Bold Raiders gamble on CB Hayden

The SportsXchange

With the 2013 NFL Draft lacking marquee talent in the top 10, the Oakland Raiders were able to engineer a trade out of the No. 3 overall spot and still address a major area of need in the first round Thursday night.

The Raiders had been attempting to move out of the third spot for much of the day, and finally found a trade partner in the Miami Dolphins, who gave Oakland the No. 12 and No. 42 overall picks to get into position to select Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan.

Raiders didn't have a first-round pick in 2012, so this was the first time Al Davis, who died in 2011, didn't make the call on the team's first-round pick since 1967. That job fell to second-year general manager Reggie McKenzie, who took a significant gamble on Houston cornerback DJ Hayden.

Hayden literally made a comeback from near death last Nov. 8, the day he tore the inferior vena cava in his heart during a freak collision at practice. He shocked doctors with a rapid recovery and, although he wasn't able to work out at the Scouting Combine in February, Hayden did put on a show at his Pro Day that showed scouts he was not only healthy, but worthy of a high draft consideration.

According to NFLDraftScout.com, Hayden is a fluid athlete with the agility and speed to effectively remain in the hip pocket of receivers. He breaks on the ball quickly and has shown natural ball skills and intercepted six passes in just 23 games, returning two of his four interceptions last year for long touchdowns.

Hayden's measureables are impressive. The 5-11, 191 pounder ran 40 yards in 4.36 seconds, went 33.5 inches in the vertical jump and had a 10-foot long jump.

But the more impressive measure of this man is in his heart, literally and figuratively.

When he arrived at the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute in Houston by ambulance after the freak injury, doctors thought he had a spleen or liver injury before opening him up.

But they discovered that he tore two of the three layers in his inferior vena cava, a large vein that receives blood from the lower extremities and carries it to the right atrium of the heart.

Dr. Ron Albarado of the Texas Trauma Institute said Hayden was maybe five minutes away from death. Hayden quickly received the equivalent of three full body blood transfusions.

"I kept my fingers on the vena cava to buy us time," Albarado told NFL.com. "He didn't have much of his original blood in his body at this time.... He had very little reserve. He had the stress of a major operation -- essentially, open-heart surgery."

In March, Hayden worked out for 22 teams at his Pro Day. And he has been moving up draft charts ever since.

"It's a miracle, I was just so thankful that I was here," Hayden said. "It really didn't hit me until a couple days later. Now that I look back at it, I feel like I am truly blessed."

Hayden's name was tied to the Raiders as high as the No. 3 overall pick early Thursday. With many mock drafts also projecting Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd as a possibility in that spot, Oakland was able to move back nine spots and still have a shot at both prospects.

Hayden was the choice, and joins a defense that was in dire need of an infusion of young talent in the defensive backfield. The Raiders added cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter in free agency, but Hayden has excellent speed and anticipation skills that should put him in position for the nickel position from the outset at the very least.

With the No. 42 pick from the Dolphins and their own picks at No. 66 and No. 100, Oakland owned four of the Top 100 selections after the deal, putting the Raiders in position to address other pressing needs including pass rusher, offensive guard, offensive tackle and perhaps even quarterback.

www.NFLDraftScout.com's Frank Cooney contributed to this story.
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