Any hopes of a reunion between the Minnesota Vikings and cornerback Antoine Winfield officially ended when Winfield signed with the Seattle Seahawks last week. His absence leaves the Vikings not only without a team leader, but the veteran was clearly the team’s best cornerback in 2012 and seems to have plenty left at age 36 before next season starts.
The Vikings’ remaining crop of cornerbacks is thin on both talent and experience, so they should be targeting at least one corner who can contribute immediately during the draft in less than two weeks. Minnesota currently owns six picks in the first four rounds, so they are in good position to address all of their needs with early round picks.
Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden had four interceptions in nine games as a senior in 2012, but he missed the final three games of the season after a hit in practice caused a torn inferior vena cava in his heart. It was a life-threatening injury that required emergency surgery, but Hayden got a clean bill of health at the NFL Combine and his draft stock is on the rise. Recent buzz has him as a possible first-round pick, with the Cincinnati Bengals maybe having interest in using the 21st overall pick on him.
Would Hayden be a fit for the Vikings? Let’s take a closer look.
Weight: 191 lbs.
– Shows excellent closing speed; drives on throws well
– Has quick feet; changes direction fluidly
– Plays aggressively and physically against the run
– Is not afraid to fight with receivers for the ball downfield
– Can be too physical at times, making him a potential magnet for flags
– Does not have great hands
– Last season’s heart injury is still a concern, even with positive reports
– Needs to get stronger
Hayden’s strengths make him a very good fit for taking over Winfield’s role as Minnesota’s primary slot corner, but he can also hold up in coverage outside the numbers if asked to do so. I think using one of their two first-round picks on Hayden would be a reach for the Vikings with other needs to address and better cornerbacks possibly still available, but if he remains available in later rounds Hayden could become a draft steal.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.