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Will character concerns cause draft “free fall” for UCF’s Mike Hughes?

Florida Football Insiders

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Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

We are in the final stage of the evaluation process and it’s now officially, “Draft week” for all the prospects and the 32 teams. For most of them, teams have made up their mind about who’s in what position on their draft board headed to Arlington, TX, and AT&T Stadium for Thursday night.

However, there are some players either for on-field questions or more importantly now, off field questions, who are maybe in danger of the draft night “free fall” or “slide.”

The classic extreme example of this was the 2015 draft and LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins, who had all the credentials to be a top 10 first round pick that year. That’s until a former girlfriend of his, who was pregnant at the time, was murdered in Louisiana just before draft week.

Everyone from law enforcement to NFL security to the teams themselves, began to scramble for more information prior to Collins potentially being selected. It turned out that due to the cloud of the questioning, Collins went completely undrafted. It should be pointed out that he was questioned just after the draft about the homicide, but was never charged. And, he was eventually, ruled out on having any connection to the homicide.

However, the damage to his draft status that weekend was done, and, it cost Collins $15-20 million guaranteed for the beginning of his career. He eventually signed as a free agent with the Cowboys and got a three year deal for the rookie minimum. Last off season, Collins re-upped with the Cowboys on a new two year contract for just over $15 million.

Now, we get to UCF’s Mike Hughes, who clearly has the talent to be a pick by at least the second night (second and third rounds) of the draft. In fact post scouting combine, we wrote that Hughes was starting to get buzz and could possibly find his way into the first round.

However, there has been more scrutiny recently on his background. And an allegation of sexual assault from his previous stint at his first school, North Carolina in 2015.

As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero wrote Friday, there have been plenty of questions being asked:

Pelissero obviously spoke with all sides, including vetting Hughes with the schools and talking to prospective teams that might or might not take him off their draft board.

The bottom line is: the words “sexual assault allegation” alone, will scare some teams off.

Now, as the item points out, it didn’t scare the Raiders off last April from drafting Gareon Conley with the 24th overall pick with the same words hanging out there about him. Ultimately, Conley was never charged in connection with the allegation.

Back to Hughes, he is trying to be proactive with teams and told Pelissero: “Obviously, I have to tell them everything that happened and everything that went into why I left and also what I’ve learned from it. What I tell teams is that they won’t have any issues with me if they draft me. I haven’t had any problems with the law or anything since I was at North Carolina.”

Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy has talked about repeatedly regarding draft boards he ran with the Buccaneers and the Colts, where they put the initials “D-N-D-C” next to a player’s name. Those standing for “Do Not Draft-Character,” and meaning, don’t draft them at all.

And, there will likely be a team or maybe several that will do this with Hughes’ status, even if they need a defensive back and he’s there in later rounds, where the risk is less.

Still, as the Raiders showed last year, teams do their homework and make their calls, risky or not, on taking a player. And, sometimes will go ahead and take them early.

Hughes is hoping for at least one, or maybe several that are willing to investigate, listen to him and take him on the basis that he’s stayed out of trouble in junior college and last year at UCF.

We’re about to find out, if that has worked.

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