Scouting the 2013 NFL Draft: CB D.J. Hayden

Thomas B. Shea

Let's take a look at the cornerback from the University of Houston.

Introduction

Our friend Jake Steinberg has reported that the New York Jets are interested in cornerback D.J. Hayden, out of the University of Houston. Hayden just worked out for a number of teams, and the Jets had four representatives in attendance, including Rex Ryan, the only head coach to appear. Hayden is widely regarded as a first round talent, but because of a medical concern, may fall to the second. Here is an explanation of his incredibly unique medical situation:

Last November, Hayden suffered a tear of the internal vena cava, the primary vein to his heart, during practice, and he came very close to dying.

"We were doing team versus scout team," Hayden recalled at Houston's pro day in mid-March. "They threw the ball my way. Me and the safety ran into each other. His knee hit me in my chest. I fell to the ground. It felt like I got the wind knocked out of me. When I was breathing, I just wasn’t breathing right. [The doctor] took me inside. He was asking me these questions and I was getting real cold. I’m looking around and I’m getting real sleepy. My left eye goes pitch black. I can’t see out of it. I can see a little bit out of my right eye. I’m praying, ‘Lord, help me get out of this one.’

"They rushed me to the hospital and did a scan on my stomach and my chest. They saw a lot of blood in my abdomen. They thought it was my liver or my spleen. The doctor said he was going to have to cut me open. I said, ‘Okay, just don’t mess my abs up.’ So they cut through my sternum and saw the [inferior vena cava], the main vein to your heart, was torn. He put some sutures, stitched it back together, closed me back up, and here I am today."

It wasn't quite that simple. Alonzo Highsmith, senior personnel executive for the Green Bay Packers, told the Houston Chronicle that he'd never seen a player with an injury like this. Why? Because 95 percent of the people who suffer a torn vena cava don't make it back alive.

"It's the most unique injury in the history of the draft," Highsmith said."The only people that ever had it aren't alive, and doctors have never seen it."

"Most of the teams have come to the conclusion that it was a once-in-a-gazillion situation," Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said of Hayden during his most recent pre-draft conference call. "That has no more chance of happening than it did in the first place."

Measurables

Height: 5'11"

Arm Length: 31 1/8"

Weight: 191 lbs.

Hands: 9"

Statistics

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year Class Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FF
2011 JR 52 14 66 8.0 1.0 2 58 29.0 1 13 5
2012 SR 38 23 61 1.5 0.0 4 171 42.8 2 12 1
Career 90 37 127 9.5 1.0 6 229 38.2 3 25 6

Positives

  • Extremely quick.
  • Can play man coverage on either the outside or in the slot (man coverage is his speciality), as well as zone.
  • Has good closing speed.
  • Form tackler.
  • Fluid hips; excellent transition from backpedal
  • Can mirror receivers well

Negatives

  • Average size and strength.
  • Medical concerns listed above.

Conclusion

Hayden is a first round talent that may slip to the beginning of the second due to the medical concerns. Frankly, he appears to be completely healthy (he just ran a 4.3 40-yard dash). I think it makes a lot more sense for the Jets to target Hayden at the end of the first round or beginning of the second than it does to take Milliner. Hayden would be an excellent fit in Rex Ryan's system as he excels in man coverage and can press. Hayden can play in the slot as well, so he would fit in well with Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson. Depending on where he is selected, Hayden can be the steal of the draft.

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