Hughes teammate, Daryl Washington, was profiled here, Hughes stock is slightly higher, though his pro future may be as a linebacker as well. In a scheme that forgives a lack of height and bulk, like Indy's, Hughes could remain at defensive end where he excelled for TCU. In his two years as a starter Hughes totaled 26.5 sacks, 36 tackles for a loss, 8 fumbles forced, 4 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. At 6'2" 255lbs he's not horribly undersized for a 4-3 DE, but does look more like a 3-4 OLB. Comparing those numbers to the uber-productive Brandon Graham, Hughes was more effective against the pass, but made less plays against the run and played at a lower level of competition.
Hughes is a fantastic speed rusher, bursting off the line and flying past OTs into the backfield. He'll need to learn more pass rushing moves as the opposing tackles get quicker and more athletic in the NFL. Where he really struggles is in run defense. He's a good tackler and excellent in pursuit, but consistently gets pushed around by tackles and doesn't shed blocks well. TCU used him as a linebacker at times last year where he showed adequate cover skills to play as a 3-4 OLB, seriously upping his stock.
Plays two yards deep outside. Very good footwork. Properly adjusts his feet to get around the corner quickly. Pass rush moves are ordinary. Mostly a speed rusher. Never really showed consistently that he was comfortable with his spin move......The effort Hughes displays is outstanding. He's a very aggressive player who always plays until the whistle. Has good speed in pursuit. Lateral movement is solid.....Good first step off the snap. With his hand down, Hughes has as good of a burst off the snap as any pass rusher in the nation. Easily fires past linemen who don't quickly get into position.... At defensive end, Hughes really struggled at times against the run. Tackles could easily lock him up and shut him down. Did a much better job against tight ends and fullbacks, where he could use leverage and disengage. Can be fooled by fakes and misdirection plays.....If he wants to stay at end, Hughes will have to get much stronger. He struggles to get of blocks and can be engulfed by linemen....A very good, aggressive tackler. Uses his length nicely as a tackler. Showed he has a nose for the ball by forcing eight fumbles over his final two seasons...
Good instincts with a nose for the ball. Lacks elite timed speed but is quick to close when a lane to the quarterback or ballcarrier opens. Recognizes misdirection and stays at home to contain the edge....Pushed around on plays run at him, but has enough leverage and length to disengage from tight ends or fullbacks and chase when the ballcarrier bounces outside. Hustles downfield and through trash inside to make tackles....Drops into zones at times. Not exceptionally fluid or quick but has just enough speed and change-of-direction agility to stay with running backs and tight ends in the flat -- and run with them down the sideline....Explosive tackler in the backfield. Good length to wrap up and chops the ball out of the hands of ballcarriers. Usually takes correct angles in pursuit. Breaks down in space, getting a good part of even the more elusive backs. Relentless chaser of the quarterback, even when facing double- and triple-team blocks. Turns the corner using quickness to get under the shoulder of the tackle. Reaches in to knock the ball out of the quarterback's hands even if engaged. Can push some tackles into the backfield using his leverage to bull rush under the pads of bigger, taller blockers. Gets caught up in trash when twisting but gives good effort to fight through. Did take advantage of slow college right tackles (lines up on the strong side despite his lack of size) and an aggressive defense to get his sack numbers. Relies on pure speed and must learn how to have violent hands to beat NFL tackles. Will need some variation in his pass-rush moves.....Respected by his teammates. Fiery on the field and plays with attitude through the whistle. Willing to participate on special teams despite his All-America reputation. Coaches give him accolades for his work ethic during practice and in the offseason.
Can’t help but notice Hughes’ productivity as one of college football’s top pass rushers over the last few seasons. He’s a tough, instinctive player who does a good job getting blockers off his body. Highly athletic talent who displays range to track down running plays on the back side. Durable. Has an expansive repertoire of pass rush moves.
Hughes reminds me in many ways of Robert Mathis, the size, the small school, tendency for the strip sack. Hughes' superior size, level of competition and experience in coverage has his stock on the edge of the 1st round. Hughes is seriously in play for the Jets, and is unlikely to last long into the 2nd round if they pass on him. Hughes is a great prospect, but one that seems to be better value for a 3-4. A top 50 pick is a steep price for guy that might never be an even decent run defender at DE.
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