Former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden is widely considered to be the best available at his position among those available for selection in the 2010 NFL Draft. After a stellar career at the University of Florida, Haden’s preparations for the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine will come to a head Tuesday when he completes the event’s workout and finishes up his responsibilities at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.
While the purpose of the combine is for every NFL team to get a good look at each draft prospect, Haden may not need to impress anyone except the Cleveland Browns, who are heavily considering using their No. 7 overall pick on the dynamic corner. Long rumored to be one of their top targets, Haden has the Browns drooling, according to published reports.
“Team Need, say hello to Opportunity. Joe Haden, get ready for Cleveland winters,” writes Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald. “There is debate among the analysts about who is the better defensive tackle, who is the better quarterback and who is the better offensive tackle, but they all love Haden.”
Read more about Joe Haden’s preparations and future in the NFL after the jump!
One of those analysts, ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr., is squarely in Haden’s corner, too. “Joe Haden makes the most sense, in terms of value,” Kiper said on a conference call last week. “We don’t know if he’s going to be Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha. They’re the two best cover corners in the NFL right now. They didn’t [get selected] in the top 10. But Haden will. Haden has potential to be an elite corner. He’s a complete corner, effective on the blitz, outstanding in coverage.”
The Cleveland brass seems to agree. “I think Haden is a heck of a football player,” Browns general manager Tom Heckert said. “He’s probably one of the top corners, if not the top corner in the draft. He’s played at a big-time program and they won a lot of games. He’s going to go early.”
Considering Haden has only been playing cornerback for three years (he set Maryland state high school records as a quarterback), his emergence as a shut-down corner in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference is becoming the stuff of legends around the combine. Now he only has one more hurdle to leap – the combine workout – something he has been preparing for since middle school.
“My dad had me doing the vertical jump and broad jump in seventh grade. He had me lifting in eighth grade,” Haden told The Gainesville Sun. “I wasn’t all-in until the 10th grade. I used to cry sometimes because I didn’t feel like doing it. Are you serious? My friends sometimes would come watch me. But he knew what he was doing. He got my body ready to play so all I needed was guidance.”
Haden, who hopes to run his 40-yard dash on Tuesday between 4.2 and 4.37 seconds, is confident in his ability to continue his outstanding play at the next level.
“I haven’t nearly reached my peak at all,” he said during his press conference on Sunday. “I just feel like whatever team I go to, they’re going to get a person they can mold into a way better corner than I was in college. I’ve been doing this for three years, and I feel like I’m getting pretty good at it, but I want to learn more. You’re getting someone who really wants to learn the game and be the best they can be at corner.”
A team drafting Haden will not only receive a top-flight cornerback, they will also acquire a player willing to try any position – including special teams. “I can do a lot of other things,” Haden said. “I can definitely [return] punts. I can do any kind of special teams. I was a gunner at Florida. Wherever they need someone, I can do it.”
Chances are Haden will never have to do anything else in the NFL except line up directly across from his opponent’s No. 1 receiver.