Packers hope Hayward is CB they’ve been looking for
By Rob Reischel, Journal-Sentinel
~Green Bay – Ted Thompson said what everyone else was probably thinking.
“I’ve gone crazy,” the Green Bay Packers typically subdued general manager said during last week’s NFL draft.
In less than an hour, Thompson traded up twice in the second round. In Thompson’s previous seven drafts in Green Bay, he’d moved up three times total.
The object of affection in Thompson’s second trade was Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward. Thompson sent his third-round pick (No. 90 overall) and a fifth rounder (163) to New England and received the Patriots’ second rounder (No. 62).
Thompson then plucked the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Hayward, who could become Green Bay’s nickel cornerback this season.
“I thought I would have gone a little earlier, but I’m not complaining at all,” Hayward said. “I’m just happy to be with a great organization like Green Bay, somebody that’s got a lot of rich tradition like them guys. So I wasn’t surprised at all.”
What was surprising is how little the Packers had to give up in the trade.
Each team uses a draft pick value chart in which they assign a point value to every pick. While each chart varies slightly, they’re typically close. According to one chart, the 62nd pick Green Bay received was worth 284 points. The two picks Green Bay traded were worth a combined 166 points.
In essence, the Packers didn’t give up much to move into the second round.
“Well, we thought it was pretty good value and felt like we had a guy we definitely had targeted that we thought was worthy of pulling that trade off,” Thompson said. “It just worked out that way. It was a good trade for us.”
Now, the question is, will the pick be as good? For Thompson, finding cornerbacks in the draft has been a remarkable struggle.
In Thompson’s first seven drafts, he’s taken five cornerbacks: Mike Hawkins, Will Blackmon, Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood and Davon House. The first four flopped and House showed little as a rookie in 2011.
Green Bay will hope for better luck with Hayward.
“He understands zone coverages . . . he can play man, he can get up there and press, he can play up,” Packer cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said. “The thing that impressed me the most is he understood concepts.
“You couldn’t really run a play at him a number of times. If you ran it at him one time, he saw it and he understood it and was able to make an impactful play on the ball when it came at him again.
“He’s a guy that will fit in. Multiple teams would have been happy with this kid because he can play in a number of different schemes and has the ability to be successful on them.”
Hayward was a three-year starter for the Commodores who had 15 career interceptions and 31 passes broken up. Hayward’s best season came in 2011 when he finished fifth in the country with seven interceptions and was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.
Hayward’s tackling has been criticized, but he did have more tackles for loss (7½) than any cornerback in the Southeastern Conference in 2011. In addition, Hayward’s time in the short shuttle (3.90 seconds) at the combine was better than any other cornerback.
Hayward ran the 40-yard dash in a mediocre 4.53 seconds and has short arms (30-¼). Scouts have knocked Hayward for taking too many risks and say he’s susceptible to double moves.
“I think he’s an all-around player,” Thompson said of Hayward. “He’s very aware in space, very good foot athlete, good balance, good pedal, can plant and close, all that kind of stuff.
“He sees the ball well. . . . He can play with his back to the line of scrimmage. He’s got good hands. He’s got a knack for interceptions. He’s a player and he’s a pretty good tackler.”
Hayward’s arrival should help a secondary that was one of the worst in NFL history. Green Bay allowed 4,796 passing yards, more than any team in league history. Some of that was due to the Packers’ lack of pressure, but the secondary had a brutal year, as well.
Questions still loom everywhere, from Tramon Williams’ shoulder to the tackling ability of Sam Shields to Charles Woodson’s age. Hayward should add depth and perhaps a whole lot more.
“Have you looked at the offenses that we’re playing against with the Saints and the Lions?” defensive coordinator Dom Capers asked.
“They’re putting four wide receivers and sometimes five out there. That’s just the nature of the game nowadays.
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