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Draft status of TCU's Hughes may have slipped

TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes has said repeatedly that he decided to stay at TCU for his senior season instead of jumping to the NFL because he wanted to win a Mountain West Conference title.

Hughes not only helped the Horned Frogs to their second-ever Mountain West title, but also the school’s first undefeated season since 1938 and the school’s first-ever BCS bowl appearance.

But in trying to help his team achieve its goals, Hughes might have slightly hurt his own future endeavors.

Hughes said this summer that the NFL’s College Advisory Committee evaluated his play and considered him a late first-round or early second-round pick. But ESPN.com’s Todd McShay doesn’t have Hughes in his first round mock draft which he released Tuesday. Hughes also isn’t listed among Scouts Inc.’s Top 32 players.

He is, however, listed on Mel Kiper's Big Board at No. 23.

According the ESPN.com’s NFL Draft Tracker, Hughes, who is listed as an outside linebacker, is considered the sixth-best outside linebacker in the draft. He’s the No. 65 player overall.

However, if you go by McShay's rankings, there is hope for Hughes as a potential second-round pick. McShay has four outside linebackers listed in his first-round mock draft -- Texas’ Sergio Kindle is the first at No. 13, Penn State’s Navorro Bowman is No. 16, North Carolina’s Bruce Carter is No. 18, and Clemson’s Ricky Sapp is No. 25.

Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon and South Carolina’s Eric Norwood also are listed ahead of Hughes, and whether Hughes is taken in the second or third round depends on the needs of the teams drafting.

Hughes is not even the highest-ranked player from a nonautomatic qualifying school. Idaho offensive guard Mike Iupati earned that spot as the No. 43 overall player. Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews, who is a junior and has yet to determine whether he’ll leave school, is ranked No. 45. Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson is ranked No. 54.

Hughes is a consensus All-American for the second consecutive season, but his numbers are down from where they were a year ago. He has 11.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss heading into the bowl season. Last year, he had 19.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. All of his sacks in 2008 were solo.

The only knock in Hughes' draft profile is his height (6-foot-13/4) and his bulk (252 pounds) which are described as adequate and marginal.

Obviously, this is a rough mock draft. The bowl season has yet to start and we all know that draft projections tend to change after the NFL combine in February. But this gives us all an idea of where certain players might fall in April.