The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t exactly had the best of luck drafting cornerbacks in recent years. Other than Leon Hall, who is recovering from an injury, they have swung and missed on a variety of players who were high draft picks in the secondary that they counted on to make significant contributions.
Most recently, former Alabama star Dre Kirkpatrick has struggled to find an identity and stay healthy in the NFL, despite lofty expectations coming out. In 2014, the Bengals hoped to turn their fortunes around by drafting Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, one of the most technically sound corners in this year’s draft.
Dennard is coming from a Spartan program that had arguably the best defense in all of college football this past season and is a well-built athlete with solid measurables and press-man ability.
In fact, Dennard is considered arguably the best press-man cover corner in the entire draft, fitting in perfectly with what the Bengals would ask him to do. He has the size and length to match up with NFL receivers right away, though there are some questions about his health (double hernia sugery) that need answering.
Regardless, if Dennard is healthy enough to play, he’s going to be a significant contributor to the Bengals’ defense and they are counting on him to do big things early on.
Coming from a physical, tough defense at Michigan State, Dennard is first and foremost a football player that has the instincts it takes to succeed at the next level. The Bengals need him to learn on the fly because their situation at cornerback isn’t exactly rosy at this point. This was a player they did not expect to fall into their laps, but they’re glad he did.
Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph talked earlier this offseason about the fact that Dennard could contribute right away in the Bengals’ nickel package, which has almost become sort of a base package for a lot of NFL teams. And the slot corners have huge responsibilities. They are tasked oftentimes with covering the offense’s primary target, guys who are looking to quickly shake free of the coverage and find an opening in the middle of the field that they can take advantage of.
If Dennard is to make the transition to the inside nickel spot, the Bengals have to have a lot of faith in him.