(Editor's Note: While the start of the 2017 NFL Draft isn't until April 26, it's never too early to profile some of the key participants. The staff of DallasCowboys.com intends to preview the landscape of the draft's top prospect, with an emphasis on possible Cowboys draft picks – from the first round to the last. Today's featured player is UCF's Mike Hughes.)
- Name: Mike Hughes
- Position: Cornerback
- Honors:Hughes was named all-conference at two different positions in 2017, earning first-team status at cornerback and second-team status at return specialist.
- Key Stat:Led the Knights in pass breakups, with 11, and tied for the team lead in interceptions, with four.
Where He's Projected:
Hughes is one of the five or so cornerbacks that is widely regarded at the top of this year's draft – along with Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ohio State's Denzel Ward, Iowa's Josh Jackson and Louisville's Jaire Alexander. Where exactly that slots him into the draft order is anybody's guess, but it's a good bet that he'll be drafted somewhere between the middle of the first round and the early portion of the second round. If the board falls the right way, he may be good option for the Cowboys at pick No. 19. It's unlikely he'd last all the way to pick No. 50 – although they could potentially land him later in the first round if they manage to trade back.
How He Helps The Cowboys:
Obviously, cornerback is not this team's biggest need. The Cowboys invested heavily in the position last year, and the depth chart is fairly stocked. That said, you can never have too many cornerbacks in the modern NFL, and Hughes' presence on the roster could allow them to be more versatile on the back end of the defense. You always hear draftniks say that you don't want to window dress your draft board, and if Hughes is the pick, it'd likely represent the age old philosophy of "best player available." The addition of another premier corner could allow the Cowboys the flexibility to move Chidobe Awuzie to safety, or it could simply give them another talent in a stocked secondary. On top of that, he'd give the Cowboys another option at returner.
- This is a super talented corner that is highly competitive.
- He lacks ideal height but that doesn't prevent him from performing his job.
- He is at his best when he can line up tight and mirror his man.
- The closer he plays, the better shape he's in.
- Outstanding movement skills.
- Opponents have a difficult time getting away from him.
- Refuses to give an inch when in coverage.
- Shows the ability to carry his man anywhere on the field.
- Despite his lack of height, you don't see the ball go over the top of him.
- Understands how to position himself in order to defend the ball.
- Plays with ball skills. You don't have to worry about him missing possible interceptions.
- Hughes is also one of the best return men in the country.
- He averaged 34.1 yards per kickoff return.
- He can also return punts.
- This is a dynamic player when you put the ball in his hands.