"Who is <insert rookie here>?" Is the predominant question following the draft. To answer that most fans turn to scouting reports, but how well do the reports tell the curious fan what type of player the draft pick will be?
I'll start out with the player Bill Polian called the most improved in his time with the Colts. How well did Hayden's scouting report predict the level and style of his play?
He was listed by USA Today as their sleeper for the cornerback position so his rise to a starting spot on a top pass D isn't a huge surprise.
Hayden was a high school quarterback/runningback/DB who was converted to wide receiver at Joliet Junior College. He started 8 games at WR for Illinois as a junior before he was moved to cornerback for his senior season.
From his scouting report featured at USA Today from NFLDraftscout.com
Positives... Split high with fairly long legs. ... Solid contributor and team player who can also play on special teams. ... Not really vocal, but well liked by teammates and staff. ... Sees the play develop and reacts quickly, showing good short area speed and quickness to get to the edge and string plays out in run force. ... Has adequate speed, but keeps a tight mirror on the receivers through their routes, easily adjusting to the ball in flight and will not hesitate to get vertical in order to get to the pigskin. ... Plays his responsibilities first and then flies to the ball in zone coverage. ... Does a good job with his hands to execute the press. ... Tracks the ball well and has the range and catch-up acceleration to make plays in front of him. ... Has the body control needed to get to the right spot and time his leaps to get to the ball at its high point. ... Has soft, natural hands, because of his experience as a receiver, he's not often fooled by fakes or double moves. ... Uses his hands effectively to keep blockers off his body in the open field. ... Very physical tackler who breaks down and explodes into the receiver when making the hit.
The quickness and zone coverage ability were dead on. He's shown great hands picking off three passes last year and you can ask Rex Grossman about how often Hayden bites on double moves. Like the rest of the Colts DBs Hayden remained a very physical defender and hard hitter in the pros.
Negatives... Needs backpedal technique improvement, as he shuffles his feet and needs to open his hips better in transition. ... Lacks experience and played on his natural ability last year, but shows great upside and could be a nice developmental project who will give instant value on special teams while he learns the nuances of playing defense. ...Does not show a quick second gear needed to recover when beaten. ...Struggles to disengage when double teamed and needs to develop more strength in order to play in run support.
This is where the improvement came in. Most of the negatives were technique issues not physical limitations. The one physical shortcoming, recovery speed, is something that the cover-2 hides. Hayden cleaned up the technique and now has plenty of strength for run support.
Hayden was a high potential guy that panned out, he fixed the weaknesses that had held him back to become a top level player. Players similar to Hayden with great potential, but a ways to go to reach it, lure many GMs into what become awful picks.