DJ Hayden joined many of his 2013 NFL Draft Class peers as potential 2016 free agents because the Oakland Raiders decided not to pick up his fifth-year option. There were many others in his class that suffered the same outcome.
Some Raiders fans already expressed relief that the team will eventually move on from the Draft bust. However, do not sleep on Hayden just yet.
It is no secret that Hayden continues underwhelming. The Raiders added Sean Smith, and incumbent corner Donald Amerson made a case to be the comeback player of the year last season.
TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe also showed flashes. That means Hayden could become the fifth corner on the roster. Hayden got a taste of this fate when he was benched late last season.
Nonetheless, Hayden is not done just yet.
Remember, Carrie and Thorpe were late round picks. That is because they do not have the same god-given tools as Hayden who was selected No. 12 in 2013.
Of course, Thorpe and Carrie bring big bodies which are fits for the scheme. However, Hayden could develop into a prototypical slot corner with his side and speed.
Also do not forget that Amerson ranked as one of the worst corners in 2014. He turned it around in 2014, so Hayden could do the same.
Hayden already battled back from near-death, when a freak accident injured his chest in college. Considering he already battled back, do not take his toughness for granted.
Moreover, missing most of his first two seasons with injuries mean Hayden needs reps. Yes, he got those reps as the starter last year, but who knows what will happen with another season.
Granted, Hayden may come out as the same penalized cornerback with zero ball skills. That is the tape he put together thus far in the pros. I am not defending him.
All I am saying is do not count Hayden out just yet. Let him battle through offseason and camp before we cast him away with a big fat bust label.