The Green Bay Packers third-round draft pick, cornerback Casey Hayward, proved to be the best pick for the Packers this season. While some experts said that Hayward might have been the best pick Green Bay made after the draft, not many could have expected the immediate impact that he would have for his team.
With Charles Woodson moving over to safety for the 2012 season, the Packers suddenly had a hole to fill at cornerback. This led to Hayward being drafted and put in as the nickel corner. Hayward played in all 16 games for the Packers and started six games during the absence of Sam Shields. The rookie put up great numbers that included a team-high six interceptions, 53 tackles, and was tied for third in the league with 21 pass deflections.
His efforts this season led Hayward to finish third in the Rookie of the Year voting. For a third-round draft pick, this is an incredible feat, and the Packers should see plenty more great years from their young cornerback. The scheme of the Dom Capers-run Packers defense focuses on turnovers and playing aggressive football. Hayward fits perfectly into that role, and will be a force for opposing offenses for the next decade.
The potential is through the roof for Hayward as he will be expected to get even more playing time in 2013. Currently, he will still be behind Shields and Tramon Williams on the depth chart, but that could change if he has another season like he did in 2012. Williams had a down year this season and Shields has shown improvement, but he still has major flaws in his game such as having trouble bringing down larger receivers.
Outside of linebacker Clay Matthews, Hayward may be the most important defensive player for the Packers in the future. He has all the skill sets to be a star in this league and to thrive in the Packers defense. What we all saw from him during his rookie season is only the beginning of what he has to offer.
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