by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of Pitt Athletics.
The NFL Draft talk never ends, and we are here at Draft 412 in an effort to keep you ready for the next set of gridiron stars. From today until draft night 2024, we will bring you mocks, profiles, team needs, and everything else related to the 2024 NFL Draft.
Today’s Spotlight - Pittsburgh, Edge Rusher, Dayon Hayes
Name- Dayon Hayes
HT/WT- 6’3” 270 lbs.
Home – Pittsburgh, PA
Hayes was the Pittsburgh’s City League's most heralded recruit over the past two decades. While at Westinghouse, he received more than 25 scholarship offers, racking up 23.5 sacks as a senior and an astounding 49.5 sacks total over his last two seasons. He was named to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22, and was rated the #3 prospect in PA by Rivals his senior year. After sifting through all his offers Hayes decided to stay home and play for Pitt.
As a freshman in 2020, Hayes played a reserve role in 5 games but still managed 2.5 sacks in his limited time. In 2021, Hayes, still a reserve, played in all 14 games and had 2 sacks including a big one in the ACC Championship game against Wake Forest.
The 2022 season saw Hayes become a rotational player for the Panthers. He missed 4 games due to a knee injury, but still set career highs in sacks with 3.5. In November, Hayes was charged with simple assault, but the charges were later withdrawn.
Hayes, as an NFL prospect, has many scouts intrigued. He has the physical build and frame of an NFL edge rusher, and carries 270 lbs. like he is 240 lbs. He’s quick off the snap and uses his powerful hands to beat one-on-one attempts to block him. And for an athlete his size, he possesses near-elite pursuit speed, chasing down ball carriers from behind or sideline to sideline. Hayes has excellent body control and can play physically when needed.
On the downside, Hayes doesn't play as powerful as NFL teams may like or prefer, depending on his speed to win at the collegiate level. Before the 2024 draft, he will need to add to his weight and explosion, accomplishing this in the weight room. Mechanically, he will need to be more consistent with varying techniques, including the use of his hands. And though charges were withdrawn this past November, scouts will still circle this and question him during the combine interviews.
It is hard not to compare him to Calijah Kancey. Though Kancey is 10 lbs. heavier and 2 inches shorter, they both play relentlessly and quick off the snap, a staple of all recent Pitt defensive line prospects.
Athletic and flexible
Moves like a LB
Pitt has had a nice run of defensive linemen in the draft these past 10 years, including Aaron Donald, Patrick Jones II, Rashad Weaver and Calijah Kancey among others. Dayon Hayes has the ceiling and draft potential to be the next great Pitt lineman to go high in the draft, but if he doesn’t show marked improvement in 2023, he may find his way into a day three pick.
Prediction- 4th round, with the potential to rise if he has a strong 2023 performance.