Overview: Outstanding pass rusher. Is a 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB tweener. Switched from RB to DE as a freshman. Led the nation with 15 sacks in 2008, added 11 more in 2009. Twice named the Mountain West defensive player of the year. Won the Lott Trophy (NCAA Defensive IMPACT player of the year), selected over other finalists Ndamukong Suh, Eric Berry and Rolando McClain. Also garnered the Ted Hendricks Award (NCAA’s best defensive end.)
Height: 6′ 2″
Arm Length: 33″
Hand size: 9¾”
40-yard dash: 4.65
10-yard split: 1.53
Bench reps: 26
Vertical jump: 34½”
Broad jump: 9′ 10″
Short shuttle: 4.15
3-cone drill: 6.99
The thing that really stands out here is Hughes’ 1.53 10-yard split, which is positively unnatural for a defensive lineman.
Pass Rush: Excellent productivity with 26 sacks in last two seasons. Very good first step with tremendous burst and acceleration, as evidenced by his 1.53 10-yard split. Possesses quick closing speed on the quarterback. Primarily a speed rusher great at bending off the edge. Also has a good rip move, a spin move and occasional bull rush. A relentless pass rusher who often draws double teams. Uses quickness and good footwork to succeed, needs to learn how to use his hands better. Played LDE at TCU, lining up against RTs who were typically not the best pass protectors.
Run Defense: Gets pushed around too often. Not strong against the run, especially on plays run right at him. Struggles to get off blocks, has difficulty stacking and shedding. Good range and speed in pursuit, takes good angles. Exhibits fine instincts and a nose for the ball. Forced six fumbles in 2008 season. A solid tackler who wraps up well.
Size/Strength/Athleticism: Good size for a 3-4 OLB but undersized as a 4-3 DE. Has the frame to add more bulk. Will also need to add more strength to remain a DE. As you might imagine from a former RB, Hughes is very athletic with great speed and quickness for a DE. Agile and fluid. Good lateral movement and change of direction.
Miscellaneous: Plays hard with a non-stop motor from whistle to whistle. Gives outstanding effort. Even plays special teams. Strong work ethic. High character. Durable with no injury history.
Weaknesses: Size is a real concern. May be too short, too small and too weak to remain a DE, might be better suited as a 3-4 rush OLB. Got his sacks playing LDE, lining up against RTs (and sometimes TEs) not as good as LTs in pass protection. Question: to what extent was his success a product of TCU’s unorthodox defense?
My take: You could make the argument that if Robert Mathis can play defensive end in the NFL then Hughes, who is bigger, certainly ought to be able to. But comparing the Colts’ defense to the Titans’ isn’t exactly comparing apples to apples. As a matter of fact, I think Hughes would be a much better fit for the Colts than he would be for the Titans but that may be moot. Hughes may no longer be on the board when the Colts draft at #31. Five 3-4 teams — the 49ers, Patriots, Packers, Cardinals and Jets — all need an OLB and will draft from picks 17 through 29. Hughes is projected by some analysts to be taken somewhere in that general area, from mid- to late first round.
I also have to believe the Titans like Pierre-Paul and Morgan a lot more than they like Hughes and I have a hard time seeing him in two-tone blue.
Disclaimer: This profile was compiled from watching tape and from various scouting reports; I have not seen Hughes in person.
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