There are surprise picks in the NFL draft, and then there are picks that qualify as shocking.
The Oakland Raiders taking Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden No. 3 overall would be the latter.
After a full four months of analysis, predictions and subsequent failures with respect to what the media thinks teams in the top 10 of the 2013 draft are going to do, the Raiders reminded us on Thursday afternoon that we can't really know who is going to be selected until the pick comes out of Roger Goodell's mouth.
More specifically, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported on Thursday afternoon that the Raiders were gearing up to find a taker in a trade for the third overall selection, and if not there's a real possibility that Hayden will be the pick:
Several teams picking in the high end of the first round believe the Raiders, if they cannot trade down, will take Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden with the third overall pick, which would certainly qualify as the first shocker of this unpredictable draft.
The Raiders are high on him and are seen as a true wild card at the top of the draft. And though they are trying to trade down, other clubs are penciling them with Hayden in their projections. One GM in the top 10 believes Oakland will be able to pull off a trade down—in which case, Hayden would be the target of that move.
Talk about a reach.
Hayden, who almost wasn't alive for the draft after a routine hit turned into a horrific experience (h/t Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports), had a successful career for the Cougars.
Over two seasons with Houston, Hayden totaled six interceptions and three touchdowns off of those picks, showing the ability to both play the ball in coverage and then make something happen going the other way.
He also had over 60 total tackles in each of his two seasons with the Cougs.
Hayden is one of the most underrated cornerbacks on the board behind names like Dee Milliner, Desmond Trufant, Xavier Rhodes and Johnthan Banks.
However, the most surprising story to this rumor has nothing to do with the players that Oakland would be taking him over; Milliner reportedly had five surgeries to clear up issues (h/t ESPN), making him a medical red flag to teams.
Trufant is somewhat undersized, and the other two corners haven't stood out as Top Five picks. Hayden, on the other hand, had a productive career at a Division-I school and might have been in contention for the top CB spot if not for the tragic injury that almost cost him his life.
The real issue with Oakland taking Hayden in this spot would appear to be their active approach to addressing the secondary in free agency.
Signing Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins and retaining Phillip Adams has left the Raiders in good position in their defensive secondary, while holes on the defensive line and in the linebacking crew seem far more pressing.
Taking a corner at No. 3 would be a shocking pick indeed.
There's plenty of time for the Raiders to dispel this rumor, but the fact that it has legs just hours before the first round commences should tell you that there has to be some basis to the reports linking Hayden to the Raiders.
While the No. 3 pick is a stretch, the La Canfora report also links Hayden to the Raiders in the 10-15 range if they find a partner for the No. 3 pick in a trade.
Other options for the Raiders at No. 3 include Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan and Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher. Corner isn't a pressing need after the offseason additions, but Oakland has never been a team to draft based on need alone.
That might make Hayden your first-round Oakland Raider in the year 2013.
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