2014 Pro Days: Michigan State CB Dennard shows explosiveness

Darqueze Dennard again shows an NFL-ready set of skills. (USATSI)
Darqueze Dennard again shows an NFL-ready set of skills. (USATSI)

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Darqueze Dennard cannot beat Justin Gilbert in a footrace, but he is closer to the total package as an NFL cornerback than Oklahoma State's flashy and fast cover man.

Dennard starred at Michigan State as a lockdown cornerback. He is knocked for what scouts term "tight hips" and ankles, which limit his suddeness and agility, especially when turning to run and accelerate at the top of a route. In scouting terms, he is not a twitchy athlete. Gilbert could define that term. He has straight-line speed to spare -- witness his 4.37 TV time at the NFL Scouting Combine -- and moves with ease in all directions despite very good size.

Dennard is nicked for being too grabby in the man-press scheme he starred in at Michigan State. But he is a rare commodity for NFL scouts -- a ready-made cover man with proven ability in this type of bump coverage.

Tuesday, Dennard added to his resume with a workout that displayed he has more than adequate short-area explosiveness.

Dennard led all Spartans with a 36-inch vertical -- Gilbert went 35 1/2 at the combine -- and his broad jump was 11-2 (Gilbert went 10-5 in Indianapolis). Only Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk had a broad jump of 11-2 of all players tested at the event.

Fit is of dire importance for Dennard, who needs to be in a scheme that emphasizes his physical brand of football and downplays the kind of freelancing that some scouts believe makes Gilbert more of a boom-or-bust prospect.

He could come off the board in the top 10 but isn't likely to slide below the middle of the round. Chicago -- especially if the Bears lose Pro Bowl veteran Charles Tillman in free agency -- could be a fit at No. 14. There might be no better match than the Pittsbugh Steelers at 15. Head coach Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert represented the team in East Lansing Tuesday.

The Steelers are in need of young playmakers on defense -- especially those that come at a relatively cheap cost.

It could be hauntingly similar to 2007 for the Steelers, when Darrelle Revis went 14th to the New York Jets and Pittsburgh drafted linebacker Lawrence Timmons 15th.

Here's a tale of the tape for consideration:

Darrelle Revis (2007, 14): 6-0, 204, 4.35 (fastest verified time), 10-5 broad, 38-inch VJ
Patrick Peterson (2011, 5th pick): 6-0, 219, 4.31 (fastest verified), 10-6 broad, 36-inch VJ 
Stephon Gilmore (2012, 10): 6-1, 190, 4.38 (fastest verified), 10-3 broad, 36-inch VJ
Darqueze Dennard (2014): 5-11, 199, 4.38 (fastest verified), 11-2 broad, 36-inch VJ

Follow Jeff Reynolds on Twitter @ReynoldsJD
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