Raiders general manager discussed the selection of D.J. Hayden Thursday night with the local media:
Q: Was Hayden the guy you targeted all along and you just though you could get him lower?
McKenzie: We targeted him. Now, to pick up an extra pick was a bonus.
Q: What about Hayden appealed to you and how much caution did his heart scare give you?
McKenzie: Of course we researched the health issues. Now, everything we got back from that standpoint was more than positive so it became a non-issue for us in that regard. He’s gonna have to mentally go through it now, that’s the only issue we had. As far as what we liked about him – the guy can cover. Point blank, he can cover. He can find the football so he does what we’re looking for in a cornerback – he’s a good cover corner who can get his hands on the football.”
Q: Did the way he survived the heart scare and pulled through it, did that raise his stock in your eyes?
McKenzie: No, I don’t think it raised his stock. It showed up how competitive and how aggressively he went after it to try to get back to his old self. It showed that but it didn’t raise his stock as far as being an overcomer.
Q: There’s a lot of good 5-11 corners in the NFL but it seems the prototype is taller corners. Can Hayden cover at the NFL level?
McKenzie: Yes. That’s why we drafted him. The thing with him, his man cover skills is what set him apart for us. He don’t lose a guy. He’s quick and he’s fast and he’s tough and aggressive in his play. So, from that standpoint we have zero issues.
Q: If a deal couldn’t be worked out, would you have taken Hayden at 3?
Q: Was cornerback a position of need, or this guy too good to pass up?
McKenzie: You guys know me. I’m gonna get the best player. Once we declare our draft board, we’re gonna follow it. We’re not gonna try to fill this need and fill that need and go into the offseason saying ‘We got players that we needed.’ We want to get players that we think make a difference. We want difference-makers, guys that can make plays. And that’s where he was on our board.
Q: Getting a lot of offers for No. 3?
McKenzie: No, in the end, the offers dwindled, and some of the offers didn’t make sense. But this one made sense.
Q: This is a no-doubt pick, right?
McKenzie: Use your words: no doubt.
Q: Any hesitation whatsoever knowing his medical history?
McKenzie: It really wasn’t with me. Had a chance to bring him in, had many conversations, took him out to dinner – just to get to know the guy. We went down to his pro day and had one of my personnel guys take him out. We knew the guy. So researching that part, our doctors did a great job in researching all the medical stuff. So from that standpoint, it was a non-issue. Then when we put on the tape, which is how we make decisions, it became prevalent that that’s our guy.
Q: What can you say about his drive based on what he overcame?
McKenzie: It says a lot for his drive. It says a lot for his fortitude. He’s a want to guy. It says a lot about that but you still have to strap on the pads and make plays.
Q: Picking up a second rounder a priority?
McKenzie: To pick up some picks was a top priority. Whether that would have been a 2? We’re excited to get the two? Absolutely. We didn’t know which way the picks were coming especially from the conversations that we’ve had leading up to it. A lot of the offers didn’t make sense but this one did. We’re happy to get that two.
Q: Is he cleared to practice immediately?
McKenzie: He’s totally cleared.
Q: Nervous waiting to see if he’d still be there at 12?
McKenzie: Yes.I had an inkling that when you lose a player like Darrelle Revis I could see where they would pick a corner. But they went with the other guy and we got our guy.
Q: Who would you have taken if not there?
McKenzie: I’m going to say no comment on that one. When you move back you kind of have guys ranked in the area. We had some guys if our guy wasn’t there we had about five guys we were going to look into.
Q: What is his personality like?
McKenzie: He came across. What I look for is is he approachable. Does it seem like he will be one of those guys that’s going to be coachable and be a worker. Does he really like football? Is he going to come and get after it. He definitely showed that. I already knew the answer by the research we had from his past coaches and all our scouts dig and all that information. You watch him play you can tell the guy loves football. But sometimes you also like to look in a guy’s eyes when he tells you answers and he passed.