General manager Ray Farmer may swing for the fences with one of his first round picks but expect the other to be a safer selection. Dennard lacks top-notch athleticism but he's physical, alert and poised when the ball is in the air, making an ideal complement to standout Joe Haden.
Most see wide receiver with this pick and I think it's a strong possibility, but so is cornerback, despite New York drafting Dee Milliner first round last year. Dennard fits the Jets scheme and should be able to start from day one.
The Steelers have many needs but if Dennard falls this far, one of the biggest needs is resolved. Rookies don't usually start in Pittsburgh but this guy will and he'll be there for a long time. For those who think the Steelers take a wide receiver in this spot, wait a round or two.
STRENGTHS: Well-built for the position with broad shoulders, long arms and good overall musculature. Confident, physical defender on the perimeter at his best providing man to man coverage and when attacking in run support. Doesn't extend an arm in press coverage, instead quickly turning to run with receivers, demonstrating the fluid hips and acceleration. Leans into receivers and uses the sideline to help narrow the space in which quarterbacks can attack. Good patience and body control to adjust when the ball is thrown. Doesn't panic, instead reaching to rip the ball away as the receiver attempts to catch it. Good ball skills. Locates the football and shows the hand-eye coordination to pluck it outside of his frame. Very good awareness and competitive spirit against the run. Fights through blocks and will take out the knees of oncoming blockers if necessary to leave teammates in position to make the splashy play. Physical and reliable open-field tackler who wraps his arms to secure the stop.
WEAKNESSES: Is a good, not great athlete. Wasn't challenged by many top-flight offenses this season and played behind a very physical front which limited how often quarterbacks could attack him deep. Some question about his straight-line speed, though he plays fast due to his fluidity. Extends his arms slightly as he runs with receivers, which could draw holding penalties.
COMPARES TO: Keenan Lewis, New Orleans Saints - The expectations of rookie cornerbacks are often unrealistic. Dennard isn't the second coming of Deion Sanders, boasting the elite agility and speed to singlehandedly shut down half of the field. He's a steady, competitive defender who will provide gritty, physical play on the perimeter, projecting as a quality starter for years to come.
As the first consensus All-American and Thorpe Award winner in school history, Dennard personified Michigan State's rise as Rose Bowl champions over the 2013-14 season.
The three-year starter enjoyed his finest season, allowing just three receptions (on 31 attempts) of 15 yards or more to be completed on him all year long, while recording 14 pass broken up, including four interceptions. These numbers are similar to the production he enjoyed in 2012 (10 PBUs, three interceptions), speaking to the consistency with which he's become so highly regarded by NFL scouts.
Perhaps most impressive is that Dennard's competitiveness extends to the running game. In an era of cover corners, Dennard plays with reckless abandon, taking on would-be blockers and filling in admirably in run support.
04/21/2014 - 2014 NFL Draft Defensive Backs: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State, 5-11, 199, 4.51...After injury-marred 2012 season, Dennard exploded in 2013 to demoralize several offenses and win numerous awards, including the Jim Thorpe, Tatum-Woodson, and first-team All-America. Tough, plays with pain, but history of injuries dating back to 2010 could concern teams (sports hernia required two surgeries, shoulder, ankle, knee). Prepares hard, plays harder and excels at press-and-run. Although his announced 40-yard time at combine was 4.51 seconds, he had four clockings there between 4.41 and 4.42, which is a bit more comforting to scouts who dwell on such things. Frankly: Dennard has the talent, attitude and short memory needed to survive in NFL, but may need to be more sly when man-handling receivers. - Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange