Former Vikings First-Round Pick Heads to Atlanta

There's Another 'One That Got Away' for Vikings
Mike Hughes

The Vikings’ first-round hit rate in the last few years has been a mixed bag. In 2020, the Vikings picked Justin Jefferson who somehow fell all the way to the 22nd overall pick. He was the fifth receiver taken. A few selections later, Mike Zimmer got his cornerback, a huge position of need for the team. Jeff Gladney only spent one season with the Vikings and sadly passed away in 2022.

In 2021, former GM Rick Spielman found Christian Darrisaw with the 23rd overall pick and he quickly turned into a superstar left tackle. Both Darrisaw and Jefferson will sign huge contracts in the next 15 months. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first draft pick, safety Lewis Cine, has not shined for the Vikings yet but it is too early to make a final assessment.

Former Vikings First-Round Pick Heads to Atlanta

Former Vikings First-Round Pick Is Heading to Atlanta
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 23: Mike Hughes #21 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during the game against the Buffalo Bills at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 23, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

In the 2018 season, right after the Vikings had their best defense in recent history, the team tried to keep the defensive unit rolling when they selected Mike Hughes, a cornerback from UCF, with the 30th overall pick.

According to Jeremy Fowler, Hughes signed a two-year deal in the NFC South, where he will meet new Panthers wideout Adam Thielen twice per season. The Vikings also play against the Falcons in 2023.

Many fans were surprised by the pick, as the Vikings had an excellent and talented cornerback room. However, another CB was added, which directly led to the meme that Zimmer always wants his cornerback in round one of the draft.

In hindsight, the selection was perspectively a smart one, especially because Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes left in 2020, Terence Newman joined the coaching staff and Mackensie Alexander didn’t work out. The Vikings’ CB group has been a disaster for three straight years.

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Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) catches the ball in front of Detroit Lions cornerback Mike Hughes. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

Unfortunately, Hughes didn’t work out for the Vikings either. In his NFL debut, Hughes picked off Jimmy Garoppolo and returned it for a touchdown. He started in the slot, Waynes and Rhodes on the outside. A few weeks later, in a Week 6 matchup against the Cardinals, Hughes tore his ACL which ended his debut season prematurely.

Late in the 2019 season, Hughes suffered a neck injury, which would turn out to be a lingering issue. He missed the two postseason games. In his third season, after the departure of Rhodes and Waynes, Hughes was the new top CB in the building. However, he suffered another neck injury a couple of weeks into the season and only played four games in 2020.

After the third injury-plagued season, the Vikings traded him to the Chiefs for a late-round pick swap. Hughes played tremendously for the Chiefs and appeared in all 17 games, including five starts, and three postseason games. The cornerback also logged a career-high in snaps in a single season.

Dec 12, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Mike Hughes (21) forces a fumble against Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Zay Jones (7) during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

After that year in Kansas City, Hughes returned to the NFC North with the Lions, where he even topped the number of snaps played from his previous season. He appeared in 16 games and started six.

Hughes quietly became a journeyman cornerback, as he once again was an unrestricted free agent and was in a position to pick his next team. He will head to Atlanta for the upcoming campaign.

While Hughes ended up as a massive bust for the Vikings but he has shown flashes in his five-year career. The bad injury luck he had in Minnesota didn’t help him fulfill his potential with the purple team but he turned into a decent cornerback in the NFL.

Hughes played in 24 games for the Vikings.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt