The New York Jets are going to be continually linked to the top receivers in the draft, but there is a chance that those players won’t be available when the Jets pick, forcing them to go in a different direction. Also, the Jets figure to make a least one or two moves in free agency, potentially reducing the need at receiver. The secondary is the next area they will target, and after previously looking at the top two free safeties and top ranked corner Justin Gilbert, we now study Darqueze Dennard.
Dennard was a key member of Michigan State’s 3rd ranking scoring defense this season, recording four interceptions. Dennard had 10 career interceptions, despite teams often throwing away from him. Physically, Dennard is a pretty average NFL corner, checking in at 5’11”, 195 lbs with 4.5 speed (that is not even remotely a criticism, just a statement of fact). However, Dennard plays with an extremely physical style that will make him appealing to many teams, including Rex Ryan and the Jets.
The Jets rely heavily on press man coverage, which is Dennard’s specialty. He is very comfortable getting in a receiver’s face and using his hands, and he has fluid hips to turn and run. Dennard has good instincts and hands, allowing him to make plays on the ball. He is also a solid tackler who is willing to hit, not the most common trait among cornerbacks. Dennard would be a perfect fit for the Jets’ defensive scheme, and it would not surprise me if he is higher on their board than Gilbert.
Dennard has had some injury issues in the past, which is one of the key concerns about him. However, the Jets drafted another physical but injury prone corner in the first round last year in Dee Milliner, and he looks like he is going to turn out to be very good. However, the growing pains Milliner went through in the first 12 games may be a big reason the Jets shy away from taking another corner in the first. Starting two very young corners is a risky move, and the Jets may be better served looking for a veteran to start opposite Milliner (and that could be Antonio Cromartie).
Corner is one of the Jets’ biggest needs, and if they make a couple big moves in free agency at receiver they could be looking at a corner in the first round. If that scenario comes to pass, I believe that the Jets will be very high on Dennard, and he is a dark horse candidate to be their first round pick.