By Kyle Rota
Name: Joe Haden
Height: 5106 V
Weight: 193 V
Athleticism: While he may have tested poorly at the combine, it is clear from game footage that Haden is an excellent athlete. It can be a little difficult to evaluate Haden’s athleticism because of his poor footwork, but Haden clearly possesses an elite closing burst, excellent deep speed, and (with better technique) excellent change of direction skills. The downside is that this isn’t evident on every play as Haden really needs technique work, which will be addressed later. The natural athleticism is definitely there. 7.0
Man Coverage: While Haden was very productive in man coverage, he definitely needs to work on his coverage skills. Haden doesn’t truly backpedal like an NFL corner should, there is a ton of wasted motion and this combined with his tendency to give a large cushion means that teams can often hit shorter routes on him. However, Haden’s elite closing burst allows him to close the gap on shorter routes (and his recovery speed means that even though he wastes steps transitioning on deep routes, he doesn’t actually get beaten deep). On almost all of the completions charted, Haden was all over his man contesting the pass, so while he needs a lot of work here, there is a lot of potential. 6.0
Ball Skills: Haden is spectactular at locating the ball, breaking on it, and getting at least a hand on the pass. He reads the QB very well and has the coordination to make plays on every conceivable pass. He also has soft hands for the interception, making both easy and difficult catches. 8.0
Zone Coverage: 5.5 Haden was not used much in zone coverage at Florida, and while he does lack ideal size, he has everything else necessary to become a very good zone corner. Again, it comes down to the mental part of the game (often a little slow to pick up guys in his zone, and his technique hurts his ability to react quickly), but this is an area where Haden could and should improve.
Coverage Instincts: 6.5 When in coverage, Haden has very good instincts. He can be beaten with double moves, but quickly recovers. Is aware of the quarterback and does not bite on pump fakes, and locates the ball quickly after it is thrown.
Tackling: 6.5 Haden is a very good tackler for a cornerback. While he can and does miss tackles, he shows a willingness to take on ball carriers much larger than himself and usually gets the job done.
Run/Pass Recognition: 5.5 Haden does need a lot of work here. He often takes too long recognizing a run and this makes it difficult for him to avoid blocks.
Avoid/Shed Blockers: 6.0 While Haden is quite strong and willing, too often he gets tied up by WRs, especially if he is late diagnosing the play. Another area where he can improve, and when he does recognize the play quickly he is fairly tough to block.
Blitzing: 6.5 Haden blitzed a ton for Florida, and looked very good doing so. Impressed me with his ability to avoid blocks while keeping his balance and his smarts in picking up backs out of the backfield while blitzing. Natural athleticism and snap anticipation make him a tough weakside blitzer.
Press/Tight Coverage: 6.5 Haden was not used in press coverage much, and sparingly in tight coverage, but shows the ability to excel in both. When lined up in front of the WR, his problems with technique are minimized and his athletic gifts shine through. With his long and strong arms, he should develop into a good press corner with more experience.
Fluid Hips: 7.0 While this is somewhat masked due to his technique, Haden does flash the ability to flip his hips efficiently. The problem is that Haden’s sidepedal hinders him in this area, if he can fix his technique he has the natural fluidity to excel.
Footwork/Technique: 5.5 A major problem area that will need to be fixed. Backpedal, rarely used, is off-balanced and choppy. Haden uses a sidepedal which often leaves him susceptible to timing routes, but recovers due to his athleticism. Too often has wasted steps.
Summary: Haden is a young player who, 3 years ago, was just beginning to learn the cornerback position (QB and S in high school, recruited as a WR). Despite that, he still started as a true freshman. While Haden has a TON of work to do, I believe he has the necessary tools to develop into a special cornerback at the NFL level. Haden has a reputation for being a very hard worker, which will be necessary for him to capitalize on his immense potential. Haden will need a good defensive backs coach who stresses fundamentals and a situation where he is not required to start as a rookie (he’ll give up a ton of completions if he does start immediately). With his combination of athleticism, strength, intelligence, ball skills, and work ethic I believe Haden will be a pro-bowl player at the next level.
Final Grade: 6.6