Most of us who are regular visits of our beloved Bucs Nation blog are at the point of flogging the dead horse on a certain Island named Revis. We are a little more than tired debating the merits of a potential trade with the Jets. I was asked a few days ago for my thoughts on D.J. Hayden, an under the radar, prospect from Houston. Hayden right now factors, by consensus, somewhere in round 2; but in my opinion has first round talent and productivity.
Mandatory Draft Guide Mention (And how to get it)
As many of you also know my now annual NFL Draft Guide is soon to be published. As always it’s free for anyone who can send an e-mail. I figured I would provide you a preview of this years edition (without our upgraded formatting) and to share our information on Mr. Hayden who would be a fine CB to wear the Pewter. If you would like to get this years version (and I’ll ask again later) simply send an e-mail to : email@example.com. It would be appreciated if you could include draft guide request as the subject so I can weed you out from the 509 scams I usually get. If you Email in the next couple of days I'll be e-mailing it out first to all who ask before opening it up to anyone making a forum post reply.
Without further ado, my reflections of one D.J. Hayden:
3. DJ Hayden 5’11" 191lbs CB Houston [10.2][I-5]
Hayden nearly died just five months ago, in a practice session he collided with another player catching a helmet directly to heart. He suffered something doctors generally only see in fatal car accidents, he tore the inferior vena cava, a vein that leads directly out of the heart. Fatal in 95% of all cases, Hayden suddenly felt cold and sleepy before passing out. The injury is so often fatal that a majority of emergency room doctors have never seen it in a living patient. Amazingly Hayden may be cleared to play just days before the NFL draft.
Due to academics Hayden had to take the junior college route to big college football and as such ended up in Houston. It would take him exactly one game to become a starter, he started 12 of 13 games as a junior and showed some rare athletic ability. He made 66 tackles, broke up 11 passes, recorded 2 interceptions, forced 5 fumbles, recovered 2 more and added a sack. His change of direction skills were amazing and with the ball in his hands he was electric. He helped quarterback Case Keenum lead the Cougars to an unbeaten regular season but lost the conference USA title game. Showing resilience, they bounced back and defeated #23 Penn State in the Ticket City Bowl. Hayden’s senior season started off in exemplary fashion, playing for the under the radar Cougars he did not receive much publicity, but really may have been the most complete cornerback in the country. He started the first nine games, made 61 tackles, broke up 8 passes, snatched 4 interceptions, forced a fumble and recovered one more.
In spite of playing in just nine games as a senior Hayden was named a First team All-American. Unable to run at the NFL combine due to his severe injury Hayden had to wait until Houston’s pro day on the 25th of March. The school released his official 40 yard dash time as 4.33 but Pro Scouts timed him at 4.40. I trust the Pro Scouts and 4.4 is more than fast enough but what makes Hayden truly special is his agility, anticipation, and physicality. He turns as fast as cornerbacks three inches shorter than him and plays like he’s twenty pounds heavier. Hayden is particularly effective jumping intermediate routes, when the quarterback fails to put enough zip on an outside pass I saw Hayden make a play on the ball every time, not as a gamble but either an outright interception or deflection underneath.
He is at his best when playing either press man or zone coverage, but Houston by scheme often preferred off man coverage. He has enough deep speed to prevent the long ball but is more effective when the routes worked are short or intermediate. He is hard nosed and physical, he uses his agility to slip past wide receiver blocks and submarine ball carriers, but can be a little overwhelmed like most corners. His ability to force fumbles can only be explained by natural instinct, once he has the tackle secured and the receiver is starting to go down, Hayden reaches his arm over and attempts to rip the ball from the receiver; he also managed to do so against quarterbacks with an arm swat move any defensive end would be proud of. He seems to excel when being used on the blind side blitz though Houston tended to telegraph this by suddenly placing him in the slot. Due to elite instincts, exceptional agility, a high moral work-ethic, his production, and ball skills I’m going out on a limb and predicting multiple Pro-Bowls in Hayden’s future. In short, based on where the consensus value of him is currently someone is going to get a huge steal on draft day.
Let your eyes do the work(You are watching #2)
This one is a matchup against UCLA, Houston is getting totally owned in this game but other than the first hitch route he gives up Hayden is helping the Cougars stay in this game…you may particularly enjoy his work down in the redzone when he finally gets to press coverage.
This is the 2011 SunBowl against Penn St. really just dominating performance by Hayden as Penn State did not have a receiver who could challenge him.
WHY THE BUCS? – Aside from our obvious need at cornerback, Hayden is at his best when playing press man and also brings an instinct for blizting. He causes turnovers and played at a very high level in college. He should also be available when Tampa Bay’s pick come around in round 2.