Scouting Report: The 3-4 defense is becoming more and more of the norm in the league, and it's success hinges on having outside linebackers who can rush the quarterback. In this draft, Hughes is easily the best 3-4 rush OLB/DE hybrid in this draft. He's got ideal size, that allows his to be strong at the point of attack against the run, can engage a lineman, shed them and get to the ball carrier. But his strength is that first step as a pass rusher. Hand on the ground, no player in the country is as explosive as Hughes. He does a great job with his hands, keeps his pad level good and can get up and under larger players, split double teams, and blow past slower linemen. He plays with great leverage, and rarely loses a one on one. He's got a motor that doesn't quit, and you rarely see him take a play off. Where he'll need work is in run support, where he does get washed away at times, and in coverage, where he's going to have to learn much more about coverage and be much more fluid in his drops and be able to turn and run with tight ends and backs.
Draft Status: Most mock drafts don't have Hughes in the first round but I disagree. When you see what great 3-4 defenses have, it's the ability to generate a consistent pass rush from their OLB. There is no player in the draft who can do that like Hughes can, so I am certain some team will snatch him up in the first round.
Final Analysis: I may be in the minority, but I think Hughes is one of the 5 best defensive players in this entire draft(With Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Eric Berry, and Joe Haden). His explosion off the edge, and his tenacity going after the quarterback is so fun to watch. Hughes may not show up in shorts the way some pundits want, but he's a straight up lunch pail football player, and brings it every single play. You can't ask for much more than that. The best pass rusher in the draft bar none, and is going to make some team very happy.
Reminds me of: LaMarr Woodley, OLB Pittsburgh Steelers-Same body type, same college experience, and same explosive nature that so Woodley has translated very well to his new position. Honestly, I think Hughes has a chance to be much better.
Scouting Report written by Curt Popejoy