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. Has a smooth hip turn -- doesn't get lost in transition against faster receivers. 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. Establishes inside and outside position off the line with angle and body control. Has the pure speed to run deep seam and sideline routes, and make plays along the way.
Does a fantastic job of baiting quarterbacks by playing just far enough away from his receiver, then closing quickly for the deflection or interception. Has the cross-field velocity to impact the passing game far away from his original spot (forced fumble against UCLA was a prime example). Redirects in space extremely well. Smart player who won't be fooled by combo routes and other tricks. Transitions to the safety in zone coverage without a hitch. 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. Has the quickness to play the slot, and the natural aggression to deal with traffic in that role.
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. Medical concerns are even more obvious, but teams will undoubtedly do their due diligence, and all the news regarding his recovery is good so far.
What he brings to the team: A miraculous story, for one. Last November, Hayden suffered a tear of the internal vena cava, the primary vein to his heart, during practice, and he came very close to dying. less than six months after nearly losing his life, Hayden ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the aforementioned pro day. He's checked out just fine medically.
Was it the right pick? Absolutely. Hayden was my best player left on the board, and he brings the total package as a pass defender to a defense in desperate need.
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