The Oakland Raiders have come a long way since general manager Reggie McKenzie took over football operations. From one of the league’s worst teams to an up and coming 12 game winner. But McKenzie’s first ever first round draft pick, D.J. Hayden, really hasn’t had a whole lot to do with the team’s resurgence.
A guy who was supposed to be a foundational building block for the defense turned out to be an injury prone frustration.
Between missed games and an absurd number of pass interference penalties, Hayden has been one of the least popular members of the Silver and Black since JaMarcus Russell.
This season was Hayden’s best in the NFL but that’s not saying much. He was moved to nickel corner after the Raiders brought in David Amerson and Sean Smith over the past two seasons to man the outside. Playing the nickel meant covering more of the middle of the field. For Hayden, that was a positive. He seems more capable of turning his head sideways to look for the ball than turning it all of the way around.
But even with the improvement, Hayden was far from impressive. If the Raiders were able to sign him to a cheap contract, and I’m talking veteran minimum kind of contract, then maybe. The thing is, it’s not like Hayden is even a big special teams contributor. He has played there but has never been anything special.
Hayden has rather little value in the present. Given his athleticism, there is an argument that his value lies in his potential. But if you ask me, the Raiders should allow another team to invest in Hayden’s uncertain future.
In today’s NFL the slot receiver is often a featured part of offenses. Having a good nickel corner is crucial. With Hayden at nickel, the Raiders have a position that is in need of an upgrade. At a cheap price, he would do fine as their fourth or fifth option but even then, Oakland might prefer to look at younger talent.