Hughes’ start to his NFL career was a rocky one, despite being selected in the first round, pick No. 30, of the 2018 draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Six games into his rookie year, Hughes tore his ACL, ending his season prematurely. With depth at the position, Hughes started off his sophomore season on the bench, contributing in 14 games with three starts. After a roster purge in the secondary, the Vikings promoted Hughes to the starting lineup in year three, but once again landed on injured reserve, this time after just four games.
After two seasons that ended with Hughes on injured reserve, the Vikings elected not to pick up his fifth-year option and traded him, plus a seventh-round pick, to the Kansas City Chiefs for a sixth-round pick in what looked like a salary dump for the salary cap-strapped Minnesota franchise.
Hughes (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) has shown the potential to play inside and out, but he showed a lot of promise on the outside in the Chiefs’ press man scheme in 2021. He started five games for the Chiefs, recording 47 tackles, six pass breakups, and an interception. He earned an overall grade of 72.9 from PFF.
“The former first-round pick had a career year following a trade to Chiefs, earning his best grades in every facet of play by a large margin in defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s man-heavy coverage scheme,” PFF wrote in their free agency rankings. “Hughes’ 78.8 coverage grade in 2021 was a top-10 mark among cornerbacks, but he did struggle a bit, allowing explosive receptions on 4.1% of his coverage snaps — a bottom-15 mark.”
While Hughes has 12 career starts at corner, he is also a consistent contributor on special teams, where he contributes in all four phases and can provide insurance as a punt/kick returner in a pinch.
At just 25 years old (this past February), Hughes gives the Lions another young corner—they currently have 10 on the roster 26 year old or younger—and one that has shown improvements under the right coaching circumstances. With the Lions flush with impressive secondary coaches, it is a great marriage for both sides.