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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: EDGE Daelin Hayes

  • The Draft Network
  • January 8, 2021
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EDGE defender Daelin Hayes projects as a hybrid pass rusher in the NFL. The Irish used him frequently in 2020 to stack in a two-point stance and attack the LOS from tight alignments. He did well there, too—Hayes nearly equaled his career-high for a single season with six tackles for loss and tied his career-high with three sacks on the year. Hayes appeared slimmed down in 2020 and was listed at 258 pounds, which allowed him to play with some nice fluidity and smoothness to go along with his length and heavy hands on the edge. Hayes will draw plenty of appeal for his build—he’s ready to step in and contend at the point of attack and his ability to reset blockers and collapse to generate some creases in protection will afford him the chance to serve as a valuable role player in the NFL. Hayes’ ceiling, without further fundamental development, is an early-down defender on the LOS who would need several other prominent pieces in an attack style defense to afford him on-vs-ones and wins as a pass rusher with any level of consistency. That said, he’s got a clear role to play and could start in the right environment.

Ideal Role: SAM linebacker.

Scheme Fit: 4-3 under front.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Louisville (2019), Georgia (2019), Georgia Tech (2020), Florida State (2020), Clemson (2020), Alabama (2020)

Best Game Studied: Georgia Tech (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Georgia (2019)

First-Step Explosiveness: There is some fair burst here. I didn’t see a great deal of consistency winning off the edge, but then again Hayes was more often than not aligned tight to the set and was often charged with crashing down into the B-gap for stunt games. He’s capable of releasing effectively from a two-point stance, but he’s also a little bouncy in his stance and would benefit from getting a little extra of his cleats into the turf to help his initial drive. 

Flexibility: This is a tight-alignment defender, but Hayes shows modest ability to open himself or flatten to carry speed through the corner. He leverages well with good hip and knee bend in block fits and plays low in linear fits. He’s not, however, going to dip the inside shoulder week in and week out and speed rush to finish against NFL competition. 

Hand Counters: I do ideally wish he had a little bit more creativity here. There’s something to work with—he’s got the length and hands to jolt pads, but he hasn’t really uncovered the nuances of dropping hands off his frame and he’s pretty reliant on gap exchanges with teammates to create penetration. He’s better in the run game to stack blocks and subsequently discard blockers to continue into pursuit. 

Length: He will check boxes here for NFL teams looking to identify players to work on the fringe. He does have a significant strike zone to punch and set first contact and he’s also got the needed separation skills to bench press his frame clear and get off the block. 

Hand Power: There’s some really nice pop here. As if he were taking on the blocking pads, Hayes shows jolt to disrupt the pads of blockers and wins leverage and prime real estate with his efforts here. He’s not quite as authoritative when looking to bull rush or convert speed to power, which limits his capacity to reduce angles and soften his pathway to the quarterback. 

Run Defending: I like what he’s got going here. Hand power is good, length is where you’d expect it, and he does well to feel and diagnose blocks and resist against the flow and leverage of the play. He hasn’t necessarily had a great deal of production as a tackler, but he is a key piece of the unit’s fit and does well to turn plays back inside when they test running at him. 

Effort: He’s been a part of an Irish rotation of edge defenders and is always fresh when he’s on the field. If action carries away from him, he will do well to trail the play and look for cheap cleanups. He was asked to undergo a lot of “dirty work” reps and had little issue with bringing his best effort to crease creases for loopers in the pass game. 

Football IQ: Hayes showcases needed diagnosis of the play and appears to be uncovering some new avenues for himself with the shedded weight—but more two-point game and work in space is going to require some patience and development and Hayes is also fairly straightforward as a pass rusher. Don’t be surprised if he needs an incubation period. However, Hayes ultimately feels to have an untapped ceiling lying ahead of him. 

Lateral Mobility: Hayes moved a little better in space this season than I’d previously noted. He’s still not overly sudden and this isn’t a hallmark trait that he’ll hang his hat on, but he can flash on the edge if tested by zone read to force a decision and still challenge the play. He claimed victories shooting across the face of tackles in stunt game and successfully jumped down into the B-gap. 

Versatility: There were some flashes of him dropping off the LOS in jam situations against tight ends—he may be able to give you a little something here if you’re playing base defense. To say that with confidence, I’d want to see him stay in the 250s—he was listed 10 pounds heavier on the 2019 roster. I like where he’s trending with the leaner frame; it may be the key to a higher ceiling in the pros. 

Prospect Comparison: Uchenna Nwosu (2018 NFL Draft, Los Angeles Chargers)


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Kyle Crabbs: 72.5/100

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