04/29/2012 - A closer look at the Packers' picks: Round 2/62 -- Casey Hayward, CB, 5-11, 192, Vanderbilt...Aggressive, instinctive playmaker should contribute immediately in nickel-heavy scheme and give savvy veteran Charles Woodson more latitude to play a rover position. COULD SURPRISE: Cornerback Casey Hayward: Thompson compensated for the medical-prompted release of Pro Bowl safety Collins before the draft by making a play for the skilled Hayward. He will stay at corner, but winning a starting job would provide intriguing options for the Packers to replace Collins. - The Sports Xchange
Hayward was a two-star receiver/cornerback recruit out of high school, choosing Vanderbilt over Troy. He played in every game as a true freshman in 2008, recording 8 tackles, 3 pass break-ups and 1 forced fumble. Hayward became a starting cornerback in 2009 as a sophomore (12 starts), finishing with 58 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups and two interceptions.
He again started all 12 games in 2010 as a junior, recording 70 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 11 pass breakups, one forced fumble and six interceptions, earning Second Team All-SEC honors. Hayward started all 13 games in 2011 as a senior, finishing with 62 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 10 pass breakups and a career-best seven interceptions (second in the SEC), earning second-team All-SEC honors.
Hayward was a hidden recruiting gem for Vanderbilt, starting all 37 games the past three years, and was very productive in college, collecting 15 pick-offs over his career. He is a very average athlete with ordinary speed and looks out of his element when flipping his hips in order to stay with receivers downfield -- obviously most comfortable in off-man coverage where he can face the action.
Hayward plays more like a free safety, struggling to find the ball and make a play after he's turned around and is ideally suited for a zone scheme where he can use his eyes and anticipation. He will be graded differently by every team depending on the scheme and he has NFL potential in the right defense, but teams know what they're getting with him.
Strengths: A coordinated athlete with good footwork and balance. Heady cover player with above-average feel and anticipation in space. Trusts his eyes with very good awareness. Has very good reaction skills to break quickly on the ball. Savvy cover skills to recognize and anticipate routes, understanding what the offense wants to do. Has terrific ball skills with the focus and hands to secure interceptions in traffic. Very opportunistic with 15 career picks the last three years. Tough and aggressive to hold up against the run and work off blocks. Smart, aware and confident and has started every game the past three seasons at Vanderbilt (37 consecutive starts).
Weaknesses: Has only average height and length (30-inch arms) with a slender frame and lean muscle definition. Lacks top-shelf speed and doesn't have great acceleration. Doesn't have elite fluidity and struggles to recover after false steps. Lacks explosion in his transition with upright technique and has inconsistent backpedal, opening his hips prematurely to guard against vertical routes. Doesn't look natural in reverse and needs to keep the play in front of him to be effective. Lacks ideal strength and will be out-muscled by receivers. Inconsistent against the run and needs to improve his tackling fundamentals in order to finish. Too physical and hands-on in coverage, arriving early and attracting pass interference penalties. Lacks much experience in press coverage and appears scheme specific at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Jacob Lacey, Indianapolis Colts
--By Dane Brugler