New England Patriots Draft Prospects: Markus Wheaton, D.J. Hayden


Even though NFL Free Agency is all the rage, it is also important to keep looking at potential New England Patriots prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft. Here is a look at updates regarding Oregon State Beavers wide receiver Markus Wheaton and Houston Cougars cornerback D.J. Hayden.

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Although the New England Patriots will prioritize the cornerback position over the wide receiver position, there is still a possibility that the Patriots select a wide receiver early in the draft. The Pats signing Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders is far from a done deal, and thus the Patriots could get their vertical threat in a receiver this year. That receiver could be former Oregon State standout Markus Wheaton.

Highly regarded for his deep threat ability, Wheaton did a great job on vertical routes with the Beavers in 2012. However, Gil Brandt wrote that Wheaton had difficulty “tracking the ball overhead” on vertical passes at Oregon State’s pro day, but he did note that Wheaton did well in drills and caught the ball well overall. Brandt’s slight criticism of Wheaton goes against what Wheaton is regarded for, but maybe there is a hitch in his vertical ability that hasn’t been noted until closer examination. We’ll see.

On the cornerback front, here is an incredibly interesting tweet from top draft scout Kevin Weidl, who gushes about a prospect he views as underrated. Houston’s D.J. Hayden was dubbed by Weidl as “one of the best kept secrets in this draft”, and he called him a “playmaker” who will “end up starting”. Hayden has all the tools, and the only question is whether or not he checks out medically. That is a huge question, but Hayden is astute in coverage and has terrific speed. To be honest with you, I would rather take a flier on this guy than Tyrann Mathieu. Nothing against Mathieu, but he’s projected best as a slot corner and we already have a good slot corner in Kyle Arrington (signed a four year deal yesterday).

Just keep Hayden’s name in mind, because Buffalo Bills beat writer Joe Buscaglia also tweeted his agreement with Weidl that Hayden is a real sleeper.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.