Has good size and nice length. Comfortable playing in press coverage. Has very good ball skills and does an excellent job reading the QB. Will jump the outs on late throws or jump the quick slant to break up passes. Does a good job when he can keep things in front of him and plays well in space. Has a good feel for zone coverage. Does a good job turning and locating the ball in the air and extends to break up passes. Capable and comfortable in run support. Shows ability to cut the legs of the ballcarrier in the open field or on the edge. Will wrap up at times, when defending screens. Not afraid to lower his shoulder and deliver a blow to the receiver to break up the pass.
Needs to play with better balance, technique, and footwork. Doesn't have great burst or hips to turn and run with receivers. Struggles to defend the deep pass, even when going up against lesser receivers. Can't turn and run on the go pattern. Tends to get a bit handsy when the receiver tries to run by him. Doesn't do great defending crossing patterns or matching up with quicker, speedy wideouts. Doesn't have good hands, and will drop interceptions. WIll get caught looking in the backfield at times, and blow an assignment. Doesn't break down well and is an underwhelming tackler. Will miss some stops because he takes bad angles or doesn't see what he hits.
Hayward is a player that you really like his production and ball skills. And you think in the right scheme, he can be a competent NFL starter, but would be exposed in the majority of schemes. That scheme is a Cover-2 scheme, that will give him deep help over the top. Most teams use a heavy mix of Cover-2 in their defense, but few outside the patented Tampa-2 use it enough where you would think Hayward could get by as a starter. He needs more polish to his footwork and he can get better. But he's a player that will seemingly always struggle defending quicker, speedy wideouts just simply because he has very average hips and speed. Hails from Perry, GA.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(10/29) vs. Arkansas: 5 targets, 2 rec., 29 yds (14.5 avg), 17 YAC, 1 TD, PD: 6, 2 penalties (holding, personal foul); 1 stuff, 1 missed tackle
(11/5) at Florida: 1 tgt., 1 rec., -1 yds; PD: 1, 1 TFL, 1 stuff
(12/31) vs. Cincinnati: 5 tgt., 0 rec., 0 yds, INT: 2, PD: 1; 1 stuff, 1 TFL, 1 pressure
2011: 13 GP/13 GS, 62 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 0.0 sacks, 7 INTs, 10 PD, 0 FF, 0 FR
- missed 2 games in 2009 due to injury
Hayward can play at the NFL level, and like past Vanderbilt corners like D.J. Moore (Bears) and Myron Lewis (Bucs), he projects best in a Tampa-2 scheme. If he went to one of those teams, then I would think that he stands a decent shot of becoming a starter down the line although he'll still be somewhat limited in man coverage. It's not that he's bad there, just not good enough and will be exposed too often against quicker, explosive wide receivers he would often face in the starting lineup. But Hayward has the ball skills to think he can compete at the next level. The question is can his technique and footwork be polished enough to make him a better man corner. I think there is also some potential a team could tinker with moving him to safety. He's not the biggest guy and is an underwhelming tackler as far as the safety position goes, but he's a smart guy that understands zone, and with his ball skills playing in the centerfield shouldn't be a major issue. There his lack of speed won't be a problem also. For that team, they would need to bulk him up quite a bit and it would probably take him a couple of years before he could make the transition. He'd always be an underwhelming run support safety, but as far as playing a dime back role and in coverage, he should be more than capable. Regardless of whether he stays at corner or safety, he's not going to be a major contributor early on for a team. He can compete for a nickel role probably by his second or third year, but I doubt if he does manage to win the role, he'll be better than average. He sort of reminds me of a less physical version of Chevis Jackson but with better ball skills. He's clearly going to have some issues matching up at the next level, but again in the right scheme which gives him safety help over the top and allows him to play a lot of zone and keep things in front of him, he can be capable. As long as he can produce early on special teams, he'll stick in the league. And I do think that with three or so years of development, he can improve and become a better man corner. But he still would probably be overmatched outside being a decent nickel corner in most man-heavy schemes. It's hard for me to see him sticking long-term in the league outside playing for a Tampa-2 team like Chicago, unless he makes the eventual move to safety. Five years from now, unless he's moved to safety or is playing in such a scheme, then I don't see him offering much that merits him being kept on somebody's roster long-term, and he just becomes a journeyman.
Hayward is not the ideal fit to play corner for the Falcons. He can compete, but he's not going to bring a whole lot to the table that past corners such as Chevis Jackson, and current guys like Dominique Franks and Chris Owens don't already bring. His ball skills can get him a roster spot and potentially push for the No. 4 spot. But you question whether or not he's going to show enough improvement in the coming years to be much more than that or a decent stopgap nickel. But there's not much about his game that makes you think he could really work well playing in the slot. But he's not a guy that you see upgrading the Falcons cornerback position, except adding another decent body for depth. Instead, he might have a brighter future if the Falcons developed him as a free safety. He would always be an underwhelming run defender, but being a sort of dime safety that can play deep coverage as well as potentially line up against wide receivers means he can add depth. He probably won't ever be a starter there however despite his superior ball skills. More than likely, he spends most of his time in Atlanta on special teams, but is competent enough that if he does get opportunities on defense he can be serviceable to good from time to time.
Hayward is a draftable prospect, but his very scheme-specific skillset and lack of ideal long-term upside probably means that a team that does not employ the Tampa-2 is going to be reaching taking him before the fifth round. At that point, he can add depth for most teams and be a nice developmental safety option. A Tampa-2 scheme might be more willing to take him in the fourth, and possibly late third.
1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Man Coverage: 5.5
Zone Coverage: 8.0
Ball Skills: 8.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.