The Oakland Raiders began the first round of the NFL draft trading their third overall pick down to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for their 12th selection and a second round pick. At 12, the Raiders selected cornerback D.J. Hayden from the University of Houston.
As many know now, Hayden even being here right now is a miracle. Back in November he suffered a freak injury during practice that ruptured a vein to his heart– a torn inferior vena cava, to be exact. Something that is usually seen in car collisions, it carries a 90 percent fatality rate. A Green Bay Packers executive called it the “most unique injury in the history of the draft”.
Now cleared by all 32 NFL medical staffs, Hayden impressed onlookers with his pro-day performance, rating ahead of recently named New York Jet (and ninth overall pick) Dee Milliner.
Strengths: Possesses superior man-coverage skills, Al Davis would approve. He has good size standing at 5’11″. He clocked a 4.33 and 4.40 forty-time during his Pro Day which would also pass Al Davis’s standards. He has good ball skills and can play the ball at its peak–his vertical jump was 33.5 inches. In 23 games, he had six interceptions and 19 pass defenses. Three of the picks were returned for a touchdown.
He likes to play slightly off the WR to entice the quarterback to make a throw and then use his quickness to jump in front of the ball. Think of an early Charles Woodson. His instincts are top-notch for a CB.
Weaknesses: He can get blocked out against the run, though he has shown the ability to break off of blocks and make a tackle. Against bigger receivers he struggled when trying to release from blocks, sometimes getting pushed down field. He needs to gain 10-15 pounds for the next level. The biggest knock I’ve found on Hayden has been his freak injury which to me is irrelevant. Hayden said during a press conference he would have “friends punch me in the chest.”
In my opinion, Oakland may have found one of the best gems in the draft. He should be an immediate starter for the Raiders and could even earn first-string honors. As his career progresses, so should his skills. Hayden could very well emerge as a star out of the 2013 Draft class.