Quarterback Case Keenum deservedly dominated the headlines surrounding the Cougars’ program for the past few seasons as he became the NCAA’s all-time leader in total offense, passing yardage, touchdown passes and completions. Scouts took notice of Haydens play, however, when the opponents tried to keep up with Keenums fast-break scoring - likely making him the first Houston defender to the first drafted by an NFL team since cornerback Stanford Routt in 2005 (second round, Oakland).
The Fort Bend, Texas, product grew up less than an hour from UH’s Robertson Stadium, but had to go the junior college route before picking his hometown Cougars over several other major programs. He helped Navarro College win the 2010 national junior college championship as a sophomore with three interceptions. D.J. (Derek, Jr.) made an instant impact as a junior, garnering Conference USA’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year award and second-team all-conference honors after leading the team with 11 pass break-ups and finishing tied for seventh nationally with five forced fumbles. He also had 66 tackles, eight for loss, and intercepted two passes on the year. As a senior, Hayden was hurt in a freak hit during practice. He tore a large vein, the inferior vena cava, which carries blood from the lower half of the body back up to the heart. Before the injury, Hayden played in nine games, and recorded eight pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and four interceptions; two of which he returned for touchdowns. He was named to the Coaches first-team All-Conference USA.
Very good foot quickness allows him to handle man coverage responsibilities on the outside in the slot equally well. Gives ground off the line without giving up position, and possesses the change of direction ability to trail on inside routes, turn-and-run up the sideline, and stop quickly when needed. When playing off, he closes fast to make plays on out routes or to wrap up on slants. His toughness helps him win fights with receivers for 50/50 balls downfield, and he will run through the play to recover, often getting to the ball just in case to knock it away. Avoids receiver blocks in run support and breaks down to wrap up a leg before the ballcarrier can head upfield. Used on blind-side blitzes because of his speed and shows the aptitude to create turnovers by unsuspecting quarterbacks. Tackling is stronger than his wiry frame would predict, allowing him to separate the ball from its carrier in addition to dragging down opponents.
Average size and strength won’t make him an elite prospect in the minds of scouts, because he will be at a disadvantage against better pro receivers both at the line of scrimmage and downfield. Life threatening injury his senior season, return back to football will be a long and trying journey.
Hayden helped Navarro Junior College win a national championship in 2010, and then aided the Cougars 13-1 finish in 2011 as Conference USA’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year as a junior (11 pass break-ups, five forced fumbles). He was having a fantastic senior campaign until a life-threatening injury cut it short. How he checks out medically will play a major role in his draft status.
Above information from NFL Network