(Editor's Note: Heading into the upcoming NFL Draft, held May 8-10, DallasCowboys.com will take a closer look at the prospects, including some that could be potential fits with the Cowboys. Today's featured player is Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard).
College: Michigan State
Honors: Winner of the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation's best defensive back, Dennard was also a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy for the nation's best defensive player. Dennard earned Big 10 Defensive Back of the Year and Big 10 Defensive MVP honors last season.
Key stat:Dennard came up with career-highs in all categories as a senior, posting four interceptions, two forced fumbles, 10 pass deflections, six tackles for loss and 62 tackles.
Where He's Projected: Given all the honors, it's no wonder Dennard is expected to be a first-round pick come April. Though cornerback isn't as obvious a need or want as some other positions for the team, Dennard is projected by many to go off the board around the time the Cowboys select at No. 16. It'll be a race between Dennard and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert to see which player's the first cornerback off the board. [embedded_ad]
How He Helps the Cowboys:The Cowboys would really have to value him as the best player available to pass on other top prospects, but it's difficult to find a resume as jam-packed as Dennard's. His physical play on a physical defense at Michigan State jumps out immediately. The Cowboys already invested in Brandon Carr and a first-round corner a couple years ago in Morris Claiborne, who they're still trying to develop into a top-flight corner in the league, but adding the powerful Dennard – who recorded 15 reps on the bench at the Combine – to the mix would provide some serious competition at the position.
Scout's Take – Bryan Broaddus:Dennard plays as a press man corner. He'll maintain his position and will turn his head to look for the ball without giving much space. He plays with the awareness to knock the ball away and will cover out of the slot. Dennard was used on the blitz against Notre Dame and showed quickness to beat the block, laying a nice hit on quarterback. He's physical down the field, gets his hands on a lot of balls, reacts well to routes, is in good position in route and can track the ball in flight and down the field.
He knows how to turn his head to make the play. Dennard had a nice interception against Iowa reacting to the ball. He can play zone bail technique – he doesn't get many opportunities to do it, but he showed he can. Dennard will go for the turnover, trying to rip the ball out of the receiver's hands. He played the screen well vs. Stanford, able to beat the block of the tackle in space and wrap up the back. Dennard's aggressive to knife inside off the edge and get in on the tackle. He's played on both the right and left side. You don't see many receivers run away from him, but I don't know how truly fast he really is. He's more quick than fast. His best trait is his ability to stay in position and play the ball in flight. He'll be the first cornerback on most team's boards because of his ability to play man coverage well.