Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, NFLDraftScout.com's top-ranked cornerback, posted a surprising 4.42, likely cementing a spot in the top 15 in Tuesday's mornings defensive back workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Dennard's game tape was enough to win over coaches and evaluators. The blazing unofficial time to open the final days of workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium pushes him over the top.
Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert (4.35 unofficially) will battle to be the first cornerback off the board, but scouts aren't all convinced Gilbert's athleticism translates to the field. Undoubtedly he's the most naturally gifted athlete. He had seven interceptions last season and with his size (6-0, 202) and arms, projects as a No. 1 cornerback.
It was thought Dennard's time might be closer to Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden at 4.6 -- that didn't disqualify Haden from being a first-round pick. It turns out he is closer to Dee Milliner's test results. Milliner, the top-ranked cornerback out of Alabama in 2013, was 13th overall after posting two stunning unofficial times under 4.4 (4.31, 4.37).
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (4.52 unofficial) also confirmed NFLDraftScout.com's evaluation as the top-ranked safety in the class. Louisville's Calvin Pryor works out Tuesday afternoon in the second DB group.
Dennard was Mr. Consistency for the Spartans, and he plays with the pure dynamism and animated, infectious spirit coaches and teammates appreciate and admire. Other than perhaps wildcard Virginia Tech corner Kyle Fuller (who timed unofficially in a surprising 4.4 flat), Dennard is the best football player -- instincts, awareness and intelligence -- at the position.
"I think he's a pretty good corner," said Ohio State's Bradley Roby.
Dennard needs an ideal scheme fit, a team that presses at the line to physically jam and re-route receivers, or his shot at stardom is nil. He is not a superb or rare athlete and could be overlooked. There are also questions about durability including shoulder and head injuries.