Instead of taking an offensive lineman to help protect new franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings bolstered its defense by choosing former Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes 30th overall in the NFL Draft Thursday night.
It's the second year in a row that the Vikings have used a high draft pick on a player with alleged off-the-field issues.
Last year it was running back Dalvin Cook, who had a squeaky clean rookie season despite tearing his ACL, and now Hughes comes in facing questions about a sexual assault allegation during his 2015 freshman season at North Carolina.
The allegations never led to criminal charges and Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said they did their homework on Hughes and "no question we felt very confident with him coming in and being a Minnesota Viking"
On the field, there's plenty to be learned about Hughes. Here's a bit of what we already know.
1. His combine stats don't jump off the page
He was listed at 5-foot-10, 189 pounds and ran his 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the NFL Combine, just the 25th-fastest 40 time among defensive backs this year.
2. His on-field production jumps off the page
Hughes basically shut down half the field as a lockdown, ball hawk cornerback for undefeated Central Florida. He finished with 44 tackles, 11 pass breakups and four touchdowns – one interception return, two kick returns and one punt return.
3. Don't expect him to steal Trae Waynes' job
Viking general manager Rick Spielman said Hughes will have an opportunity to come in and learn before being thrown into the fire.
"We feel Hughes has tremendous upside from what we’ve seen. He won’t be forced to start right away," Spielman said. "We feel good about our two starters (Xavier Rhodes and Waynes) and Mackensie (Alexander) is coming along."
4. Zimmer wanted a ball hawk cornerback
“If you’re not aggressive, you can’t play for me anyways,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said late Thursday night. “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.'"
Zimmer added that he could use Hughes in experimental defensive looks that feature four cornerbacks and one safety – Harrison Smith – on the field at the same time.
5. College coach called him a 'gift from God'
Jeffrey Sims coached Hughes for one year in 2016 at Garden Center Community College in Florida, and he's on record with the Orlando Sentinel describing him as a "gift from God."
“Now that he is with a great organization that can continue to develop him the sky is the limit," Sims told the Sentinel late Tuesday. "I am sure he will be very impactful as a returner the first couple years as he blossoms into one of the best cornerbacks in the league.”
It's worth noting that Sims coached Bucs star linebacker Lavonte David and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was an elite pass rusher with the Giants before losing some of his fingers in a fireworks accident. Pierre-Paul also plays for the Bucs now.