Before the 2013 NFL draft, there were reports that Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was infatuated with Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden. McKenzie reportedly liked Hayden so much, the rumor was that he was ready to take him with the third overall pick, which was way, way earlier than anyone figured Hayden would go. He was considered a late first-round pick.
It was quite a stand to take, and one that would go a long way in defining not only McKenzie's GM tenure but set the Raiders' course for the future.
It's still early, but at this point falling in love with Hayden looks like a huge mistake.
Hayden missed half of last season with injuries. And he might start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to start this season, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said. Hayden had surgery for a stress fracture in his foot in July. If he starts the season on PUP, he'll miss at least the first six weeks of the season.
Hayden, of course, got a lot of attention before the draft for suffering a nearly fatal injury during a practice in which he tore a vein near his heart. He nearly died. He was a medical risk entering that draft, to say the least. The Raiders decided they didn't care about that. They did manage to trade down to No. 12, picking up a second-round pick, before taking Hayden. The three picks after Hayden? Defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei and safety Kenny Vaccaro, who all were fantastic as rookies and look like future stars. McKenzie had a chance for any of them, but was in love with Hayden. In addition to being hurt last season, Hayden didn't play very well when he suited up.
Rapoport said the Raiders are fine with Hayden going on PUP because they want him to get comfortable and healthy, and also because of their depth at cornerback. The latter is a cause and effect question. This offseason the Raiders signed a couple cornerbacks, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, something they might not have felt the need to do had 2013 first-round pick Hayden stayed healthy and showed more as a rookie.
Hayden might still turn into the player McKenzie thought so much of, and turned the third pick of the draft into (the Raiders also got tackle Menelik Watson with the second-round pick they acquired, and he's slated to start at right tackle after a bad rookie season). It's hard to think that Hayden's foot injury is related to his heart issue at Houston, so the Raiders are dealing with bad luck there. But it's a results business, and so far Hayden hasn't paid off at all.
The Raiders aren't in a position where they can turn the third pick of a draft into an oft-injured cornerback and a right tackle who hasn't shown much. That can't make McKenzie feel too comfortable.
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