NFL Draft: Rising, or Falling? - Darqueze Dennard

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
It's possible to argue that, save for the quarterbacks, there is a clear cut #1 at every position in this year's draft. However, throughout the pre-draft process, no position varies more than corner back. When trying to tab the best corner backs(CB) in the draft, there are multiple names which crop up in scouting circles. Justin Gilbert, Bradley Roby, and Darqueze Dennard are the most commonly mentioned. Like any draft prospect, they all have their own list of pros, cons, red flags, etc... But this year's class of CB-s seems to be coming down to the 'fit' with certain teams, as opposed to the talent level at the position.

The Rams have a well documented need for a CB, and I'm personally skeptical that Greg Reid will be able to play a prominent role in the coming season. That's not to say he won't be productive, but counting on Reid (who has essentially been out of football for two years) for significant production seems unwise. All things considered, signs point to the Rams adding a CB early in the draft this year. With that said, the question now becomes: Who is the best fit in G-Dubs hyper-aggressive defensive scheme?

If you watched Michigan State play last year, you were likely impressed by their defense. Dennard was one of the premier players - and a leader - on one of the NCAA's best and nastiest defenses. In many ways, this unit profiles the same way as the defense the Rams will field under Williams next season. Much like MSU, the Rams will be aggressive, shut down the run, and physically dominate their opponents. In that sense, Dennard would be comfortable in the role he would have to fill for the Rams. He would be in press coverage with an elite front 7 playing in front of him.

That's not to say he would be a perfect fit though. Many Rams fans will point to his injury history and question adding another injury-prone player. The Jerry Jones' of the world will point to him lacking an elite 40-yard dash time. While it is true that he didn't run a 4.37 like Justin Gilbert, Dennard's 4.51 is hardly considered slow. Rob Rang of CBS Sports offers up what amounts to a glowing review when profiling the MSU star corner back:

STRENGTHS: Well-built for the position with broad shoulders, long arms and good overall musculature. Confident, physical defender on the perimeter at his best providing man to man coverage and when attacking in run support. Doesn't extend an arm in press coverage, instead quickly turning to run with receivers, demonstrating the fluid hips and acceleration. Leans into receivers and uses the sideline to help narrow the space in which quarterbacks can attack. Good patience and body control to adjust when the ball is thrown. Doesn't panic, instead reaching to rip the ball away as the receiver attempts to catch it. Good ball skills. Locates the football and shows the hand-eye coordination to pluck it outside of his frame. Very good awareness and competitive spirit against the run. Fights through blocks and will take out the knees of oncoming blockers if necessary to leave teammates in position to make the splashy play. Physical and reliable open-field tackler who wraps his arms to secure the stop.

WEAKNESSES: Is a good, not great athlete. Wasn't challenged by many top-flight offenses this season and played behind a very physical front which limited how often quarterbacks could attack him deep. Some question about his straight-line speed, though he plays fast due to his fluidity. Extends his arms slightly as he runs with receivers, which could draw holding penalties.

COMPARES TO: Keenan Lewis, New Orleans Saints - The expectations of rookie cornerbacks are often unrealistic. Dennard isn't the second coming of Deion Sanders, boasting the elite agility and speed to singlehandedly shut down half of the field. He's a steady, competitive defender who will provide gritty, physical play on the perimeter, projecting as a quality starter for years to come.

--Rob Rang, CBS Sports
Reading into the scouting report a little deeper, it's easy to see why Dennard would be a good fit in Horns. He is a physical corner with good spatial awareness who doesn't panic (read: he's clutch). He may not be the fastest guy, but displays the ability to compensate with his technique. He plays the run well and is a good tackler in the secondary. I have no doubt that he would be an asset to the Rams.

In my humble opinion, the weaknesses listed are very....well weak. Saying he is not a great athlete is just saying he's not a 'workout warrior' a la Vernon Gholston. It's not his fault that the B1G didn't have any top flight WRs for him to cover. When referencing the physical front seven he played behind at Michigan State, it is pretty easy to sub any NFC West front seven and project similar success. The only weakness listed that concerns me is the holding penalties, but I'm confident that Chuck Cecil will be able to refine his technique to avoid that.

Its pretty easy to see that I like Dennard, but that's not important right now. What do YOU think?
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