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Position switch could pay off big for Florida CB Joe Haden
Updated 3/3/2010 12:15 PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS — Joe Haden could well be the first cornerback selected in the 2010 draft.

But the former Florida All-America couldn't even get on the field for the Gators until he switched positions —twice.

"When I first got to Florida I had a little dream: I was going to play quarterback," Haden said at the NFL scouting combine. "But they had somebody named (Tim) Tebow there, so that kind of went out the window. Then I changed to receiver, and I was second-string behind Percy (Harvin). I just couldn't get right."

PHOTO GALLERY: NFL scouting combine TOP 64 PROSPECTS: Where does Haden rank?

Unable to dislodge Harvin, who went on to become the 2009 NFL offensive rookie of the year for the Minnesota Vikings, and Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, Haden abandoned offense at the suggestion of Florida coach Urban Meyer.

Smart move.

Haden, who entered the draft following his junior season, is ranked the top corner by NFLDraftScout.com, USA TODAY's scouting service, NFL.com and ESPN. He intercepted four passes in 2009, and his offensive background makes him a dangerous playmaker when he gets his hands on the ball.

"He has it all: smooth, fluid, athletic playmaker, can cover, comes up and hits — is as polished as you're gonna see for a college kid coming out," says NFL Network analyst and former NFL defensive back Bucky Brooks. "If I had to make a comparison —Dunta Robinson."

Not bad for a guy who passed for more yards than anyone in Maryland history while playing at Friendly High School in Fort Washington. Haden had never played corner prior to arriving in Gainesville after being recruited as a quarterback by several elite college programs.

"At first I just wanted to play," Haden said. "I came in spring, so I had a lot of time to adjust."

More than enough time apparently because Haden started immediately. And not only was his transition to the new position smooth, he also willingly embraced the defensive mentality.

"I was always a hitter," he said. "When I played Little League I was a linebacker. When I got to high school I (also) played safety.

"I liked to hit a lot."

But Haden also realizes he's not a finished product and knows his future employer will not only get a good player but one with untapped potential.

"I haven't nearly reached my peak at all," says the first player to ever start at cornerback for Florida as a true freshman.

"I just feel like whatever team I go to, they're going to get a person they can mold into a way better corner than I was in college. I've been doing this for three years and I feel like I'm getting pretty good at it. But I want to learn more."

He picked up plenty while locking up in practice with Harvin, the best receiver Haden said he ever faced in college.

Now he faces the big expectations that come with being a Top-10 pick in mock drafts.

"You can't help but look at the draft boards, they're everywhere," Haden admits.

"At the end of the day, it's up to the coaches. My boys Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (of ESPN), I wish they could pick because they've got me up there."

Posted 3/1/2010 7:30 PM ET
Updated 3/3/2010 12:15 PM ET
Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden could be the first defensive back selected in April's NFL draft.
By Paul Abell, US Presswire
Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden could be the first defensive back selected in April's NFL draft.