In the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft the New England Patriots selected Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard with the 224th overall pick. In 2010, Dennard complemented former Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara. During the 2010 season, there was one game where the Cornhuskers’ cornerback tandem caused former Washington quarterback Jake Locker to struggle immensely. Locker went 4 for 20 versus Nebraska before getting revenge on the Cornhuskers in the 2010 Holiday Bowl.
In 2011, Dennard became the featured cornerback that quarterbacks would throw away from, thanks to the departure of Amukamara. Amukamara struggled for the New York Giants as a rookie due to a broken foot during one of the Giants’ first team practice sessions.
Dennard, once a first round prospect, slipped to the seventh round because he was arrested for assaulting a police officer. Karma came back to haunt Dennard, thanks to his poor choices off of the gridiron. One player who saw karma work heavily in his favor was West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin. Many pegged Irvin as an undrafted prospect after he committed destruction of property. Irvin still went 15th overall to the Seattle Seahawks.
In 2010, Dennard recorded four interceptions, seven pass breakups and 30 tackles. Quarterbacks only completed 49 percent of their passes against Nebraska in 2010. One area where Dennard struggled in 2010 was zone coverage.
In 2011, Dennard remained dominant in man and press coverage; he held Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt in check.
The 2011 season ended on a low note for Dennard. South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery owned Dennard in the 2012 Capital One Bowl. Jeffery scored a touchdown on a Hail Mary pass against Nebraska by torching Dennard in coverage. Both Dennard and Jeffery got ejected from the Capital One Bowl after a fight broke out between the two players.
Dennard’s struggles would continue during the 2012 Senior Bowl. Many wide receivers down in Mobile, AL managed to pick apart Dennard with relative ease. Coaches had a hard time viewing Dennard as a first-round pick after he struggled in Mobile.
I love the value of Dennard going to the Patriots in the 7th round. Dennard is a pure man coverage corner that can press, too. The Patriots coaching staff will improve his zone coverage ability. I mocked Dennard to the Patriots at the end of the second round in my final seven-round mock draft. To get Dennard this late on draft day really speaks volumes about what a steal the Patriots got in terms of overall talent.
If Dennard stays out of trouble this is hands down the Patriots’ best late-round gem since drafting Michigan quarterback Tom Brady back in 2000 with the 199th overall pick. Will Dennard have a Brady- like impact? Probably not; one thing Dennard will do is provide stability on the secondary next to cornerback Devin McCourty that the Patriots desperately need.
The Patriots are getting an A+ grade for taking Dennard. Taking Dennard was the one big thing the Patriots organization did to save face after reaching for NFL prospects on multiple occasions in the 2012 NFL Draft.