The Bucs may have traded for Darrelle Revis on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean the organization isn’t seriously considering taking a cornerback high in this year’s NFL draft, which kicks off tomorrow night.
A source tells me the Bucs are not only interested in drafting Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden, but like Tyler Eifert, who I wrote about earlier, the team will consider trading into the bottom of the first round to get him, depending on who’s available and if there’s a willing trade partner.
Just two days ago, Hayden worked out for the Bucs, Jets, Saints, and 49ers. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound corner, who clocked a blazing 4.33 and registered a 33.5-inch vertical at his pro day last month, looked impressive.
Not bad for a guy who, just last November, underwent emergency heart surgery after rupturing the inferior vena cava near his heart.
It was a freak accident during practice. Doctors say his odds to live weren’t very good. Now he’s on the brink of having his name called in the first round of the NFL draft – nothing shy of a miracle, especially considering the number of teams willing to assume such a risk.
In his nine games last season, Hayden had four interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns, including returns of 75 and 95 yards. In his two years at Houston, he tallied 90 solo tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 19 pass breakups, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, six interceptions, and a sack.
But those stats don’t show how cleanly he’s able to wrap up and finish every tackle with no assistance, or fly from the opposite sideline to strip the ball loose from an unsuspecting receiver.
Nor do the stats don’t show how well he’s able to immediately diagnose what he sees on the field and make split-second reactions, flipping his hips and turning his body with ease.
Those are natural skills and not every cornerback possesses them, although this draft class has its share of talent. Some have predicted as many as ten corners could come off the board in the first two rounds alone.