In every professional sport, there’s always a group of players who are widely viewed as the "best of the best" by fans, opposing players and coaches.
Those groups obviously change a lot as guys get older and their play declines, or other guys pass them up by simply just being better. It’s always been that way and it’ll never change.
CB Casey Hayward was without a doubt the best player on this Chargers defense not named Joey Bosa this past season. He was also clearly one of the best at his position. Here’s a short look on how Hayward fared in 2016:
- 2nd team All-Pro
- League-leader in interceptions (7)
- 3rd in NFL in passes broken up
- 2017 Pro Bowl
Also, according to Pro Football Focus, Hayward finished 2nd only to Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson in number of coverage snaps defending the opposing team’s number one receiver.
When Chargers CB Jason Verrett went down with a season-ending ACL injury, Hayward was pushed into the CB1 role. After playing in the slot for a good part of his career, he held his own all year long. Some of his best performances came against top competition:
- Week 6 vs Denver: Demariyus Thomas - 5 receptions, 35 yards, 0TDs.
- Week 12 @ Houston: DeAndre Hopkins - 5 receptions, 70 yards, 0TDs.
- Week 13 vs Tampa Bay: Mike Evans - 3 receptions, 38 yards, 0TDs.
- Week 14 @ Carolina: Kelvin Benjamin - 1 reception, 11 yards, 0TDs.
- Week 15 @ Cleveland: Terrelle Pryor - 3 receptions, 36 yards, 0TDS.
My question for you is, was this season enough proof for you to put Hayward in the elite category?
Make no mistake about it, Hayward played better than we all would’ve expected. I think his 2016 performance is definitely sustainable, and we’ll see more of that in 2017. On the other hand, we’ve seen guys come in and play well for one season and then it was all downhill from there.
So, how do you feel about it? Let us know in the comments below..