Green Bay Packers (7-3) rookie defensive back Casey Hayward is coming off a dominant performance in the team’s 24-20 win against the Detroit Lions (4-6) on Sunday afternoon. Hayward has been phenomenal through the first 10 games this season and as of right now has to be considered the favorite to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
The second-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt leads all NFL rookies in interceptions (5), passes defended (19) and is sixth among defensive backs in tackles (37). He also has one forced fumble and a multi-interception game to go along with his already great statistics.
Hayward received the award for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October. In those four games he recorded 13 tackles, six passes defended and four interceptions for 37 return yards.
The Packers moved up in the second round to select Hayward, and clearly the decision to do so has paid off. Hayward was brought in ultimately to replace veteran leader Charles Woodson down the road, but no one could have anticipated that he would have such an immediate impact on the team. With several defensive backs down with injuries, including Woodson, it is good to know players such as Hayward have the skill set to step up and keep Green Bay afloat.
Hayward is a part of a young group of defensive backs on the Packers roster that have plenty to offer in the years to come. Safety Jerron McMillian recovered a fumble, safety M.D. Jennings returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown, defensive back Davon House recorded a sack plus a tackle for loss and Hayward broke up five passes and recorded an interception in Sunday’s victory over the Lions. The average age of those four players is 23.25 years.
Green Bay also can add Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett to that list, plus the legend that is Woodson, and the Packers have a solid group of defensive backs ready to take on the league’s best receivers.
As far as Defensive Rookie of the Year is concerned, the only true competition Hayward has is New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones. The first-round pick has 34 tackles, six sacks and leads all rookies with three forced fumbles. However, I still believe Hayward’s overall numbers are more impressive. There is still plenty of time for the competition to become fiercer, but if Hayward continues to play at a high level, the award should go to him.
Michael is a MLB and NBA Featured Writer for Rant Sports, but covers topics for various teams in baseball, basketball, and football. Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelTerrill and on Facebook.