For those of you readers who have not noticed, a new and updated 2014 NFL Mock Draft will be published by FanSided.com every week until Draft Weekend in May. This week, Ben Natan published With the First Pick’s newest Mock Draft and projected that the Pittsburgh Steelers would select the following player at number 15 overall:
Darqueze Dennard, Cornerback, Michigan State
With the aging happening on the Steelers defense, it seems as if the whole team is slowing down on that once vaunted side of the ball. Adding the very physical Dennard will bring back the hard nosed style of defensive football. Never mind that Dennard has a long speed deficiency that has seen him being burned by Boise State and Iowa wide receivers (not exactly speed freaks). Good thing fast receivers like Torrey Smith and Josh Gordon are not in the division…
In Pittsburgh’s zone-based scheme, Dennard (5’11” 197 lbs.) could excel and his apparent lack of long speed would not be as much of a deficiency as some believe. A sure tackler who can play tight man outside the numbers in a confined area, Dennard would be a nice addition to the Steelers’ secondary.
The 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner enjoyed the finest season of his collegiate career last fall. Overall, Dennard racked up 62 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, 10 passes defensed and four interceptions for the Rose Bowl champions.
While he might not have the athletic ability or upside of someone like Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State, his size, instincts and ability to be physical with opposing pass catchers should make him a mid-first round pick for a cornerback-needy team like the Steelers to target.
The good news for Dennard, or any cornerback drafted by the Steelers this May, is that they will be in the mix to potentially contribute in sub-packages early in their respective careers. Due to the fact that Ike Taylor, William Gay and Cortez Allen will be the only cornerbacks on the roster with any extended professional experience, someone like Dennard could be primed to chip as early as his rookie campaign.
Granted, I would rather see the Steelers address their tight end or wide receiver needs in round one. Yet if they selected Dennard to upgrade their rapidly declining secondary, then would not necessarily be upset. I would just cross my fingers that the rookie would be allowed to contribute early and often if he was able to prove himself in practice.
Like “NPC” on Facebook: Nice Pick, Cowher