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  • Erik Williams / Associated Press

    D.J. Hayden was an all-Conference USA first-team selection after intercepting four passes and returning two for touchdowns last season for Houston.

  • Cody Duty / Houston Chronicle

    D.J. Hayden, center, is lucky to be alive. He suffered a heart injury in November that ended his season. Now he's the Raiders' first-round draft pick.

Oakland moves back nine spots, still gets its man

Published: Friday, Apr. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 28, 2013 - 9:10 am

Discussing a life-threatening injury can be touchy.

D.J. Hayden, however, has discussed his heart injury enough that it's easy.

He's apparently made his friends comfortable, too.

When asked about absorbing a hit for the first time after tearing a major vein in his heart during an accident in practice, Hayden informed the media on a conference call that he's been hit in the chest a few times already.

"I should be fine," Hayden said. "I've been play-fighting with all my friends and they've been punching me in my chest, and I can take their punches, so I'm pretty sure I'll be all right. I just have to get out there and shake the rust off."

The Raiders believe Hayden will be fine once he takes the field.

Oakland traded down nine spots in the first round and used the 12th overall selection on Hayden, a cornerback from Houston, during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday.

The Raiders swapped first-round picks with Miami, which used the third-overall selection on Oregon defensive end-outside linebacker Dion Jordan.

The Raiders received Miami's second-round pick (42nd overall) in the deal.

Hayden tore the inferior vena cava, which carries blood from the lower half of the body back up to the heart after being kneed in the chest last November.

The injury was life-threatening, and left Hayden wondering if he'd be able to walk again. Hayden said he felt depressed, but once doctors told him there was a chance he could play again after his sternum and stitches healed, his spirits were lifted.

"So right then and there I kind of knew in the back of my head, I was like, 'Yeah, I'll be able to play again,' " Hayden said. "I just continued to trust in God, man, (friends) praying for me. And it turned out good."

Trading down also worked out well for the Raiders. General manager Reggie McKenzie said Hayden was the player the Raiders wanted all along, and that if no trade was possible, Oakland would have selected Hayden at No. 3.

Not only did the Raiders still land Hayden, they also added a second-round pick. Oakland didn't have a second-round selection because it was traded to Cincinnati in 2011 for quarterback Carson Palmer.

McKenzie said there are no concerns about Hayden's health.

"Everything we got back from that standpoint was more than positive, so it became a non-issue for us in that regard," McKenzie said. "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."

Hayden (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) was a first-team All-Conference USA selection. He had four interceptions, returning a school-record two for touchdowns.

Addressing the secondary has been a priority after Oakland cornerbacks were picked on regularly last season.

The Raiders already signed Michael Jenkins and Tracy Porter as free agents.

"Obviously we've got needs throughout this team we want to make sure we take care of," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. "And I think it was a great thing that we were able to get an impact player at a position, specifically defensively. The things that you look for, is how do you affect the quarterback? And you do that through rush or coverage, and this guy, we felt like, was the top cover corner in the draft."

THE NEWEST RAIDER

D.J. HAYDEN

Selected: 12th (first round)

College: Houston

Position: Cornerback

Height, weight: 5-foot-11, 191 pounds

Comment: Cleared medically after a hit in practice resulted in a freak injury. He tore a large vein, the inferior vena cava, that carries blood from the lower half of the body back up to the heart last November.

Coach Dennis Allen says: "He can cover man-to-man, he's got great speed, he's got great quickness, he's got the ability to play both off and press coverage, and really one of the things I really look at is, how does the guy make plays on the ball, specifically the ball down the field? And he does a tremendous job of that."

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• Join Matthew Barrows today at 11 a.m. to discuss the 49ers, followed by Jason Jones at noon to discuss the Raiders. Let us know what you think.

www.sacbee.com/live

Follow The Bee's Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the Raiders at www.sacbee.com/raiders.

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