NFL Draft: Assessing the Oakland Raiders' First Round Pick D.J. Hayden

Freak Injury Speaks to Hayden's Dedication and Poise

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | It wasn't a pick that the "experts" predicted, but it was one that Oakland Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie was confident in making.

The Raiders took Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden with the 12th overall pick after trading down with the Miami Dolphins to acquire the No. 12 and No. 42 pick in the draft.

McKenzie was able to get the guy he wanted all along, and got a second-rounder in the process.

Most experts had the Raiders selecting Sharrif Floyd had they kept the No. 3 pick, but reports began to surface Thursday afternoon that McKenzie had his eye on Hayden the entire time.

Hayden's medical history was worthy of concern after he nearly died when an accidental kick to the chest in practice last November sent him to the hospital with serious internal bleeding.

Not only was Hayden able to live a normal life again after surgery, he was still able to play football. And solid football nonetheless.

Hayden ran a speedy 4.33 40-yard dash during his Pro Day and put up solid numbers while at Houston. In Hayden, the Raiders get a young, talented defensive back who still remains a mystery because of his injury.

Not only is it a physical thing, but it will be interesting to see how Hayden mentally handles the challenge of being back on the field after suffering such a life-altering injury.

But regardless of the risks, McKenzie was confident enough to pick Hayden at No. 12, and said he would have taken him at No. 3 had a trade not been made.

In 23 games at Houston, Hayden recorded six interceptions and took two back for touchdowns last season before his injury shut him down for the rest of his collegiate career.

But however good he is on the field, his health will always remain the one thing that everybody looks at. And how could it not be?

An injury like that is something that must be taken into consideration, especially for a team that has only had one solid first-rounder in the last decade.

Hayden brings versatility and explosiveness to a secondary that has been patched up with cheap free agents, and McKenzie clearly believes in him for the future, or he wouldn't have drafted him with the 12th overall pick.

Being able to come back from such a devastating injury like the one Hayden suffered just six months ago speaks to his determination, his toughness, and his love for football.

Though the jury is still out on how effective he will be, McKenzie believes in him. And even though the regime has shifted from Al Davis to Reggie McKenzie, these are still the Oakland Raiders.

And as history has dictated, it wouldn't be the Raiders without some sort of controversy in the NFL draft.

Steven Slivka is a Freelance Writer for the Oakland Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.

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