When the Minnesota Vikings selected Mike Hughes with the 30th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, they added him to a cornerback depth chart that was already pretty solid. While it remains to be seen what sort of impact he’s going to make on defense, the Vikings have found a place for him where he can potentially be an elite weapon right away.
Following the morning session of practice on Sunday at the Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, Vikings’ special teams coach Mike Priefer announced that while incumbent Marcus Sherels is starting camp in his familiar role as punt returner, Hughes is currently working as the team’s top kickoff returner.
Sherels has been among the NFL’s best punt returners for a number of years now, and has more punt returns for touchdowns than anyone in team history with five. He didn’t have his best year in 2017, but he was still pretty solid at the position.
Last year at Central Florida, Hughes returned 20 kickoffs and averaged a whopping 31.8 yards per return. He also scored two touchdowns, including this spectacular one to finish one of the best college games of last season between Central Florida and South Florida.
With the new, relaxed kickoff rules this season, Hughes could have a huge impact for the Vikings if he remains the primary kickoff return specialist. I’m not sure if he’s going to get the same sort of “green light” that guys like Percy Harvin and Cordarrelle Patterson have had in past years, but he certainly has the talent where he could get to that point.