Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mike Hughes shoulders the little experience the Vikings have at one of the most important positions in the NFL.
Entering his third season, Hughes is poised to take on full-time starter duties after the Vikings parted ways with its entire starting cornerback this offseason and also provide a veteran presence to keep the young unit afloat.
Hughes landed on Pro Football Focus’ list of players “entering prove-it years” for those factors, along with his underperformance as a first-round draft pick so far:
“Mike Hughes is another first-round cornerback from the 2018 draft heading into the 2020 season with something to prove. Staying healthy has been the biggest issue for Hughes so far in the NFL, as he has played just 744 total snaps across two seasons including the playoffs. The Vikings saw their top three corners from 2018 all depart this offseason, so they will now rely on Hughes to not just be a full-time starter in 2020, but to also play well and keep that unit’s head above water. Over his NFL career, he has allowed a passer rating of 99.0 when targeted and given up a catch on 66.7% of the passes thrown his way, surrendering five touchdowns on 93 targets. Those numbers need to improve.”
Hughes, picked 30th overall in 2018, has played 744 total snaps in two seasons, one of which he only played six games after suffering a knee injury his rookie year.
The next closest player to him in terms of snaps is Holton Hill. Hill, in his third year out of Texas, benefited from Hughes’ injury and played 353 of his 369 snaps in 2018 after Hughes’ season-ending injury. Beyond the two three-year corners, Minnesota has just eight snaps in one game of NFL experience in Nathan Meadors at cornerback.
Hughes enters the penultimate year of his rookie contract and has the opportunity to cement himself in the Vikings starting defense, and if he can’t in the next couple seasons, it could be time for the Vikings to move on.
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Mike Hughes & Holton Hill Among ‘5 Weakest Starters’
The Viking Age recently compiled a list of the five weakest starters on the Vikings in 2020 and both projected starters at cornerback landed on the list.
Here’s what Nik Edlund said about Hughes:
“Hughes has shown some flashes in his time on the field, as he’s had a pick-six and he grabbed another interception just last year. He also has 12 career pass breakups with 67 tackles.
However, there are plenty of times where Hughes has looked lost in coverage and he gives his man way to big of a cushion.
Hughes has also had times where he’s had good position on his man, but somehow the pass still makes it into the hands of the receiver. This happened a lot during Minnesota’s game against the Dallas Cowboys last season when Hughes was schooled by Amari Cooper for most of the night.”
Hughes could draw the No. 1 wide receiver assignment this season, and if he doesn’t show improvement it could be a long haul. Hill’s biggest knock was his lack of experience, although he has played well in his limited playing time.
The offensive guard positions consisting of Pat Elflein, Dakota Dozier (and Drew Samia) were named as soft spots along with Shamar Stephen at defensive tackle.
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire