After four years with the Oakland Raiders, the time has come for the team to rid themselves of D.J. Hayden.
With the 12th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected cornerback D.J. Hayden, cornerback out of the University of Houston.
At the time, Hayden was regarded as one of the better cornerbacks coming out of the draft. That was not saying a whole lot because looking back at the 2013 NFL draft, it was a relatively week class to begin with.
During Hayden’s rookie season, he struggled for the most part, only managing to start two games and appearing in just eight. For the year, Hayden recorded 25 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defensed, and 1 forced fumble. Safe to say, it was not quite what you would expect out of your first round pick.
In Hayden’s sophomore campaign, there was very little improvement. He only started eight games and played in a total of ten. Once again, Hayden had yet to complete a full season due to lingering injuries. And once again, he struggled mightily — he went on to finish the season with 47 tackles, 1 interception, and 10 passes defensed.
What the box score didn’t show was all the times Hayden was penalized, burned deep for a touchdown or just constantly beat in coverage. Two years into his career, and the “b” word was being applied to the former first rounder.
In 2015, there was some marginal improvement from Hayden, but not enough to warrant his draft slot. On the bright side, Hayden managed to start 13 games and played in all 16 games for the first time in his career. For the season, Hayden accumulated 70 tackles, 1 interception, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, and 8 passes defensed.
Fast forward to this most recent season, 2016. During the offseason, Reggie McKenzie chose to not exercise Hayden’s fifth-year option, meaning that he would need to have a productive season in order to warrant a new deal with the Raiders.
Jack Del Rio and the coaching staff made the decision to move Hayden into the slot, making him the team’s third cornerback with Sean Smith and David Amerson now in the fold. Most of Raider Nation was skeptical, to say the least. What made this move even more confusing was that it meant that T.J. Carrie would be the team’s fourth cornerback, despite proving himself as someone who could provide solid play from the cornerback position.
Throughout the season, Hayden played fairly inconsistent. In one game, Hayden would make all the right plays at the right time, but in other games he looked lost and slow, and seemed to draw the occasional pass interference or holding penalty that would make any fan rip their hair out.
Hayden’s season effectively ended in Week 12, when against the Panthers he suffered a hamstring injury. He was eventually put on injured reserve, and for the third time in four seasons, Hayden failed to appear in all 16 games.
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Now, you could say that D.J. just had his best season as a pro, but truth be told, that is not saying a whole lot. Essentially, his performance went from really bad to mediocre.
Injuries are obviously apart of the game, but the best ability is reliability. Hayden has not only been unreliable for the majority of his career, but even when he was healthy and on the field, he was often ineffective.
Hayden struggles to cover virtually any receiver he lines up against, and when the ball is in the air, he often panics and forgets to turn his head, which usually results in a pass interference call. Either that, or he fails to locate the football and gives up a big play. It’s also worth noting that whenever Hayden was down with an injury or simply just off the field, the defense played a quite a bit better
As a fan of your team, you want all of your players to succeed. That’s also true for D.J. Hayden, but he has been given one too many chances and it is now time for the Raiders to move on.
Largely thanks to the ineptitude of Hayden, Oakland needs to add at least one cornerback this offseason. Whether that is through the draft, or free agency, we will have to wait and see. One way or another, the Raiders need all the help they can get in the secondary, and they won’t get that from D.J. Hayden.