It's April, which means that the NFL draft is not even a month away. For the New England Patriots it will be an important one as the team has to fill holes at offensive tackle and linebacker, while it also needs to add to the depth at multiple other positions. One of them is the defensive secondary – and SB Nation's Dan Kadar has the team address it in his latest mock draft.
31. New England Patriots: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
I still like going after UCLA offensive tackle Kolton Miller here, but a cornerback makes sense too. Hughes is an aggressive outside corner who doesn’t mind mixing it up in man coverage situations.
If drafted by the Patriots, the Central Florida prospect would add depth on defense and special teams: Hughes was not only named to the first All-Conference team at cornerback in 2017 – his first year with the Knights after stints at North Carolina (2015) and Garden City Community College (2016) – but also to the AAC’s second team as a returnman.
As a defender, Hughes would add talent, athleticism and playmaking ability to the perimeter of the Patriots’ secondary. Furthermore, the 5'11 defensive back brings experience playing one-on-one in man-coverage schemes to the table and registered four interceptions in this role last season.
He does not come without red flags, though: Hughes, for example, was dismissed from North Carolina after facing misdemeanor assault charges following an altercation at a fraternity. Furthermore, the question remains whether or not the team would be willing to invest a first-round selection in a cornerback after trading for Jason McCourty earlier this offseason.
With McCourty joining Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe as the top three, and Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones as the depth players, adding another cornerback early in the draft might be redundant. New England drafting an offensive tackle like UCLA's Kolton Miller or Oklahoma's Orlando Brown Jr. – both still on the board in Kadar's mock – might therefore be the more realistic projection.