D.J. Hayden

D.J. Hayden

2013 NFL Rookie Preview: D.J. Hayden – CB, Oakland Raiders


D.J. Hayden


12th Overall Selection by the Oakland Raiders

2013 Season

Overview: When Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen were hired in 2012, they were well aware of the overwhelming rebuilding project that they signed on for. The majority of their first two off-seasons were spent purging a roster of inflated contracts and under achieving talent in an effort to move on from the disastrous end of the Al Davis era and into the modern day NFL. McKenzie and Allen entered the 2013 off-season short on cap space and without 2nd and 5th round draft picks, so they looked to deal down from their #3 overall selection and acquire additional picks. They found a trade partner in the Miami Dolphins who sent their first and second round picks to Oakland for the right to move up to the 3rd pick and take Oregon defensive end/outside linebacker Dion Jordan. After dropping to the 12th pick the Raiders selected Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden, a player of immense talent but a questionable future due to a violent and near fatal collision on the practice field last November. Hayden hit a bump in the road in May when he missed the majority of OTA’s after having abdominal surgery to remove scar tissue build up which was related to his 2012 injury. Having yet to be cleared for full contact drills in training camp, the Raiders have not given an accurate timetable for when Hayden will see his first action but have also yet to give any indication that Hayden’s regular season is in jeopardy. Once cleared, Hayden will join a revamped Raiders secondary featuring some big name players on the back end of their careers.  Charles Woodson looks to end his career where it started 16 years ago when he was the 4th overall selection by the Raiders in the 1998 NFL draft, Woodson will play free safety next to talented yet under appreciated Tyvon Branch, who has quietly emerged as one of the best strong safeties in the NFL. McKenzie and Allen also added former Dallas Cowboys 1st rounder Mike Jenkins and former New Orleans Saints and 2009 post season hero Tracy Porter at cornerback. Neither player have the raw talent and shut down ability of Hayden, and as soon as the former Houston Cougar gets caught up to speed he should quickly establish himself as the Raiders #1 corner. Hayden has good size at 5’11 and 190 lbs., to go along with some of the best man cover skills and playmaking ability of the 2013 class. If he can prove that his freak 2012 injury is truly behind him, the Raiders will have gotten an absolute steal at #12 overall.

Position Battles: D.J. Hayden, Mike Jenkins, and Tracy Porter are in a three way battle for the two starting cornerback jobs. Jenkins and Porter have the early lead due to experience, but are also very talented and capable players in their own right. All 3 players will play early and often for the Raiders, as will veteran nickel corner Joselio Hanson who signed with the team in September of 2012. Whomever loses the battle for a starting spot will then have to fight off Hanson for the 3rd cornerback duties. Phillip Adams, Chimdi Chekwa, and converted runningback Taiwan Jones will compete for the 5th and possibly 6th cornerback spot, in a battle which may come down to special teams play. The 2013 Oakland Raiders secondary has the potential to be a strength of the team, but will only go as far as the Raiders pass rush will take them. With aging veteran Andre Carter the only proven edge rushing presence on the roster, the Raiders will look for 3rd round pick Sio Moore and emerging 4th year defensive end Lamarr Houston to step up and generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks and make life easier on the secondary behind them.

Notable Match-Ups: D.J. Hayden will face some of the biggest names at the quarterback position the league has to offer in 2013. He will open his career on the road against Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, and the Indianapolis Colts. 2012 2nd overall pick Robert Griffin III and his Washington Redskins will come to Oakland in week 4, while the Giants Eli Manning, Dallas Cowboys signal caller Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub make up the majority of the Raiders out of conference schedule. Hayden and the Raiders will also have to deal with the NFL’s most dangerous passing game twice a year, with the division rival Denver Broncos, quarterback Peyton Manning and his lethal wide receiver trio of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and prized free agent acquisition Wes Welker.

2014 and Beyond

 The Oakland Raiders drafted D.J. Hayden with the intentions of him eventually claiming a starting role in the 2013 season and then entering 2014 as their #1 corner. Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie see him as the type of talent who will not only neutralize the oppositions top receiver but is also capable of game breaking plays and creating turnovers. The Raiders offense is going to struggle until they find playmakers and a legitimate franchise quarterback, but McKenzie and Allen have already begun laying the groundwork for an up and coming defense which looks to carry the team for the immediate future. With Tyvon Branch and Lamarr Houston being joined by Hayden and Sio Moore to give the Raiders a solid long term nucleus to build upon, the Raiders defense is going to be a versatile and physical unit which plays with speed and aggression. The 2013 outlook is bleak with the team being painfully short on talent and depth in key spots such as quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and the defensive line. The Raiders look to be among the early favorites for the 1st overall selection in the star studded 2014 NFL Draft and a shot at either South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney at defensive end or Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. It will be near impossible for the Raiders to ignore a prospect of Bridgewater’s ability at quarterback, but pairing a once in a generation talent like Clowney with Lamarr Houston with Branch and Hayden behind them could be too tempting for the defensive minded Raiders regime to pass up.