As a player who starred in high school as a quarterback and was recruited as a wide receiver, Joe Haden might want to remember to thank the UF coaches after his selection on Thursday as he most likely will be the first cornerback selected in the NFL draft. That decision by Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong to switch his position seems to have turned out pretty well.
Haden, who had little experience at corner when he arrived at UF in the spring of 2007, has made remarkable strides over just three years to become the most complete corner in the 2010 draft. Haden became the first true freshman to ever start the opening game as a cornerback in UF history in 2007, and has only gotten better since.
By the end of that 2007 season, Haden had improved enough to earn All-SEC freshman honors. By the end of his junior season in 2009, Haden was a consensus All-American and Thorpe Award finalist.
During the NFL combine earlier this spring, Joe Haden ran a disappointing 40 yard dash, causing his draft stock to be questioned. He rebounded from a slow 4.57 time at the combine and ran a 4.45 at the UF pro day in March.
For anyone who has watched tape of Joe Haden playing, however, his relatively pedestrian time at the combine should be of little concern. Haden is a shut-down corner in every sense of the word, and has gone up against the best receivers on the opposing team for two seasons, rarely giving up catches or yards.
Even with opposing quarterbacks rarely throwing the ball to his side of the field, Haden finished his career with 218 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 8 interceptions. He is 5'11, but plays with greater length than his height would indicate. Haden's reactions and instincts are outstanding, and coupled with his speed and quickness, he can almost always close in time to break up the pass or make a tackle with little yards after the catch given up.
Haden is adept at both man and zone coverage, and gives good support on run plays with good tackling ability and a knack for shedding blocks. At the latest, Haden will probably be selected in the middle of the first round, but there is a good chance a team could select him at around the 10th spot or higher.