Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard is a difficult player to assess when it comes to evaluations for the 2014 NFL Draft. He’s right up there with Florida‘s Loucheiz Purifoy in terms of being the corner with the best raw skills in this year’s draft class; however, like Purifoy, Dennard has a few pronounced weaknesses which could prevent him from being taken in the first round.
The positives in Dennard’s game lie in his athleticism and coverage ability. He’s very fast on the field and doesn’t seem to get tired, often sticking to receivers on routes 50 to 60 yards down field. He can change directions quickly and has enough quickness to one day be a dominant run defender. And his muscular build enables him to get very physical at times and knock offensive players around.
With that said, Dennard still has a lot of work to do before he has a chance to be among the NFL’s elite cornerbacks. His biggest weakness at this point is his poor tackling ability. While Dennard is great at getting himself in position to make plays, whether it be taking down receivers, coming up the field to defend the run or blitzing, he often fails to finish off the play because he can’t make the tackle. He tends to dive for feet and ankles, and many times he gets shook off. While this has hurt him during his college career, it will be much worse for him if he doesn’t do anything about it as a pro, since his opponents will be even more athletic.
Another thing Dennard needs to work on is giving a consistently good effort. At some points, it seems as if he gets distracted and goes nowhere near full speed while covering a receiver. Also, his physicality varies greatly from game to game, spanning from none at all to too much. Sometimes, he will be so stand-offish that he fails to make plays, and then in other games, he doesn’t seem to know how to control himself and becomes very undisciplined in coverage.
If Dennard can receive good coaching at the NFL level, he should be able to be a very effective starting cornerback. While it’s alarming that he is a senior and still has significant flaws in his game, he has unlimited potential if he’s developed in the right manner.
- Enough speed and agility that he can break off the receiver he’s covering and make an impact on run plays
- Respected in coverage; teams don’t throw his way much
- Good size for a cornerback
- Has the endurance and speed to stick with receivers far down field
- Is a ballhawk; four interceptions during 2013 and has a talent for stripping the ball away from defenders
- Generally effective in press coverage
- Very good change of direction skills
- Good at blitzing off the edge
- Experience playing on both left and right sides
- Poor tackling form
- Somewhat undisciplined in coverage, draws too many pass interference calls
- Effort seems to be inconsistent
- Doesn’t always exert himself physically
Dennard was a huge part of a Spartans’ defense that was dominant in 2013 and was the country’s fourth-best in total yards allowed. Michigan State’s pass defense allowed an average of just 10.72 yards per pass play, a huge part of which was Dennard being able to shut down one side of the field. He was also impressive as a playmaker, notching four total interceptions. He’ll have one final opportunity to showcase himself in the Rose Bowl versus Stanford on Jan. 1.
2014 Draft Projection: Second Round