Former Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was set to be a first or second round draft pick in the 2012 NFL Draft before being arrested for assaulting a police officer just five days before the draft. Because of that incident which if convicted could hold a five year prison sentence, Dennard wasn’t selected until the seventh round by the New England Patriots. Dennard pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in May then waived his right to a speedy trial. Being granted a continuance, the trial is now set to begin in December.
Without a potential prison sentence, Dennard has the ability to become a star cornerback in the NFL which is something the Patriots could desperately use. However, with the trial hanging over him for nearly the entire season and starting before the end of the season, it is likely to wear on the 22-year old hindering his development during his rookie season.
In 2011 the Patriots had the worst defensive secondary in the NFL. In addition to that, Ras-I Dowling is coming off an injury which saw him miss almost the entirety of his rookie season and pro bowl corner Devin McCourty is also coming off an injury suffered late in the season. Dowling and McCourty were selected by the Patriots in an attempt to rebuild a hurting defense through the NFL draft. Dennard was drafted for the same reason and this latest development may be a severe setback.
Generally a seventh round pick wouldn’t be this concerning but Dennard is a high-risk, high-reward draft pick. If he reaches his potential he could be become one of the top corners in the league but if he is found guilty of this crime, he could end up spending five years in prison and his career would be effectively over. That would mean a lost pick for the Patriots and a stall in their rebuilding process.
Many thought the Patriots would take one of the top cornerback prospects with one of their two first round picks but instead the team chose a defensive end and linebacker. They did take two other defensive backs but neither are expected to reach the potential Dennard could’ve without the assault charge.
There’s no guarantee that the impending trial will affect the rookie at all but that’s unlikely. While some NFL players become used to arrests and trials, this is Dennard’s first offense which tarnishes an otherwise unblemished reputation. The possibility of a five-year prison sentence will weigh on the young player throughout his rookie season. Time will tell if he will progress the way the Patriots hope but this newest development will cause problems for the Patriots secondary this coming season.