Casey Hayward #19, Larry Smith #10 and Andre Hal #23 of the Vanderbilt Commodores celebrate after a win against the Ole Miss Rebels at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt won 30-7. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
While going through the Mock Drafts recently, I happened upon Walter Football’s latest offering. He has the Broncos selecting Cornerback Casey Hayward of Vanderbilt with the 87th pick. So I decided to investigate Casey. These are my findings.
Casey Hayward, born September 9, 1989 (age 22), is a 5-11, 192 lb. Cornerback who was a 3-year starter at Vanderbilt. He is the 11th ranked CB in the Nation and the 78th ranked overall prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft. His projected landing spot is the 2nd-3rd round.
The SEC's active leader in career Interceptions (15), Hayward also finished his career with 46 defensed passes, 148 solo Tackles and three Forced Fumbles.
Hayward is coming off one of the most productive careers ever by a Vanderbilt Defensive Back. Last season, he was named 2nd-team All-Southeastern Conference as a senior co-captain. he had 62 Tackles, a career-high seven Interceptions and 17 pass deflections.
One of the top defensive backs in the nation, Hayward continued his excellent play as a junior. Casey was named 2nd team All-SEC DB by both the league coaches and Associated Press writers. He started every game at Cornerback, putting together his finest year in a Commodore uniform. Hayward set single-season highs in Interceptions (6), Tackles (70) and Pass Break Ups (17).
Casy received the team's postseason Most Valuable Defensive Back Award. As a sophomore, Hayward started every game and had 58 Tackles, 8 1/2 for losses, seven pass deflections and two Interceptions even though he missed much of two games due to an injury. He had three or more tackles in 11 of 12 games and had a terrific perfprmance vs. #2 ranked LSU, with a career high 13 Tackles and four Tackles For Loss, earning team's Defensive Player of the Week honor.
One of three true freshman to see action during the season, Casey played in every game, participating as Nickel back in the secondary and on Special Team coverage units.
40 Yard Time: 4.57
Bench Press: 19
Vertical Jump: 34"
Broad Jump: 9'11"
3-Cone Drill: 6.76
20 Yard Shuttle: 3.90
60 Yard Shuttle: 11.10
Arm Length: 30 1/4"
Hand Span: 8 7/8"
Hayward is a highly regarded corner out of Vanderbilt. Although his team has had little success throughout his career, playing in the heart of the Southeastern Conference has put Hayward up against top talent every week, and he has made plays consistently for the Commodores. He can run with any receiver in the SEC and has shown that he can play physically at the line of scrimmage to disrupt receivers' routes. He brings a confident mentality that he can cover anyone in single coverage given the competition he faced each week in his conference. He has third-round talent.
STRENGTHS: Hayward can diagnose plays and be in position from the get-go. He will be physical when reacting to pass plays and has the speed to cover for extended periods of time in man coverage. He is a lanky player who can extend and secure interceptions when covering close. He is a reliable tackler when around the ball.
WEAKNESSES: Hayward is a decent player in zone looks but not the quickest reactor. He trusts his speed too much at times, which can get him in trouble when he plays too far off the receiver. He is a smooth athlete but not very quick twitched.
CBSSports.com’s Scouting Report on Casey Hayward:
Hayward was a hidden recruiting gem for Vanderbilt, starting all 37 games the past three years, and was very productive in college, collecting 15 pick-offs over his career. He is a very average athlete with ordinary speed and looks out of his element when flipping his hips in order to stay with receivers downfield -- obviously most comfortable in off-man coverage where he can face the action.
He plays more like a Free Safety, struggling to find the ball and make a play after he's turned around and is ideally suited for a zone scheme where he can use his eyes and anticipation. He will be graded differently by every team depending on the scheme and he has NFL potential in the right defense, but teams know what they're getting with him.
Strengths: A coordinated athlete with good footwork and balance. Heady cover player with above-average feel and anticipation in space. Trusts his eyes with very good awareness. Has very good reaction skills to break quickly on the ball. Savvy cover skills to recognize and anticipate routes, understanding what the offense wants to do. Has terrific ball skills with the focus and hands to secure interceptions in traffic. Very opportunistic with 15 career picks the last three years. Tough and aggressive to hold up against the run and work off blocks. Smart, aware and confident and has started every game the past three seasons at Vanderbilt (37 consecutive starts).
Weaknesses: Has only average height and length (30-inch arms) with a slender frame and lean muscle definition. Lacks top-shelf speed and doesn't have great acceleration. Doesn't have elite fluidity and struggles to recover after false steps. Lacks explosion in his transition with upright technique and has inconsistent backpedal, opening his hips prematurely to guard against vertical routes. Doesn't look natural in reverse and needs to keep the play in front of him to be effective. Lacks ideal strength and will be out-muscled by receivers. Inconsistent against the run and needs to improve his tackling fundamentals in order to finish. Too physical and hands-on in coverage, arriving early and attracting pass interference penalties. Lacks much experience in press coverage and appears scheme specific at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Jacob Lacey, Indianapolis Colts --By Dane Brugler
The National Football Post grades Casey as a player who will contribute in his first year, but may take time to become a starter. Has the ability to become a starter and will be expected to assume a starting role.
Possesses good height and a thin build, but has the frame to add additional girth without losing much athleticism. Displays a natural feel for the pass game in zone coverage. Keeps his head on a swivel, feels routes develop around him and displays the fluidity in his hips to quickly open up and make a play on the football. Is at his best in off coverage where he can sit in routes, read and react, and can simply undercut throws. Displays some natural click and close ability when driving on passes in front of him. However, gets too upright in his drop, doesn't consistently keep his base under him and wastes too much motion out of his breaks. Not as clean as he could be driving on the football. Picked off 6 passes last year and recorded 17 passes defended. But displays only slightly above-average ball skills. Will leave some picks on the field and I don't think his ball skills are quite as good as his stats make them out to be. Needs to do a better job catching the football more consistently.
Not real comfortable in man coverage at this stage however. Lacks great straight-line speed and doesn't seem to trust himself on an island. When he plays closer to the line likes to prematurely open up his hips in order to keep receivers from quickly getting behind him, will give up routine separation underneath. Gets upright when asked to turn and run, doesn't possess the type of second gear to quickly get back up to speed and can easily be taken advantage of by vertical speed. Gets leggy out of his breaks as well trying to re-direct because of his high pad level.
He does locate the football well in all areas of the game, possess good balance when asked to adjust to the throw and possesses the coordination to make a play at the highest point. Is only an average drag down tackler, and lacks pop into contact but takes good angles toward the football and gives an honest effort.
Impression: A smart, productive corner who can consistently make plays on the football. He's not a guy who will consistently hold up in man on the outside in the NFL. However, he's shown the ability to routinely get early jumps on the football and come down with the catch. Looks like one of the safer prospects in the draft as a cover two type guy.
In an Interview with New Era Scouting, Hayward was asked about his strengths:
" I feel that my greatest strengths are that I am very good competitor and I am very good at using my instincts. I am always around the ball and have a nose for finding the ball. Not many guys have broken up as many passes as I have leaving college."
On the toughest player he ever faced:
"I would have to say two of the best players I have ever faced were Shay Hodge at Mississippi and A.J. Green at Georgia. Very good WR’s who were always tough to match up with. Both brought a good challenge."
On the type of person an NFL team is getting in him:
"A hard working guy who wants to come in and learn the scheme as quickly as possible. I can play man to man or zone coverage so I feel that I fit into any scheme."
Casey believes that he’ll be able to impress teams with his knowledge of pass coverages.
"We played everything," Hayward said. "We played man. We played Cover Two, Cover Three, some five, eight and Cover Nine. We played everything. We played quarter-quarter-half and Cover Four. Anything scheme-wise, I feel like I can fit into it since I’ve played it all throughout my career at Vanderbilt."
Hayward sounds like an interesting player at #87. There are faster guys in the draft, but I don’t think there are many with Hayward’s experience in playing different schemes. Casey played with the big boys in the SEC, so he has gone against some of the countries best in the last 3 years. Denver needs to develop better options at the #2 CB position as well as someone to groom behind Champ Bailey besides Cassius Vaughn, who was an Undrafted Free Agent. They seem to have depth at the Nickel and Dime positions with Chris Harris and Syd’Quan Thompson. Personally, I’d rather see my team pickup a Corner who could play this year than a Quarterback (Osweiler?) who will sit for a couple of years, take up a roster spot and not pay dividends immediately.
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