Daelin Hayes Establishing Himself As A Legit NFL Target

Bryan Driskell

Notre Dame had a dominant one-two punch in the starting lineup at defensive end the last two seasons, and both Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem ended up being drafted following the conclusion of their Fighting Irish careers.

Part of what made the Notre Dame line so good in recent seasons wasn’t just their talent and production, it was the depth the Irish possessed up front. That has been made clear in 2020 as Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji have stepped into the lineup and the Irish haven’t missed a beat.

Now it is Ogundeji and Hayes who are making a climb up NFL Draft boards, and if they continue the strong play we saw from them in the opener against Duke both will be top edge targets.

Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy is high on both players. He is extremely high on Ogundeji, and you can read his thoughts about the Irish strong side end HERE. Nagy also loves what he sees from Hayes, a former five-star recruit that is looking to end his career on a very high note.

“What Daelin showed in the Duke game with his ability to drop is he’s opening himself up to all 32 [NFL] teams,” Nagy explained. “3-4 teams are going to see him as a jumbo 3-4 outside linebacker. He can do enough standing up on his feet that you can project him to do that.”

Hayes plays the Vyper end position in the Notre Dame defense, which in many respects is more of a 3-4 type position than it is a true four-down player. The Vyper rarely puts his hand in the ground, and Hayes puts his hand in the dirt even less than we saw from Okwara in past seasons. While Okwara was a dominant pass rusher, Hayes has a more well-rounded game.

“He can drop into that curl-flat zone, definitely athletic enough to do that,” Nagy stated. “As an edge setter he’s got those heavy hands; he was borderline abusive against those Duke tackles. He’s got legit knock back at the point of attack, which a lot of guys don’t have.”

Hayes ability to make plays in the pass game and be a stout edge defender has always been a part of his game. He has a unique body/skill combination in that he’s 270 pounds, but athletic enough to drop into coverage effectively. It is that combination, and an improving pass rush, that makes him such an attractive 3-4 outside linebacker at the next level.

“He’s got the ability to sink and play with leverage on the edge, he has pass rush ability,”Nagy said of the Michigan native. “He’s a guy you’re going to want on third down because you don’t know if he’s dropping or coming.”

Hayes was playing at a very high level early in 2019, but a shoulder injury cost him the final nine games and earned him an extra year of eligibility. Nagy liked what he saw from the Irish veteran early last season, and that has continued into the early portion of the 2020 season.

“I thought in his opportunities last year he was disruptive,” Nagy said of his 2019 evaluation of Hayes. “You can’t always look at sacks, that’s not the end all be all when it comes to rushing the passer. It’s how you effect the pocket and make the quarterback move.

“I thought last year he did a good job of that and he continued it against Duke,” continued Nagy. “They knocked Chase Brice around … they beat him around pretty good.”

The combination of Hayes and Ogundeji has Notre Dame poised for another big year on the edge.

“They’re tough, when you’ve got both those guys coming off the edge and they both have power, they are going to be a lot to handle for a lot of teams this year.”


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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Not quite the 2nd team All-American type of stuff through 2 games, but he’s been exactly what I expected. Solid leader of the DL group. I never thought he’d get enough snaps to make enough “big plays” to garner that kind of preseason praise. Having a plethora of riches at DE helps with keeping him fresh though so I’ll take it. I think the medical at the combine will be huge for his NFL aspirations.