If the Eagles draft defense with the No. 22 pick, the most likely position they’ll target is cornerback.
That’s not necessarily because of need, but more because of who will probably be available.
“There really are five corners at the top end,” said Mike Mayock in an interview with the Daily News. “Everybody has different opinions on who the best ones are. The most talented corners are [Ohio State’s Bradley] Roby and [Oklahoma State’s Justin] Gilbert. But I don’t think they’re the best football players. I think [Michigan State’s Darqueze] Dennard and [Virginia Tech’s Kyle] Fuller are the two best football players.
“If any of those four are available and the Eagles are on the clock, I think they have to take a hard look at taking one of them right away.”
We’ll take a look at those four players in the coming days, starting with Dennard.
Note that Dennard ran a 4.51 at the combine (the number listed above is either a mistake or from his Pro Day). At 5-11, 199, he has adequate size, but isn’t necessarily long. Dennard actually has short arms compared to his peers (9th percentile).
But his production in college was outstanding. From Rotoworld’s Josh Norris:
An extremely physical corner who loves to press at the line of scrimmage. Frequently patient with his jam, not overextending but rather allowing the receiver to enter contact area. Rides inside hip downfield while sustaining position. Hand fights and flips his head quickly when receiver looks back for the football at the top of their route.
Dennard’s strength is man coverage. He likes to play up at the line of scrimmage and get his hands on receivers.
While assessing CB play is impossible without the benefit of All-22, we can take a look at some of the things Dennard does well. He presses all game long and is a physical player:
And Dennard is also very good when the ball is in the air:
Here, he closes quickly on the comeback route and shows strong hands, breaking up the pass near the sideline:
And here against Michigan, he’s again in man coverage, making the interception at the top of your screen:
There’s a lot to like with Dennard. He’s a physical player who excels in man coverage. He can tackle too and make plays against the run.
But I’m not sure he’s on the short list of candidates at No. 22. In terms of scheme, Dennard is likely more attractive to teams that frequently put their corners on an island in man coverage. From a measurables standpoint, there’s only been one example in the last three years of a cornerback under 6 feet who ran a 4.5 or worse going in the first round. And that was Morris Claiborne.
Dennard has an excellent shot of being a productive NFL player, but the guess here is the Eagles have other corners in this class rated higher.