Notre Dame Senior
Shows decent straight-line burst as a runner to the hole, and flashes some ability as a one-cut runner. Has good size and power in short-yardage and does a nice job lowering the pads and delivering the blow to the defender. When he can square his shoulders on the edge, can be a dangerous runner due to his power. Fights for extra yards. Comfortable as a receiver out of the backfield. Can lower the shoulder and deliver blow to defender as a lead blocker when working in the wildcat.
Lacks burst and slow out of his cuts. Runs too upright and too patient at times in the backfield looking for the hole. Doesn't have the wiggle or quickness to make defenders miss on the second level. Slow and it shows when he's out in space or trying to run on the edge. Struggles when he's forced to change direction. Needs to learn how to use his hands and square up a defender as a lead blocker.
Hughes looked like a tweener to me as a big, powerful running back that was too slow to play there, but too raw as a fullback until the bowl game against Miami. In that game, I saw two instances where he absolutely put LB Colin McCarthy on his butt, and it made me think that there is a bit more potential for him as a fullback than I initially thought. He is a very powerful runner, that if it can be translated to blocking, he could be a decent option for a team. Started 7 games as a reserve running back through his career. Finished career with 321 carries for 1392 yards (4.3 avg), 15 touchdowns, and 43 receptions. Had 3 100-yard games through his career. This past year, he played primarily as the guy that got reps at the end of games.
Hughes is a project, and unless he can impress a team on specail teams or with his ability as a goalline rusher, then he's going to be hard-pressed to make an NFL roster right off the bat. But he's the type of guy that you can imagine bouncing around some camps and practice squads for two or three summers, and then sticking. Ultimately, as a fullback, he could become a poor man's Leonard Weaver. The ideal situation for him is one like Philadelphia that will use him in short-yardage, goalline situations, and also as a lead blocker from time to time. But he won't be great in any of those roles. As a short-yardage back, he can be decent for a team desperate for that role, but there are better options with better vision and quicks as a runner. As a lead blocker, he could be a decent short-area blocker that can deliver a pop in the hole. The main thing with him is playing on specail teams. If he can contribute there, some team will be willing to give him a chance to grow and develop a role on offense. But if not, then he offers very little value because of his long development time and lack of great upside.
Hughes might be good enough to get a look on the Falcons practice squad, but unless he was a special teams ace he wouldn't make the roster. He could be developed as a short-yardage back and lead blocker down the road, but isn't good enough right now in either area to merit being kept on the roster over someone like Jason Snelling who fills a similar niche behind Mughelli.
Hughes isn't worth drafting because of his rawness and long development time, but someone should bring him to camp to see if they can get a head start on him.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Scouting reports of the running backs and fullbacks in the 2011 Draft.
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