This is quite the story for D.J. Hayden to have become a 1st round selection after going through such a freak injury that normally not just cripples a person, but takes their life all together. The strength and fortitude that it takes to return from something like that not only is impressive, it is also truly inspiring.
The Raiders have been very busy filling out their roster with people that are getting their chance to prove themselves and it couldn't be more fitting to make this year's first round selection be somebody who fits that mold himself. Hayden more than any other player is getting a chance to prove himself in this upcoming season, because he gets to prove to himself that this was exactly what he was fighting for to make it through such a horrific ordeal.
I welcome him to the Silver and Black and I am certain that when he is on the field even the staunchest of critics will feel that way too. This might not have been the pick that people expected the Raiders to make and it might not be the pick that the majority of Raider Nation wanted, but it really feels like it was the right pick for this team.
There was a large consensus of people on this site wanting either Shariff Floyd or Star Loutelie as the Raiders #3 overall pick and both were still on the board when the Raiders picked Hayden at #12. That means that Reggie McKenzie definitely has a lot riding on this being the right pick because he is going to be very vulnerable to second guessing if the pick does not work out. Even more so than the usual amount after a failed pick considering the Raiders need at the DT position and the fans desire to have drafted one.
What really stands out about this pick though is that with the signings of Tracy Porter who is 26 and Michael Jenkins who is 28 the Raiders have the chance to have a young secondary set for a number of years. That is assuming that at least one of Jenkins or Porter prove worthy of a long term deal (and want to sign one in Oakland) and that Hayden proves he is worthy of his draft status.
Reggie McKenzie definitely believes in Hayden and considers this player to be a quality starter for years to come for the Raiders so assuming he is correct that leaves Porter and Jenkins battling it out for the starting position across from him if they want it. Imagine if the Raiders go from having no legitimate starting corner on the roster at the start of free agency to having found the team's two starters for years to come by the time the 1st round of the draft was over.
There is a very real chance of that becoming reality. It's not just Reggie McKenzie who believes in Hayden either. Mike Mayock is one of the more highly respected talking heads out there with a strong track record in draft analysis. He had D.J. rated as his top cornerback in this draft, even above Alabama's Dee Miliner who the Jets picked at #9.
Another fan of this pick is NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling who had this great quote about it:
"Hayden not only fills a major need for the Raiders, he also offers quick feet, make-up speed, aggressiveness, impressive ball skills and college experience as a shutdown shadow corner."
That is exactly the type of quote that you love to hear about a player that the Oakland Raiders just added to their team. If half of that turns out to be true than the Raiders now have a legitimate number 1 corner again. The Raiders are meant to have a killer secondary that scares even the best and the players added at that position this year may just be talented enough to do that. That has always been part of The Raider Way.
Reggie would not have passed up on both Floyd and Star if he didn't believe that Hayden is a shutdown corner. He also does not make this pick without feeling certain that this is the right player for this team. He believes that DJ is the best player for the Raiders in this draft and he managed to trade down to collect a 2nd round pick while still getting his man. It really doesn't get much sweeter than that.