Can be overly physical; could get frequent flags in the NFL
Thick lower body hurts his agility to turn and run
Summary: Dennard is an interesting prospect who is a challenge to evaluate. He had a fantastic collegiate career and was a strong cover corner. Dennard really struggled at the Senior Bowl, and while he had a fast 40 time at the Combine (4.51 with a 10-yard split 1.52), he didn't do enough in the field drills to answer some concerns about his hip flexibility. Dennard has a lot of good tape, so NFL teams are going to have to decide whether they put more credence in his tape or the worrisome display from the Senior Bowl and Combine.
Because of that contrast, Dennard's draft stock has been on a roller coaster over the past six months. He entered the season as projected first-round pick. His senior season started slow with him missing the first three games because of a leg injury. Dennard returned to the lineup and had an impressive season. He completely shut out Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham in their matchup. It was very impressive, as Dennard broke up a number of passes from Kirk Cousins with some near interceptions. Dennard followed that by playing well against Iowa's Marvin McNutt, holding him to four catches for 29 yards. He truly looked like a first-round pick at that point. However, Dennard finished his collegiate career poorly by allowing some big plays at the Capital One Bowl to South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. In the third quarter, Dennard got in a fist fight with Jeffery, and both were ejected from their final collegiate contest.
At the Senior Bowl, Dennard was getting burned by receivers, as he didn't display the hip flexibility to turn and run. That caused them to get separation as they ran their routes. Dennard improved slightly as the week went on, but he left early with a hip injury. Perhaps that played into his ugly struggles at the start of the week.
Dennard should go to a zone scheme in the NFL. He would work well in press-zone coverage where he jams a receiver at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the timing of the play and re-route the receiver. After the jam, Dennard would be better off dropping into zone coverage rather than turning and running with a wide receiver. His hip flexibility looks too stiff to allow him to be a man corner. Depending on the scheme, Dennard has starting potential in the next level. He looks like a second-day pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Brian Kelly. Kelly had an underrated NFL career. He was a second-round pick of Tampa Bay in 1998 out of USC. He was not a big-time ballhawk, although he had eight interception season in 2002, but he was a tough corner who was key cog in a prolific defense. Kelly was an excellent zone corner who had a powerful jam. Kelly and Dennard share that physical style of play. Like Kelly, Dennard would excel in a zone scheme.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, Chicago, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minnesota
The Bucs really liked Dennard, but with the change in their defensive scheme, he may not be as a good a fit for Tampa Bay. Chicago runs a defense that is their own variation of the Tampa-2, so Dennard would fit the Bears well. Chicago has three of its top four cornerbacks entering free agency.
It looks like Tennessee will lose Cortland Finnegan, and Dennard's physical style of play would make him a natural replacement. The Bengals and Lions badly need cornerback help. Dennard should be an option for them in the second round. If he falls into the third round, Dennard could be a fit for the Vikings. They're going to more of a zone scheme and have a need at the position. Dennard would fit them well.