Don’t Discount D.J. Hayden’s Impact as Oakland Raiders Attempt to Rebuild

Sunday was almost a year to the day since the last significant playing time for Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden. The 12th pick of the 2013 NFL draft played only eight games due to injury as a rookie and missed the first seven games this season.

Injuries unrelated to the freak accident that nearly took his life during his senior year at Houston have stunted Hayden’s development. In terms of practice and playing time, Hayden is still a lot like a rookie, and he should get plenty of opportunities to prove himself over the final eight games.

Despite his lack of experience, Hayden flashed the potential Sunday that compelled general manager Reggie McKenzie to use a first-round draft pick on him. The team and the fans shouldn’t forget that he’s still a piece the Raiders can build around going forward.

That probably means Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will get the better of Hayden on Sunday. Manning has roasted many great cornerbacks during his illustrious career, but it shouldn’t take away from Hayden’s performance versus the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9.

It wasn’t a perfect day from Hayden, but considering he had played only a handful of snaps in the past year, it was an encouraging performance. The Raiders desperately need Hayden to develop into the player they believed he could be when they selected him ahead of prospects widely believed to be safer picks.

Hayden got his hands on two of Russell Wilson’s passes Sunday and couldn’t make the interception either time. Officials also threw two flags on Hayden, and both were highly damaging calls against the Raiders.

Fair or not, a tiny fraction of the total snaps defined Hayden’s performance. To be fair, an evaluation of Hayden’s performance needs to include more than those four plays.


The Bad

Officials called defensive pass interferenc...

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