Could Darqueze Dennard be the 1st Cornerback Taken?

If you like physical football, then you’re a fan of Darqueze Dennard. Dennard is physical, to a fault. When he gets his hands on you, RIP. But don’t be fooled in thinking Dennard is all physical. He’s a great technician in his own right. At the line of scrimmage, he is very patient, showing good initial footwork. He does a great job of putting himself in a position to make a play. A very smart and instinctive player who is arguably the best at his position when it comes to run support.

Strengths

  • Press Mirror Technique
  • Cover Skills/Positioning
  • Route Recognition
  • Ball Skills
  • Run Support

Dennard has this down pat. He uses his excellent size, 5’11, 197, and go go gadget arms to  his advantage. He does a fantastic job of getting his hands on the receiver late in routes or at the top of routes. This evens out any athletic disadvantage he is in.

Notice the late grab by Dennard once he looks back for the ball.

This next play is a great example of Dennard’s mirror ability.

Some of said that Dennard is limited to press only schemes, I disagree. Think he is just as comfortable in off coverage reading the quarterback.

In the above example, he shows great short area quickness and defines the term “click & close.”

Here, he reads the quarterbacks 3 step drop, breaks on the ball beautifully. He does everything but finish the play.

My final example he is in press coverage again. But here, it’s Cover 2. Notice as soon as #1 leaves, he shifts his focus to #2. This isn’t sexy by any means, but it shows he has a full understanding of his assignment.

Dennard is what I’d call a feisty player at the catch point. He does a good job of using his hands, or as the 3rd GIF showed, jarring the ball loose with a big hit. He also is one of the better corners at turning, finding the ball, without losing speed.

Here, he grabs the receiver downfield twice. But so subtle that he can get away with it.

Did this a couple times against Notre Dame.

Dennard has showed he’s not afraid to stick his nose in the run game, either. A very willing tackler who at times launches himself, but the fact that as soon as he reads run, he shows no hesitation to go make the tackle is a positive for me.

 

Weaknesses

  • Long Speed
  • Over Aggressiveness
  • Gets too high in backpedal
  • Hands
  • Lack of explosive Athleticism
It’s not fair to said his long speed makes him a liability, because that’s not true. He doesn’t lose his 1-on-1 battles because he’s slow, it’s a combination of things. Dennard’s long speed just isn’t a strength of his. When I see him get beat deep, it’s usually because of 1 of 3 things. He’s either sitting on a route, and gets caught flat-footed, he’s getting too grabby, and loses position, or he gets too high in his backpedal, and now is at a disadvantage where the receiver can run right by him.
It might seem off to say someone has good ball skills, but bad hands. But I’ve seen Dennard drop some easy passes, for example:
He could have arguably 3-5 more interceptions this year if he had just finished the play.
As far as his athleticism goes, he’s not a great athlete. You’re not seeing him get beat, and just make up yards with his amazing recovery speed. You’re not seeing an athlete who explodes up and snatches the ball out of the air. Again, it’s not holding him back, because he’s a technician, but it does show sometimes and needs to be mentioned.
Grade
Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10   8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round   8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round   7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round   7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round   7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round   6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round   6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round   5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round   5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round   4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations   4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable     < 4.0

 

Skill Weight Grade
Long Speed 2 1.6
Closing Speed/Acceleration 2 1.6
Ball Skills 3 2.8
Eye Discipline 2 2
Strength 2 1.9
Athleticism 2 1.7
Route Recognition/Insticts 3 3
Tackling/Blitz Abilty 2 1.9
Cover Skills 4 3.8
Change of Direction/Feet 3 2.7

 

Dennard graded out to an 8.28. Making him a legit top 20 talent. Add in his positional value, and the much needed ball skills at the position in the NFL, combined with his toughness and natural feel for the game, I have a hard time seeing Dennard escaping the 1st round. He still is “grabby” at times, but he’s much improved from a year ago, and you can see the improvements in  his game on a weekly basis.
Player Comparison
 
It’s pretty amazing how much Darqueze resembles Alfonzo Dennard. So many traits match-up. But because that’s a lazy comparison, I’m going to go to the other side of the field and compare Dennard to Aqib Talib, the good Talib, the one we saw early in the year. Physical, making plays all over the field, and making up for his lack of athleticism by winning at the line of scrimmage, at the top of the route, and at the catch point.I get all my videos from the good people at draftbreakdown.com & YouTube.

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