The Cincinnati Bengals have gotten strong play from their cornerbacks in recent seasons. Leon Hall, injury aside, has been terrific, Terence Newman has looked 10 years younger, and Adam Jones has resurrected a near-dead career. The team also invested a recent first round draft pick in Dre Kirkpatrick. However, most fans believe their biggest need is at that position, and that they should use their first round pick this season on it. Hall is coming off of another major injury, Newman is 35 years old, and Jones is also over 30. Kirkpatrick, meanwhile, has improved, but still has some work to do. So there is plenty of reason that cornerback could be the pick at number 24, and if it is, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard could be in play.
Strengths: Some of the best cornerbacks in the league (Richard Sherman, Darrelle Revis) are physical corners, great at jamming receivers before they start their route, and then knowing how to stay physical, even down the field without drawing penalties. The Seattle Seahawks also proved that having that type of tough corners can work on a championship level. Dennard can be that kind of player. He’s strong and willing to use his body to his advantage. He’s also smart and knows how to put himself in position to break up passes. He’ll also help in the run game, and has no problem coming up to tackle ball carriers.
Weaknesses: There are questions about his overall athleticism. He’s not fast, though he’s quicker than he looks, and he lack of speed can make him a target on deep passes. He’ll need to learn not to bite on play fakes and double moves in the NFL to avoid giving up the homerun play. He’ll also need to, like Sherman and Revis, learn to be physical without crossing the line and drawing drive-extending flags. He’ll be susceptible to pass interference penalties.
Overall: The Bengals could use a cornerback like Dennard. They have plenty of finesse guys, and could use a dose of the kind of toughness and physicality that he would bring. With a little bit of time and fine-tuning, he could be a great player and help keep the Bengals defense near the top of the league.