Oakland Raiders’ DJ Hayden Is Running Out Of Time


When the Oakland Raiders‘ drafted D.J. Hayden with the 12 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, it raised eyebrows. Hayden was not projected to be taken that high, and the Raiders’ brass suggested if they had not traded down from the third pick to the 12th, they still would have drafted the University Of Houston corner number three overall.

The questions circulating about Hayden’s health raised concerns around the league. Not too many NFL general managers would be willing to draft a player coming off open-heart surgery. Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders were not only catching heat for drafting a player with such health issues, but darts were being thrown at them for making him such a high pick.

As many predicted, Hayden’s rookie year was marred by injuries. D.J’s  inability to stay healthy prevented him from gaining valuable practice time. Rookies need practice time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NFL. Not being able to practice limited Hayden’s availability on game day. Throwing Hayden to the wolves without preparation could have damaged the young defensive backs psyche beyond repair.

Previous Raiders Head Coach, Dennis Allen, knew it would take time for Hayden to adjust physically and mentally to the rigors of NFL Sundays. Hayden’s first real test came in a mid-season contest versus the Philadelphia Eagles high-powered, fast paced offense. The young rookie was battered and abused by the Eagles receiving duo of DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. Both veteran receivers took their turns exploiting the rookie corner.

Hayden routinely was in position to make plays but often times looked physically overmatched when battling the bigger Cooper. The inability to make plays when they presented themselves was the hallmark of Hayden’s first year and a half in the NFL. Hayden has shown the quickness and foot-speed to cover the elite NFL receivers, but he lacked the technique and physicality to effectively battle receivers downfield.

Too many times Hayden would be in position to either intercept a pass or knock it down, but he would get out-muscled by the receiver. This resulted in Hayden either falling helplessly to the ground or getting pushed aside like a rag doll.

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  • Towards the end of his sophomore season, Hayden began to show the physicality and confidence needed to play corner in the NFL. Hayden not only improved his pass defense, but he displayed an ability to come up and make plays in the running game. The improvement on game day was the result of hard work done in practice. Hayden’s health finally allowed him to get valuable practice reps, which resulted in better technique and growing confidence. Head Coach Jack Del Rio recently talked about the talent and potential Hayden can bring to the Raiders’ defense.

    "“You see his feet and he’s got really good feet, he’s super quick. I like the way DJ has approached his work thus far,” Del Rio told silverandblackpride.com"

    The Raiders are depending on Hayden to prove worthy of being selected 12th in the draft. Time is no longer on Hayden side; it’s time to produce. The NFL is a no-nonsense league that waits for no one. Hayden needs to approach his third season as the most vital time in his early career. It’s time for him to step up, and reward the Raiders for showing faith in him when others shied away. The opportunity has been presented, and now it’s up to Hayden to prove he belongs.