Let's take a closer look at the player and the possibility.
Hughes' résumé. It's not very long as Hughes was a starter in only one of his two seasons at a major college football program, but his recently-completed junior season at UCF was a good one. He was a first-team selection in the American Athletic Conference as a cornerback after starting 11 of 12 games. He led the team with 11 pass breakups and picked off four passes, returning one for a touchdown. ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard, who was on the call for UCF's Peach Bowl win over Auburn, said there was no chance the Golden Knights would have gone undefeated without Hughes. He also earned second-team All-AAC honors as a returner after scoring three return touchdowns in 2017.
How he got to UCF. Hughes began his college career at North Carolina and played in 11 games as a true freshman in 2015, but he was kicked off the team after the season following a fight at a frat house that resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge. He spent the 2016 season at Garden City Community College in Kansas and then transferred to UCF for the 2017 season. That means he didn't overlap there with fellow cornerback Shaquill Griffin, whom Seattle drafted in the third round last year. Under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the Seahawks have not shied away from early-round draft prospects with previous off-the-field issues.
"Feisty, fearless." Hughes is listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds. As McShay notes, that's a bit smaller than what the Seahawks prefer in their outside cornerbacks. Of the eight cornerbacks Seattle has drafted under Carroll and Schneider, all but one (Walter Thurmond) were 6 feet or taller. Arm length is of particular importance for the Seahawks at that position; we'll know how Hughes measures up there at the scouting combine later this month. While Hughes may lack the height/weight of a typical Seahawks cornerback, he otherwise fits the description of what Seattle looks for in that position. Huard described him as a "feisty, fearless press-man corner." McShay also noted his ability in press-man coverage.
Seahawks' cornerback situation. The projection of Hughes to Seattle in the first round is no doubt tied to the uncertainty with Richard Sherman's future. He's about to turn 30 years old and is coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon as he enters the final year of his contract. Seattle is otherwise in good shape at cornerback. Griffin had an excellent rookie season and is in line to hold down the starting job on the right side for the foreseeable future. Another young player, Justin Coleman, performed well in the slot after being acquired in a preseason trade. He's a restricted free agent and can be signed back on a low-cost deal. Veteran Byron Maxwell filled in as well as anyone could have realistically expected when Seattle brought him back following Sherman's injury. Even if the Seahawks bring back Maxwell on another short-term, low-cost deal -- which would make plenty of sense for both sides -- Sherman's situation could conceivably create enough of a need to warrant drafting a cornerback in the first round. That is if Seattle even makes a first-round selection, no sure thing by any means given how low the team is on draft capital. The Seahawks are without picks in the second and third rounds and could have as few as seven selections in all. For that reason, trading back in the first round or out of it entirely will again carry plenty of appeal.
As a reminder ... McShay's first mock draft from December had Seattle taking LSU running back Derrius Guice in the first round. His latest mock draft leaves Guice out of the first round. Mel Kiper Jr.'s first mock draft, released last month, gave Seattle Florida State safety Derwin James at No. 18. James went No. 17 to the Los Angeles Chargers in McShay's latest projection.