When the Oakland Raiders drafted cornerback D.J. Hayden with the No. 12 overall pick in last April’s draft, it was assumed he’d become a significant part of their defense during the 2013 campaign.
Instead, the rookie couldn’t have make it through the entire season.
On Wednesday, the Raiders placed Hayden on Injured Reserve with a groin injury, officially ending the rookie’s season after only eight appearances. During that time, he racked up 24 total tackles, one interception and three pass interference penalties. Of the 40 passes thrown into his coverage, 26 were completed for 376 yards and three touchdowns.
His worst game came against the Philadelphia Eagles, when Hayden gave up 139 yards and two touchdowns in his second start of the season.
Hayden finishes the year with a -6.6 overall grade based on the Pro Football Focus system. On top of finishing with a -7.7 coverage grade, he also graded out negatively against the run while missing seven tackles on the year. Hayden graded out as the No. 93 cornerback of 107 qualifiers – not very promising for a first-round pick.
Still, there’s plenty of reason to be positive about Hayden’s future in the NFL. He’s a talented cornerback with tremendous instincts and technique in coverage. His hesitation towards contact, though, hindered his ability to play efficient defense during his rookie campaign. If he can overcome his mental demons stemming from a freak accident at Houston that nearly cost him his life, Hayden has the physical tools to be a quality starter for the Raiders.
With both Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter set to be free agents this offseason, Hayden will be expected to step in as a starter for the Raiders next season. He’ll take the next few months to get healthy both mentally and physically, and look to return in 2014 with a revived sense of confidence.
Hayden is headed to the IR list for now, but the Raiders still have big plans for the young cornerback.