Dec 7, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerback Darqueze Dennard (31) breaks up a pass intended for Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Devin Smith (9) during the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions 2014 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Darqueze Dennard


The SideLion NFL Draft Prospect Profile series gives an in-depth scouting analysis of college football players who could be on the Lions’ radar this spring.

Many of the early mock drafts have the Lions selecting Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert. However, if the Lions are targeting a cornerback early, they need only look 90 miles west to find a quality first round corner. Michigan State’s own Darqueze Dennard has the skill set to shut down an opponent’s top receiver. The 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner is arguably the best pure cover corner in the draft.

After viewing four games (Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State and Stanford), I gave Dennard a 7.5 grade (mid first round). Here’s an excerpt from his scouting report:

Darqueze Dennard – Cornerback

Height: 5112e   Weight: 197e   40 Time: 4.52e

NFL Comparison: Brandon Flowers, Kansas City Chiefs

Strong Points:
Adequate height and bulk. Quick twitch athlete; flips hips with ease. Physical at the LOS. Sticky in coverage; has the quick feet to mirror receivers all over the field. Keys and diagnoses quickly with good route recognition skills. Outstanding in run support. Solid tackler. Extremely competitive – never gives up on the play.

Weaknesses:
Lacks prototypical size. Grabby downfield; draws a lot of penalties. Lacks elite recovery speed; can be beat by speed. Ball skills need improvement.

Summary:
Dennard, the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award Winner and First Team All American, is arguably the best pure Press Man cover corner in the nation. A three-year starter who finished his career with 167 tackles, 20 pass break-ups and 10 interceptions in 44 career games, Dennard has the necessary skill set to play on an island at the next level. He excels pressing the LOS where he combines quick twitch athleticism with aggressive hand contact to re-route and mirror receivers off their release. Though he lacks elite recovery speed, he utilizes active hands and quick feet to stay in a receiver’s hip pocket and shut down his side of the field. Certainly there are areas for improvement. Dennard will need to learn to play clean outside the five yard contact zone or he will be penalized excessively at the next level. He also needs to do a better job of getting his head around to play the ball downfield as he leaves turnovers on the field he should make. Still, his cover skills, outstanding run support and highly competitive play make him a well-rounded prospect who can start early. Mid first round “high floor, low ceiling” pick with the skill set to excel in a predominantly Press Man scheme and consistently shut down an opponent’s number one receiver.

Ultimately, Dennard has to answer questions regarding his speed, so how he times in the 40 will go a long way toward determining his draft status. Regardless, teams employing a heavy press man scheme will have him ranked high on their draft boards, and the margin for error is low for a highly competitive player like Dennard.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Combine Brandon Flowers Cornerback Darqueze Dennard Detroit Lions Michigan State Spartans NFL Draft

  • HDinHD916

    agreed – Dennard’s 40 time at the combine is going to be the key to this pick.

  • William Rhoads

    I agree and his grabby is going to draw a lot flags I like the kid Gilbert better!

  • RTeed28

    Dennard should be our pick, no question.

  • William Rhoads

    The NFL draft is the one that said what is his weakness our! To me Gilbert is smoother and taller and is more your NFL caliber! personally I would rather take Watkins for our first rounder he is the best all around player in the draft !

    • calvinfan33

      I completely agree. Sammy Watkins is the best bet for the Lions in the first round.

      • Ackerman

        Agree with both of you. If Sammy falls he should be the pick.

  • OneHalfBuBang

    There’s no doubt that Dennard is a shutdown corner and the Lions would be smart to get him.