Oakland Raiders: If Healthy, D.J. Hayden Will Make a Huge Impact as a Rookie


If you take a look at the Raiders recent draft history, you’ll quickly notice that they have not picked players very wisely, to say the least. Too many first rounders selected by Oakland have been busts over the past recent years, and it’s been extremely disappointing to the organization and the dedicated fan base.

Apr 23, 2013; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie speaks at press conference at the Raiders team headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Nevertheless, there’s a new GM in town – Reggie McKenzie – and he seems to be making all the correct moves in order to bring this organization to the next level.

The Raiders initially had the third overall pick in the draft, but McKenzie wisely chose to trade down. Oakland needs numerous players that can make a significant impact on the field next season rather than one potential star. It was a brilliant move by McKenzie due to the fact that this year’s draft was incredibly deep as well.

Oakland’s first three draft picks were great decisions, and I expect all of them to play extensive minutes next season. If healthy, they will all make a solid impact on the field in their first season in the NFL — I can almost guarantee that. These top three picks are CB D.J. Hayden at  No. 12, OT Menelik Watson at No. 42, and OLB Sio Moore at No. 66.

However, if I had to choose one draftee that will make the biggest immediate impact it would be…Hayden.

The Raiders surprised many by selecting the Houston product with the 12th overall pick after the cornerback suffered a life threatening heart injury in November with a 95% fatality rate, according to Dr. Walter Lowe, the Houston team doctor. There’s no doubt that the youngster has tremendous talent and can become an exceptional corner in this league, but many question whether he can remain healthy.

Hayden underwent abdominal surgery last week and is expected to miss the remainder of the Oakland Raiders’ offseason training activities.The good news is that the rookie cornerback should be healthy enough to rejoin the team when training camp begins. Better now than later is certainly the bright side of Hayden’s early injury as we wish him a speedy recovery.

Now, the fact that Hayden nearly lost his life this past November after tearing his heart cavity in a freak collision during practice already made this a questionable pick for the Raiders. Shortly after being selected by Oakland, Hayden undergoes abdominal surgery – which is obviously not a good sign for McKenzie and Co.

May 20, 2013; Alameda, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) at organized team activities at the Raiders practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Can Hayden make a comeback and remain healthy throughout a season? That’s a question that concerns us all. Even though he underwent successful heart surgery and was cleared to play before the 2013 NFL Draft, Raiders fans have every right to be skeptical about whether he will be sidelined or not this upcoming season. If he can stay healthy, however, he will be an outstanding cover corner for the Raiders and will make the biggest immediate impact without a question.

Hayden’s junior and senior year in Houston he combined for 90 tackles, six interceptions, six forced fumbles, and 9.5 tackles for loss. Some would argue that Hayden is the most skilled corner coming out of this draft, as he is certainly top three at the bare minimum. Hayden has tremendous speed/quickness along with superb ball skills, and the newly signed Charles Woodson will become a key factor to his future success by mentoring the youngster.

I am looking forward to watching Hayden play next season and hoping he can stay healthy. He seems very determined to go out there and help Oakland’s secondary, as it struggled throughout the season last year. I got a chance to watch this kid and college and I’m completely aware of the player he can potentially become — I would hate to see injuries prevent that from happening.

With all said and done, I have much faith in D.J. Hayden.

I think he’s going to shock the world.