Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden (2) is the newest Raider. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
When the news broke Thursday night that the Raiders had traded out of the No. 3 overall spot in the first round, Raiders fans mostly applauded the move by GM Reggie McKenzie.
In severe rebuilding mode, the Raiders need players, and by trading the third overall selection for the Dolphins’ No. 12 spot and a second-round pick, No. 42 overall, Oakland will be getting two potential impact players for 2013.
But when the Raiders then used the No. 12 choice to take cornerback D.J. Hayden from the University of Houston, digital applause was mixed with online booing.
Many Raiders fans had been hoping for a defensive lineman such as Star Lotulelei of Utah, Sheldon Richardson of Missouri or Sharrif Floyd of Florida.
In fact, just before the Raiders made their pick, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wrote: “Now the Raiders get their pick of three top DT’s – Sharrif Floyd, Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson. Not bad, Reggie McKenzie.”
Instead, McKenzie threw a curveball and took a touted cornerback – but one who suffered a sever injury in 2012.
Said one Silver and Black fan on Twitter: “Raiders fans jumping off left & right after praising McKenzie for trading down. Give your heads a shake.”
Among the disgruntled tweets:
However, McKenzie said Hayden (5-11, 191 pounds) was the guy he wanted all along. He told Bay Area News Group columnist Monte Poole, “He can cover, point blank. He can find the football.”
And many fans agree with him. True, the Raiders’ pass rush is lacking and their ability to stop the run is shaky, but the corners have been awful the past couple of seasons.
Now, Hayden – the second corner picked in Thursday’s Round 1 – is an immediate upgrade to head coach Dennis Allen’s defense.
Wrote one fan: “Welcome to the #Raiders. Willie Brown, Lester Hayes, Mike Haynes. You’re the next Raider lockdown CB.” Wrote another: “The ball skills are THERE. Something the #Raiders have sorely missed for a LONG time.”
Hayden survived almost a fatal injury last season in practice when he took a knee to the chest, which tore a large vein that carries blood to the heart. He was rushed to a hospital and doctors saved his life with quick surgery. McKenzie told reporters the issue never entered into his thinking as he evaluated Hayden.
Though Hayden missed the NFL Combine, when he was later cleared to work out for NFL scouts, he was given a clean bill of health and clocked a 4.33 time in the 40.
Whether Raiders fans love the pick or hate it, he’s now McKenzie’s first, first-round building block – and the Raiders now have a second-round pick Friday, something they were lacking because of the Carson Palmer trade.
Tweeted one fan, refecting on the recent bad drafts under the late Al Davis: “Can I just say how nice it is to have a GM who gets it and addresses the team’s needs?”