*Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman *
Very excited to get the player we were able to get at number 30. As we sat there and watched the board unfold he was the highest rated player on our draft board at the time. The one philosophy that we're always going to do is follow that board to how we have it developed. And as we sat there and watched Mike [Hughes] fall down I know corners are a premium here. I know as we sit there and go through our meetings what Coach Zimmer looks for in the traits to play corner in this system. I know also what he brings as a potential returner and what he does on special teams. So he brings a lot of value to us in numerous areas and can't tell you how excited we are to get him where we were able to get him at number 30.
Q: Does he have versatility to play inside or out?
A: We spent a lot of time with him, we visited him at the combine, he was here on a Top 30. We were down there on his work out. He brings the versatility and the one thing that's an emphasis here is the ability to play multiple positions. And he can play outside, he can play inside, he can play on special teams, he can be a returner. This player was just too much value for us not take where we saw him in the draft.
Q: What impressed you the most about Mike Hughes for his size?
A: The thing that coach Zimmer preaches is the quickness out of his transition. Which means out of his back pedal. How quickly can he get from point A to point B. And as we sat there and watched the tape together we felt he was one of the top corners as far as the quickness that we're looking for and to fit in what the requirements are going to be for him from a physical skill standpoint to play in this defense.
Q: How many calls did you get about trading this pick?
A: We got a lot of calls about maybe five or six picks before us. Then we didn't get any calls once we were on the clock. But, I don't know if we would have traded out will what we felt with a player of that value at the 30th pick.
Q: What does the depth of the offensive line in the draft look like going into Day 2?
A: I think there is a lot of depth there. And I know last year we were able to get Pat [Elflein] in the third round. I know looking at the board there is still a lot of quality depth in the offensive line. But there is also a lot of quality depth throughout the rest of the draft. So, excited for tomorrow, potentially moving up or potentially moving down. We'll see how the board starts to fall in the beginning, but I feel very strongly about the depth and some of the players that we like.
Q: Did you expect that run on interior offensive lineman?
A: Try to anticipate that, those are two really good players when the interior line started to go. So, it's fun to watch. You anticipate through all the different scenarios as you get prepared for this. And to see it actually happen in real time it's kind of exciting and it's like, "At this point we like this guy, we like that guy, but in a sense I can't believe this guy is still here when we're picking." But, that's the fun part of the draft.
Q: What did you learn from the process of reviewing Hughes' background?
A: I can tell you that we did a lot of homework, not only on him, but any player that we felt that had any type of character. We spent a lot of time with a lot of people that had him in their football programs. We spent a lot of time with people outside of the football programs. After our extensive research, no question we felt very confident with him coming in and being a Minnesota Viking. That always goes that we go through it also with the ownership and I give them all the information that we do have and we come up with a collective decision on "Is this a Minnesota Viking fit or not?" No question in my mind or anyone's mind in this organization that he truly fits with what we want as a Minnesota Viking.
Q: Do you address the issues and what kind of answers did you get?
A: I'm not going to give details on what we talked about. We address any issues with any players. We address their social media accounts. We address anything that we know. We addressed one player that had five speeding tickets. We know the background and we do a lot of research in that area. Anyone that we bring in here, if there is anything, it will definitely be addressed. It will be researched after it is addressed.
Q: Where do you see Mike Hughes as far as his development curve might be?
A: I think we are just excited to get him started going in rookie mini camp. Corner is a premium with Coach Zimmer. Corners are premiums with this defense. Coach Zimmer always states you can never have enough pass rushers, you can never have enough corners. I think by adding Mike it gives us a lot of depth at that position. We are very young at that position. Our younger guys are starting to mature now into very good football players and we see the same path for Mike when he gets in here.
Q: How much does his return skills factor into the value of Mike Hughes?
A: I think it is a huge part of it as well. Coach [Mike] Priefer spent a lot of time. We had probably a three-and-a-half hour meeting on just special teams alone. I know our scouts grade these guys not only as players on offense and defense, but they also give them a special teams grade. So we did a lot of group study on this returner as well. With his explosive speed that he shows on tape, and some of the things he was able to do not only as a kickoff returner and punt returner, that also added value to him.
Q: With only one year of tape at UCF, was that a concern at all?
A: No, I think after we spent time with him and evaluated what he was, I think this kid has tremendous upside. He is not going to come in and be forced to be a starter right away. We feel pretty strongly about our two corners and Mackensie [Alexander] is coming along so he is going to get an opportunity to come in. Coaches are going to take their time to develop this kid and when he is ready to go, he'll be ready to go. We think this kid has tremendous upside from what we've seen.
*Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer *
A lot of what Rick [Spielman] said is exactly what we thought of [Hughes]. Number one, we value cover guys here along with our pass rushers. This guy has the traits we're looking for and the ability to get from point A to point B. You can see that Rick and I are always on the same page, and all these things we talk about. We actually sat in his office and watched a lot these players at each position, him and myself and George Paton. We have an understanding of exactly what we're looking for, and I do think the punt return and the kick return played a big part of it. We weren't as explosive in our return game as we wanted to be last year. This kid will help us in all phases of special teams. We're going to mature him into being a full-time player. I don't know how soon that will be, but he's got the traits we're looking for. We feel like he can play inside or outside as a corner. Really just about everything Rick said.
Q: Does bringing a player like Mike Hughes in as potentially the third cornerback going into training camp create competition for guys like Mackensie Alexander?
A: Quite honestly, I was asked that question on the radio, but we didn't do it to push Mackensie. We're just trying to get good football players in here and shake it out, and whoever ends up playing plays. I'm not married to anybody, so we just go out and try to get the best players on the field. Quite honestly in today's NFL, with as much throwing as is going on, I could see four corners in the game at one time.* *
Q: How does drafting Hughes affect your sub packages?
A: It gives us a lot of flexibility I think, and that's kind of what I was saying. I've always kind of tinkered around with having one safety and four corners, things like that. It'll give us some flexibility in what we do in some of the nickel packages.
Q: After selecting a corner, does there remain a chance that Terence Newman could return to the team?
A: Yeah, I think there sure is.
Q: After evaluating Hughes' tape, what is one skill or area of his game that you will be working to improve?
A: Everything. His off technique. We just do things a little bit differently, but we look for the certain skills. His press technique is a little bit different than the ones we're going to teach him, but part of the deal with coaching is to be able to use what he has, and if he's successful doing that then let's not tinker with him. It's like a guy throwing a baseball, when he throws a certain way you let him throw it. We'll try to get him better like we do every player.
Q: What about Hughes allowed him to overcome not having the typical cornerback size that you look for?
A: The other things. I like big players everywhere. He's 5'10.1" and our prototype starts at 5'10.5, so it's a 4/10ths difference and it's not that big of a deal.
Q: Is it easier to just plug a rookie in at the outside cornerback position rather than at nickel?
A: Much. The nickel position is a hard position just because of the zone pass off concepts, the man within your zone concepts that we do, understanding the blitzes and all the different things they have to do. It is more difficult, it's a little more time consuming. It just happens quicker in there opposed to the outside.
Q: Did you see him willing to gamble on tape and does that cause you any concern?
Q: No, I honestly didn't see it. But if you're not aggressive you can't play for me anyways. I don't know if it's gambling or aggressive but that doesn't bother me at all. I've had some pretty aggressive corners in my day. I'd rather tell them whoa in opposed to go.
Vikings Cornerback Mike Hughes
1st Round (30th overall), Central Florida
First off, I want to say thank you to Coach Zimmer, General Manager Rick Spielman and Mark and Zygi Wilf. I'm definitely excited to be a Viking and be a part of the community and I'm looking forward to meeting everyone tomorrow.
Q: How much contact did you have with the Vikings leading up to the draft?
A: I met twice with them at the combine and I went on the Top 30 visit in Minnesota. So, I met with them three times.
Q: Did you have a sense that this is where you might land?
A: I knew it would be a possibility. The relationship I built with the coaches I knew, they were pretty excited about me. So, once they got the chance to grab me, I wasn't surprised. I'm definitely blessed to be in this position.
Q: What was that moment like for you?
A: It was unreal, I'm still shocked right now. I think it'll hit me tomorrow once I land in Minnesota.
Q: What have you learned from Coach Zimmer in your brief meetings?
A: Just a few techniques of how they play man coverage. He also gave me a few pointers of certain coverages they play. It was very brief, we didn't get a chance to go over a lot.
Q: What about your skill sets do you think will transfer over to the Vikings?
A: My ball skills, my covering ability and also in the return game. I think I'll help out in all three phases.
Q: What was last season like for you when you get to UCF and have the season you had?
A: It was fun. It was a lot of fun. Everybody wants to win and that's what I like to do. I love winning. Whatever I can do to help my team win that's what I'll do and that is what I did this past year with UCF. It was definitely a lot of fun. We had a lot of confidence going into the season and our confidence is definitely building as the season went on so we just had a lot fun and played together. We had a great season and I loved every bit of it.
Q: You're coming into an experienced secondary group here, what are you hoping to learn from some of the guys here?
A: Those are some great guys. Obviously #1 defense. I'm just looking to build as a player and as a man off the field. Wherever I can fit in, in the defense I'll do whatever the coach needs me to do to put us in position to be successful. I'm just blessed to be in this position now.
Q: What did you tell teams about your off the field incidents in North Carolina?
A: Just tell what I've learned from it. How I've overcome all the things that happened. Like I said, I'm just blessed to be a part of this organization, I'm ready to go to work.
Q: Do you have a preference playing on the inside or outside? What's the difference for you?
A: No sir, I don't have a preference. I think I'll be pretty versatile wherever you guys need me to be. Like I said, I'm just so happy to be a part of the organization. I can't wait to get to work. However the coach wants to use me I'm willing to do whatever.
Q: Have you talked to any current Vikings yet?
A: I saw a couple tweets that guys mentioned me in, but I haven't physically talked to anybody yet.