After getting to spend Monday talking Keshawn Martin with Jeff Risdon, at home in Holland, Michigan, It was time to get back on the road. This was a trip I was excited to make. The DJ Hayden signing was one that piqued my interest. I had to get some answers.
Being that Hayden played cornerback for the Raiders, I jumped on the first plan to Las Vegas. When I got there, I realized how dumb it was to move a football team to a city that has legalized sports betting, I hopped on a plan to Oakland where everything makes sense.
Here’s something you may not know about me. I studied at Las Positas College, which is just a 32 minute drive, or a slightly shorter BART ride away. So this trip was like being back in college in some way. I couldn’t wait to spend some time in Cali and reacquire my short lived California accent.
So I totally hit the road, bro. I just got on the 405 and went. After I visited Bay Side and Angel Grove, I ate 12 In and Out burger and 360 Burritos and washed that down with an Orange Dream Machine smoothie from Jamba Juice. Give me a break people, I haven’t eaten this food since college.
I then ascended to the very top of of the highest tree in Redwood Forrest. That is where I met Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride. He had been awaiting my arrival for three days. So naturally, he had all his answers ready. here’s what he had to say.
POD: What are your overall thoughts on Hayden’s time in Oakland?
SABP: “Bad pick that couldn't get healthy and always had more confidence than his play. The Raiders selected him with a bigger need at defensive tackle and 2-3 good ones available on the board when they made their pick. In the months leading up to the draft, he was recovering from a heart injury he suffered in practice in college that nearly killed him. Once he recovered and performed well at his pro day, he was on the NFL radar. After just one practice he was hospitalized again to clear scar tissue from his abdomen. This had him miss the entire offseason program and show up for camp in a non-contact jersey. He was cleared for full contact by the start of the season, but you could tell he was not completely back and ready to hit. Then after 8 games, he was lost for the season with a knee injury. The following offseason, he suffered a foot injury that had him spending the first part of the 2014 season on the PUP list, causing him to miss a full calendar year of football.
When he did return, he was fully healthy and stayed that way up until he was lost to a hamstring injury midway through last season. In between, he had almost constant issues. Only flashes of good coverage were eclipsed by issues with not getting his head turned around in coverage along with penalty after penalty for holding and pass interference. After the 2015 season the Raiders had given up on him as a starter, opting not to pick up his 5th year option and signing Sean Smith to start across from David Amerson. In their last ditch attempt to salvage Hayden, they moved him into the slot, where he had never played before, and that also was not a success. TJ Carrie was a better option in the slot and the former seventh round pick had outplayed Hayden at every turn since his rookie season.”
POD: What are his strengths?
SABP: “He is a hard hitter and sure tackler. He has speed.”
POD: What are his weaknesses?
SABP: “Not getting his head turned in coverage and holding his receiver when he gets beat (which happens quite a bit).”
POD: One of the biggest points of view about Hayden, is that the Lions are trying to fix him. Do you think Hayden can be the player many thought he could? Or have we seen the best of him already?
SABP: “Who knows? I sure wouldn't rule it out. It may not even be a case of 'fixing' him, but being in the right system with the right coaches. Two seasons ago David Amerson was waived in Washington after giving up the second most catches of any receiver in the NFL. The Raiders claimed him after week two and he finished the rest of the season with the second most passes defended in the league. It happens. A change of scenery can only be a good thing for Hayden. He needs to get away from the microscope he had as a former 12 overall pick.”
So basically it goes like this: Hayden is a former 12th overall pick that can’t stay healthy and continuously finds himself getting called for pass interference. The day the Lions signed Hayden, the only thing that came to my mind was that this is some sort of reclamation project for Bob Quinn and company. His very small one-year deal all but confirms that notion.
What the Lions have here is potential. Since we’re nearing draft time, I’ll use the “low risk/high reward” saying that everyone on TV says. The Lions really take no loss here. If he works, great, sign him to longer deal next year. If he doesn’t, kindly show him where the door is. Should be an interesting scenario to keep your eye on during camp.
What do you think, Lions fans? Is Hayden worth the time? Or is he just another high pick that struggles in the pro game? Be sure to leave your comment. Also send me some shorts and a t-shirt. I’m going to the desert next week.