The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are no strangers to producing defensive talent. This year, they field a defensive graduating class led by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, but he’s not the only one with NFL aspirations. Notre Dame edge rusher Daelin Hayes is another NFL Draft prospect with intriguing potential. What does his profile look like, and where might he go in the NFL Draft?
Daelin Hayes NFL Draft Profile
- Position: EDGE
- School: Notre Dame
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’3 1/2″
- Weight: 253 pounds
- Wingspan: 80 1/4″
- Arm: 32″
- Hand: 9 1/2″
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Tony Pauline’s Daelin Hayes Scouting Report
Positives: Athletic, explosive defender who can be used at end, standing over tackle, or even inside on passing downs. Agile, fires off the snap, and quickly changes direction or alters his angle of attack. Plays with excellent lean as well as leverage, effectively uses his hands to protect himself, and knocks blockers back with a violent punch.
Occasionally stands over tackle, displays good speed off the edge, and quickly closes to the action. Remains disciplined with assignments and does more than just pin his ears back and rush up the field.
Negatives: Lacks great bulk and gets out-positioned from the action on occasion. Easily ridden from his angle of attack on occasion.
Analysis: Hayes was a terrific defender for Notre Dame who led by example and was only slowed by injury during the middle part of his career. He’s tough, instinctive, and comes with growth potential as well as versatility. I prefer Hayes to line up in a four-man line, but his athleticism and pass-rush skill make it so that he could stand over tackles on occasion.
Daelin Hayes Player Profile
Daelin Hayes passed the talent test in high school. A four-star recruit originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hayes was a widely coveted defensive end prospect. He was a 6-foot-1, 189-pound outside linebacker earlier in his high school career, but Hayes grew abruptly and added weight to his frame through tireless work. By his freshman year in college, he was 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.
Hayes had offers from over two dozen schools heading into college. Teams like Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, Michigan, and USC all put in claims to acquire Hayes’ services. However, Hayes chose a different team. He chose to suit up with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, where he intended to further his career on and off the field.
Daelin Hayes’ career as a Notre Dame edge rusher
Interestingly enough, Hayes never quite broke out at the college football level. After his freshman season, he was a solid rotational piece for the Fighting Irish. However, even when he was a full-time starter, he didn’t consistently produce along the edge.
In 2017, his sophomore season, Hayes started 12 of 13 possible games. He only logged 3.0 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 30 total tackles across those games. In 2018, he moved back to a rotational role and accumulated 2.0 sacks and 5.0 tackles for loss. 2019 presented a potential breakout opportunity for Hayes, as he logged a sack and 3.0 tackles for loss in his first three games.
However, a season-ending shoulder injury prevented Hayes from taking advantage.
Hayes’ graduate senior season in Notre Dame
While rehabbing from his injury, Hayes graduated from Notre Dame. After that, he was able to devote his full attention to being the best player and leader he could be. Losing his 2019 season was unfortunate, but Hayes came back stronger and managed to help Notre Dame reach the CFB Playoffs in 2020. Along the way, Hayes amassed 17 total tackles, 3.0 sacks, 6.0 tackles for loss, an interception, a pass deflection, and 2 forced fumbles.
It wasn’t the explosive end to his college career he might’ve hoped for as a rising star in high school. Yet, you won’t hear Hayes being anything other than thankful for his time in South Bend. On January 6, Hayes officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. He also managed to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl.
Analyzing Daelin Hayes’ NFL Draft profile
Daelin Hayes certainly looks the part as an edge rusher. He stands around 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 and has an extremely dense, thick frame. At 270 pounds, Hayes isn’t thrown around easily, and he has fairly good play strength. It’s worth noting that he only weighed 253 pounds at his pro day, but that may have been done to boost his other testing numbers.
Athletically, there are exciting flashes with Hayes. He’s not overly explosive, but even at his normal playing weight, he brings good energy off the line. There are also occasionally decent glimpses of bend with Hayes.
He doesn’t have otherworldly ankle flexion like pass rush specialists of the past, but he can effectively reduce his surface area as he pinches the corner. He can also couple hand punches with these motions, and he has the awareness to attack different rushing lanes based on where the quarterback is.
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Nevertheless, at this point, Hayes is more effective as a run defender. Here, his serviceable length allows him to establish an anchor against offensive linemen, and he has the strength to break free and make plays when necessary. When Hayes is unblocked, he knows how to cover ground efficiently in pursuit, and the Notre Dame EDGE also has the lateral quickness to evade lone blockers.
Where does Hayes fall short?
Even after his pro day, there’s a considerable amount of ambiguity regarding Hayes’ profile. He tested well, with a 4.75 40-yard dash, a 32.5–inch vertical, a 119-inch broad jump, and 26 bench reps. Those athletic thresholds were clear at times on tape.
Hayes doesn’t often show explosiveness, but every so often, he’ll hurdle a lurching running back, displaying tremendous explosive capacity. He doesn’t often show bend, but there are plays where he can lower his center of gravity and undercut the lineman’s reaching arms.
One negative that is fairly conclusive, however, pertains to Hayes’ speed. He’s not much of a speed threat. Even on his more explosive reps, he often wins with tenacious hand technique and not with consistent speed around the edge. His 4.75 mirrors that. It’s a decent score, but he’s not a pure speed rusher.
Without overwhelming length, bend, or explosiveness, this puts a relatively low cap on Hayes’ pass rushing upside. Unless he can glean more explosiveness with an NFL workout regimen, he may be limited at the next level.
Daelin Hayes’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Hayes’ lack of consistency with his traits is confusing because, by all accounts, he’s a warrior in the weight room. Even beyond that, the Notre Dame EDGE is a stellar team leader. He was voted team captain in 2020, and he also became active in his community. Toward the end of his career, he won the Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award, and he was also a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year.
Hayes is a high-character player who also brings some physical upside with his size and flashes of athleticism. Those flashes aren’t consistent enough to bank on his ability early, however, and his lack of production also hurts his profile.
For now, Hayes is a Day 3 prospect. He doesn’t have the ideal explosiveness or bend for a 3-4 outside linebacker role, and while his size better meshes in a 4-3, he’s not a menace as a pass rusher. He also appears too lean to add weight and transition to a 3-4 defensive end role.
Teams that can assist Hayes in reaching his ceiling
As of now, the Notre Dame EDGE looks like a 4-3 defensive end. The 2021 offseason was a successful endeavor for Hayes, who played well at the Senior Bowl and tested reasonably well. But for now, Hayes is still mainly a good depth piece with leadership ability and strength.
Any teams that need rotational utility at defensive end could pursue Hayes on Day 3. Those teams might include the Jets, Bills, Raiders, and Falcons, but Hayes is a safe mid-to-late-round selection wherever he goes.
Once a four-star recruit, Hayes is now entering the NFL on a note of uncertainty. But with his talent and work ethic, it’s feasible that he could carve out a long NFL career. He might not ever be a consistent starter, but Hayes is the kind of athlete who can last a long time as a valuable culture piece and a strong rotational contributor. And if he can unlock more of his athleticism, he could transcend that ceiling.
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