[Editor Note: Black and Teal is preparing a very well thought out Draft Board. Zoltan and I agree, Joe Haden is a top candidate. Zoltan did the scouting and here are his impressions. Please add your comments. ]
Last year the Jaguars were lucky. Almost nobody expected that Eugene Monroe; the left tackle from Virginia was still on the board when the Jaguars picked their 1st round draft choice of the 2009 Draft. Well it happened; and Gene Smith made the right move. Now I wonder; what if a top talent falls down once again when the Jaguars pick on April 22nd? That player would be; the junior cornerback from Florida-Joe Haden (Honorably mention a. k. a. almost unbelievable scenario – Eric Berry; safety-Tennessee)
Well let’s see; why would the Jaguars benefit greatly from selecting this gentleman if he is still out there; 2 words: Darrelle Revis. We saw throughout this season; what kind of impact a shutdown corner can bring to a team. Well there is a good chance that the next real shutdown cornerback can be Haden. He played 40 games in Florida during his 3 years as a Gator; recorded 8 interceptions; 2 forced fumbles; and 3.5 sacks. He is 5-11 tall; and weights around 190 pounds. He was All-American rookie selection in 2007; and First-team All-American selection in 2009.
How good he was at high school? Haden was listed as the No. 3 athlete in the nation in the class of 2007. He was the first true freshman to start a game at cornerback for the Gators on opening day! He missed only one game because of an ankle sprain. He is played in the SEC; the best NCAA division during his 3 years; so he was successful against great talent. Haden is a complete cornerback who can cover, tackle, catch the ball, and make plays with the ball in his hands. I think he is easily the top corner of this class and no other is really even close.
Let’s see why: Haden has terrific speed and overall athletic ability. He’s both an athlete and a “football player” who has great instincts. He can stay in his back peddle longer than most, and does a nice job of keeping things in front of him. At this point Haden is very technically sound; which can be rare for a player with his overall athletic ability. Haden excels in man coverage, but also understand zone concepts. He is very comfortable and physical in press coverage and does a nice job of throwing receivers off their route inside the five yard window. As mentioned, Haden is a very good tackler who plays the run more like a strong safety than a cornerback. Haden also has excellent ball skills, getting his hands on an awful lot of balls. Though teams have stayed away from Haden this season, he still has managed to pick off 4 passes giving him 8 for his career.
OK; let’s see where he has issues: Like a lot of corners with his overall physical makeup, Haden will gamble at times. I could see him struggling early on in his career with double moves. He also might struggle some with bigger (taller) receivers. Haden is listed at 5’11” and that will be a big thing to look at when he gets weighed and measured at the combine. He may not be quite as big as the Florida media guide indicates. He will need to learn to settle into his role as an NFL cornerback, and that means sticking to the plan and not trying to do too much. I have seen him bail on his zone responsibilities and try to help out somewhere else.
He is the best pro-ready Gator player from this draft. Which is speaks for itself: he is most likely the 1st player selected from the very impressive Gator prospects. There is no question he is one of the top 10 players of this draft. Most likely he will be not on the board when the Jaguars pick, but that’s what we thought about Eugene Monroe as well.
2 notes for the Haden draft:
1; The Jaguars must win the coin flip against the Broncos, because I think the Broncos will pick Haden if he is available. The coin flip is critical.
2; What kind of change would that mean to the Jaguars secondary? Now that is the big question. The Jaguars best player (is he still?) is cornerback Rashean Mathis. And they traded this year’s second round pick for William& Mary cornerback Derek Cox to be the other corner. But with Haden in the mix what kind of changes are possible? Well I think the obvious choice would be Mathis and Haden; and Cox would play at nickel. But I think that will not happen! I think Cox is the lock (with all his highs and lows) and not Rashean! Although Florida Times Union reporter Michael C Wright recently suggested Mathis maybe the one player who can look for a contract extension in this off-season; I think with Haden on the team; the Jaguars and Gene Smith can do 3 things with Mathis:
1. Extend him; and keep him in as a starter CB opposite to Haden (Derek Cox playing at nickel)
2. Extend him; and move him into free safety (“2 birds with one stone”; we heard about that experiment in 2008; which failed…) and Haden and Cox will play at CB (You can call me crazy; but if Haden will be a Jaguar that is THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO!)
3. Trade Mathis; for a 1st and a possible 3rd rounder for 2011 draft pick (or if there is a team interested in this scenario BEFORE the draft; for the same price use one of the 1st rounder to move up; to be sure; the Jags could pick up Haden;) There are good looking QBs coming up in 2011-if there will be any draft at all…-the Jaguars might position themselves for one of them…
So these are the options; if I mean IF Haden is the Gene Smith’s guy on draft day. I’m not going to lie; I would be very happy to see this kid from Florida picked by the Jaguars (opposite to a more popular teammate of his for example…) I think he has all the potentials to become a STAR on day 1-something the Jaguars are almost desperately needing right now. He could carry the flag of the defensive rebuilding. He could be a big first home run hit. He is an absolute perfect choice. IF the Jaguars are lucky on draft day; once again…