NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock believes Houston's D.J. Hayden to be the best available cornerback, and doesn't see him making it past Cincinnati at No. 21. Mayock revealed his new draft rankings on Thursday in a conference call, and added that the Titans are also a potential landing spot for Hayden at No. 10. The draft pundit graded Hayden as the best ball-hawking cornerback in the draft.
If NFL teams are thinking like Mayock, then that is a big change from Hayden's original status. He did not appear in SB Nation's latest first-round NFL mock draft, which instead had Alabama's Dee Milliner as the top cornerback heading to San Diego at No. 11. Dan Kadar pegged Hayden as the 75th-best prospect in his Top 200 Big Board, and No. 12 among corners.
Kadar evaluated Hayden as a corner who plays best off the ball, where he can utilize his speed and quickness:
In pass coverage, Hayden often played off man coverage with safety help over the top. That allowed him to break on the ball to make a play. It's a system that perfectly suited Hayden. He's a quick-movement cornerback who can bait a quarterback before breaking on the ball to break up the pass. Hayden's instincts and anticipation skills are very good.
NFL.com gives Hayden a grade of 66.6, the 26th-highest grade at his position. Apparently Hayden's 4.33 40-yard dash time from Houston's pro day made a big impression, because he had initially been evaluated as a late-round prospect.