With the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders selected Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden. Hayden is the No. 76-rated player in the draft rankings from SB Nation's Dan Kadar and the No.10-rated cornerback.
Hayden, 22, transferred to Houston as a junior from Navarro College and was an instant fixture in the Cougars' secondary, earning second-team all-Conference USA honors as a junior and first-team honors as a senior. However, he is best known for a freak injury in practice that resulted in the tear of his inferior vena cava in his heart, which as nearly fatal.
The Raiders moved back from No. 3 in the draft to No. 12 where they selected who they felt is the second-best cornerback in this year's draft class. Many thought they could take Geno Smith, but they decided to move forward with Matt Flynn for now. The Raiders need a cornerback to shore up the passing defense, especially now that they will face Peyton Manning twice a year.
Hayden should be able to start in the Raiders' secondary right away and should help the secondary that finished 20th in the league in 2012.
In a scouting report on SB Nation, the following were listed as positives for Hayden, among others:
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.
While Hayden's injury caught headlines, the cornerback was a dominant force before that. In two seasons, Hayden accumulated six interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns, and 9.5 tackles for loss.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock ranked Hayden as the best cornerback in the draft class and assuming he has no complications from his injury, there's certainly reason to believe that he has the skills and athleticism to justify that praise.