as a run defender or coverage guy early on in his career. The scheme he'd work best in is a 3-4 scheme where he's used like DeMarcus Ware, which is predominantly as a pass rusher, and the other linebacker's job is to play the run and work in coverage. He's a dangerous pass rusher, but if he wants to relaly take his game to another level, he'll have to improve his technique. While he's a strong player that will flash hitting ability and passion, he tends to play like a finesse guy. He'll be a difficult matchup, but I think there will be too many times when he'll go up against quality left tackles and get shut down, and chipping him was way more effective than I would like. But the sky is the limit with him, and how quickly he can impact I think will depend largely on the scheme that he is drafted into. If he is just a pass rusher in the same mold as Ware or Terrell Suggs, he can be an impact rookie. If not, and he's asked to do other things, he could be limited.
ATL FORECAST: Hughes doesn't quite fit in Atlanta. He'd make a good situational pass rusher to team opposite Abraham, but doesn't have the upside to really be more than a situational guy. Despite having better size, as a defensive end he'll be closer to Robert Mathis and Elvis Dumervil. He'll be productive, but he'll have to be hidden on run downs. So he could impact in Atlanta as a pass rusher, but he'll never be as good all-around as Abraham. He doesn't fit well at linebacker because of how raw he is in coverage and playing the run in space. If he was to develop the technique, and ability to disengage from blockers, he could be an impact pass rusher for the Falcons. But he's more Robert Mathis than Dwight Freeney.
VALUE: For a team that envisions him as a DeMarcus Ware-type, he wouldn't be a reach in the late first round. But he's a guy that should probably be only a role player initially, making him a better value in the early part of the second round.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
POINT OF ATTACK: 2.0
PASS RUSH: 4.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.