A two star prospect out of high school Darqueze Dennard was never expected to develop into a impact player at Michigan State. But in his sophomore year in East Lansing Dennard was named the starting cornerback, ahead of higher ranked prospects. This toughness and determination that propelled Dennard to great success in college-- he won the Thrope Award for best defensive back in 2013-- is evident in the way he plays cornerback.
Known for his physical style Dennard is an interesting prospect because press corners like himself are highly sought after in the NFL but there are serious questions about his physical abilities. Listed under 6 feet tall and lacking elite speed-- Dennard ran a 4.5 40 at this year's combine-- he will have to be able to overcome some physical limitations. Luckily, Dennard is used to overcoming the odds and some team in the mid to late 1st round will likely bet on Dennard's competitiveness driving him to success in the NFL.
Fluid Hips: Transitions into his back pedal smoothly, changes directions on a dime, quick feet to match his fluid hips, can match receivers step for step, his elite quickness makes up for his lack of elite top speed and can stay in a receivers back pocket.
Physical: Plays bigger than he is, always looking to unleash a monster hit sometimes at the expense of proper tackling technique, drives through ball carriers, solid in run support but can over run plays and possesses a good rip move.
Good Ball Skills: Good instincts, can turn and find the football, decent hands, good anticipation, had four interceptions last season but was in position for at least double that more and came down with a few amazing interceptions during his 4 years at Michigan State.
Fighter: Great hand use, reroutes receivers excellently, imposes his will on the outside, understands how to utilize the sideline, will be able to play at the line of scrimmage, fights from snap to whistle and contests every catch.
Size/Speed: Under 6 foot and ran a 4.5 40 at the combine. lacks the explosiveness to match certain wide receivers, didn't play many elite wide receivers in the Big 10 and struggled against some elite WRs, relies on his technique to overcome his lack of elite athleticism and has potentially maximized his physical talents.
Tends to Play the Man not the Ball: Plays the man not the ball way too often, got called for numerous holding and pass interference penalties and will have to change his game in the NFL due to the stricter rules.
Overall: Dennard's physicality is a double edged sword. On one hand it is the primary reason why he was so successful in college as he consistently re routed receivers and challenged every catch. But on the other his physical nature got him into trouble as he tended to play the man not the ball and gave up a lot of holding and pass interference calls.
With Dennard's lack of elite speed to run with speedy wide receivers or the size to effectively jam at the line of scrimmage, there are some legit questions about how well Dennard will adapt to the pros. Mainly, how effective will he be in the NFL where he can't man handle receivers all the way down the field?
It is a fair question that has some teams worrying, but closer study reveals that Dennard has the fluid hips, ball skills, demeanor and overall technique to be a very effective corner in the NFL. Add in that he is the most NFL ready corner in this draft and it is easy to see why Dennard should be a mid 1st round pick.