The Oakland Raiders took former Houston cornerback last night, using the No 12 overall selection to get him.
According to respected evaluator Greg Cosell, of NFL Films, that was a good move.
"I would make the argument that Hayden is the most physically gifted corner prospect in this draft class, with his impressive combination of sudden movement, change of direction, ability to effectively play both press man and off coverage zone, competitive and challenging playing personality and, as an added dimension, his willingness to support in the run game aggressively," Cosell said of Hayden in this must read article about cornerbacks in the NFL (finish this piece, first, then go back and read his).
In the piece referenced above, Cosell delves into what attributes make a good cornerback in the NFL these days. He also talks about the importance of having a cornerback that can play in man to man coverage.
The basic thrust of his arguments are that a huge cornerback isn't necessarily the most desirable trait. While that type of cornerback is better against some types of receivers, the most important attributes are "quick and light feet, smooth and fluid change of direction, the ability to plant and drive with burst from off coverage position, and the capability to turn and run with both short area acceleration and functional long speed to defend vertical routes."
He postulates that most cornerbacks with those traits are shorter and sleeker instead of the larger cornerbacks that many would see as the prototypical size.
Cosell is my favorite evaluator because he takes the time to explain his reasoning and because he isn't caught into the group think to which so many succumb. He doesn't rely on organizational sources to determine his opinion as do so many draft evaluators. Instead, he watches lots of game tape and makes his own determinations.
That game tape review convinced him that Hayden deserved to be the top cornerback taken in the 2013 draft. In fact, in his first-round mock draft Cosell picked Hayden to be selected at No. 12 overall, although he had Hayden being selected by the Miami Dolphins, who originally possessed that selection.
In his reasoning, Cosell said about Hayden, "No corner has a more fluid and compact backpedal, with balance, body control and the quickest feet of any prospect in the draft."
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie agreed, telling the Bay Area media yesterday, "Point blank, he can cover. He can find the football so he does what we’re looking for in a cornerback – he’s a good cover corner who can get his hands on the football.”
Raiders fans hope that McKenzie – and Cosell, too – know what they're talking about. If they are correct in the evaluation of Hayden, the Raiders have begun the process of building a team that can finally compete.
For more thoughts on the Raiders throughout the draft today tomorrow, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews