After swapping picks with the Dolphins earlier in the round, the Raiders used the 12th overall pick to select Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden.
There was a lot of chatter that the Raiders were thinking defensive tackle with the pick. Sharrif Floyd and Star Lotulelei would have been available options if the Raiders took that route. There was even a thankfully false rumor spreading around the Twitterverse the Raiders were about to spend the pick on quarterback Geno Smith.
But Reggie McKenzie is a draft-the-best-player-available kind of guy. And clearly he had Hayden as the highest remaining player on his board, which is a tad surprising because Floyd was projected as going to the Raiders when they still had the third overall pick. Cornerback was one position at which Oakland needed help entering the draft.
Hayden was considered by some the best available cornerback after the Jets selected Dee Milliner at nine.
The Raiders have already signed cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins this offseason. But neither of them are locks to start. Dennis Allen surely with have them and Hayden battle it out in training camp.
Hayden suffered a life-threatening injury during the season when in practice he ruptured the primary vein that leads to his heart, which is pretty friggen frightening. But, obviously, was cleared to return to football.
Here’s some pros and cons for Hayden, via Shutdown Corner:
Pros: Hayden has by far the best backpedal of any defensive back in this draft class — starts his feet smoothly, gets up to top speed quickly, and transitions very well to turn and run. … When playing off coverage, fires back to receivers making catches underneath and tackles well enough to prevent high gains after the catch. Plays press coverage more with mirroring skills than pure aggression, but has a great sense of how to re-direct off the line. … Good wrap tackler for his size (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) — will take on blocks, keep his eyes on the target, and disengage to make the play.
Cons: Will get too aggressive with his hands on straight-line routes at times and needs to remember to play the ball to avoid penalties. NFL quarterbacks will try and toy with him, as he tends to keep his eyes on the backfield too long at times. Questions about strength of competition will come up, but the extent to which Hayden held up against better teams and receivers, and how he keeps popping off the tape with his obvious attributes, should put some minds at ease.
Another con: HE ALMOST DIED LAST YEAR. But I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?