Consensus Forming Over Darqueze Dennard, Steelers

Recently, I wrote about my observation of a consensus slowly coalescing around the likely target for the 15th overall pick that the Pittsburgh Steelers possess in the upcoming draft, which is narrowing in on the cornerback position.

Since then, that consensus seems to be narrowing in even further on Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, a former teammate of last year’s second-round draft pick, Le’Veon Bell.

Previously unconvinced, Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider has recently come around to him, as has Matt C. Steel. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, too, is among the many linking Dennard to the Steelers, although he has the St. Louis Rams picking up the cornerback two spots ahead of Pittsburgh’s in the first round.

Kiper said during a conference call last week that “the ideal pick if you’re the Steelers is Darqueze Dennard”, as recounted by Scott Brown of ESPN.

“He’s a Steeler. Rough, tough, aggressive football player, plays with a chip on his shoulder, very good in coverage, plays faster than he timed. Just a whale of a football player”.

One of the key aspects of Dennard’s game that led Kiper to associating him with the Steelers is his aggressive tackling approach against both the pass and the run, which is an essential quality of a cornerback in Dick LeBeau’s scheme.

“That’s an underrated part of playing corner”, according to Kiper, but is essential in Pittsburgh. He went on to say that Dennard is probably in the top 10 “pure football players” coming out in this draft.

The Steelers leadership team, including head coach Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have done their due diligence on draft prospects this year, as with every year, personally attending a number of pro days for prospective draft targets.

Perhaps nobody has received more attention from the brain trust heading into the draft than has Dennard. Both Tomlin and Colbert personally attended his pro day back in March.

That in itself is not out of the ordinary, but it’s worth noting that that pro day came on the first day of free agency, and while the Steelers are not normally major players in free agency in general, let alone the first day, that was not the case this year. I think that speaks to how much they valued the opportunity to get a first-hand look at Dennard.

The Steelers also brought him in to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit earlier this month. Dennard, recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the country last season, seems to be emerging as the favorite target.

I am not making a formal prediction or creating a first round mock draft, nor am I injecting my own opinion of Dennard as a player or a person. I’m simply trying to read the tea leaves, and as the draft finally draws near, those leaves are telling me that if Dennard is available at 15, they won’t be able to rush to the podium fast enough to make him a Steeler.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • bonairsfavoriteson

    yeh. like last year they could not wait to rush the podium to select Jarvis Jones, lol, one of 6-7 special players in last years draft. Now they are at it again, at least the talking heads are, draft a player that plays more like an undersized line backer rather than a player that can really help in the important take away stats.As far as Lebeau goes, don’t blame the players for lack of take away skills, if those are the type of players he wants.

  • scott2443

    becoming very interesting with all the draft prospects coming to steelers i am starting to get in the opinion a deal has already been struck with another team for the steelers first rd pick for more picks to steelers in later rds ..as far as dennard goes you see and hear good and bad comments from fans and team scouts and media ….i was like yes this is guy to go for but i am starting to get a uneasy feeling about him why i dont know yet..i never am to thrilled when kiper and guys like him say who steelers should take …no matter what def back the steelers do take that he will not be a starter unless a major injury happens this year …so their are a few good ones to be had all through draft so it be best to get ones who fit the steelers def…the first pick should be some one who can compete for a starting job as soon as possible …if dennards the pick at 15 if we stay there i hope its because steelers think and feel hes the one not because of people like kiper say so

  • JAMESH

    Matthew – How “starter ready” do you believe Dennard to be? We all know the history for rookies at any position in a Dr. LeBeau defense; could Dennard be starting by game 9? If indeed Dennard is the pick, not too much of a stretch to foresee Cortez having a minor injury issue at some point and never getting his starting spot back from Dennard.

  • WIINGY

    What’s wrong with Dennard? He allowed under 1 yard per pass attempt. Is it his 40 time that everyone hates?

  • dkoy85

    What gives you the opinion the Steelers already have a deal worked out to trade back? I’m willing to put my life savings down that the FO doesn’t give a F$%# about what Kiper and co. think.

  • steeltown

    I would feel a lot more comfortable heading into the ’15 season with Dennard in the mix, by that time Ike will be gone and WillieG will be in his final contract yr

  • steeltown

    I’m pretty sure most Football Organizations chuckle at the draft guru’s and their so called “expert” opinions

  • dkoy85

    Agreed. I don’t care what his competition was like, that statistic alone proves he is not overrated. I think you can dislike him because you are afraid he can be too physical at times, but you can’t say he’s overrated and not say why.

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    I think we all would.

  • dkoy85

    Believe it or not, not all of us would. I would, but I’ve seen a few guys say he’s overrated and would not like the pick.

  • http://www.nyob.com/ Dr. Doom

    What I meant to type was all of us would like to see a blue chip CB come in. I don’t care what their name is or where there from.

  • cp72

    Am I missing something with Dennard? I went back and watched 3 of his games. He was great in run support, but looked like an average athlete. I think he tops out as a number 2 corner. You have guys like Gaines, Watkins, and Cockrell that can be had a round or two later with maybe more upside.

  • mlc43

    Sorry, bon, totally disagree with your post and really can’t even understand what you so dislike about Dennard. I can understand preferring another CB or another player at 15 but to totally trash him like that is pretty silly. This dude was one of the best CBs in all of college football the last couple years. He’s more than likely going to make a pretty good pro. I would be pretty happy with picking him up.

  • steeltown

    I think that’s my thinking, we are more than likely going to ‘double dip’ so there will be another 3rd-5th Rd defensive back brought in this yr as well. We’ve seen this year after year and im all for it, but it would be ideal to also get one of the top athletes at the position as well

  • steeltown

    More upside is a bit a stretch at this point… but, why not have both? …Dennard and ‘X’ player

  • dkoy85

    Exactly. Theoretically, they would be set at just about ever position on D after this draft if they double dipped at CB and picked up a DE. THEORETICALLY.

  • cp72

    I agree with two corners. I just think the value is higher in rounds two through four at this position.

  • cp72

    I agree but you don’t have to draft a corner in round one to do that. This would be my ideal situation rounds 1-4.

    1. Benjamin
    2. Tuitt
    3. Gaines
    4. Cockrell

  • joed32

    Very few if any corners in the league can handle those guys 1 on 1, but Dennard is considered to be the best cover corner in this draft.

  • Dave

    Glad to see everyone getting off the Odell Beckham draft theory though I’m still not convinced Dennard is the pick based on the defense he excelled at in college. There’s no doubting Dennard is a quality prospect, but his style of play doesn’t necessarily match the zone scheme the Steeler defense plays. True he does play physical and will do the tackling necessary for the position, but he’s used to playing man-to-man. It may not be the fit we’re looking for. Before Roby got into trouble last week, he was my best guess for the pick. Gilbert isn’t physical enough and won’t tackle like we want him to. Maybe we go with Kyle Fuller based on size and skill-set. Either way, I think if we don’t trade down, CB is the position we pick..

    Then again, what if Anthony Barr is there?

  • cp72

    I think Gilbert has more shut down ability from the games I have watched.

    I agree that there may not be corner in this draft that can handle Greene and Gordon. Which is why I don’t think you pick one in the first round.

  • Jacque Strappe

    Agree 100%. He’s physical, and he can cover. What’s not to like? And as for the Jones comments above, how in the world are we gonna throw him under the bus this early? Mark it down, JJ will have a terrific year. The game will slow down for him in his soph campaign. And with pressure off the edge, guys like Ike and Dennard will look awfully good not having to cover an extra 8 seconds like the past couple of years.

  • dkoy85

    There are a number of ways this draft could pan out for us that I would be happy with. I don’t have a favorite first round selection yet.

  • grw1960

    All I keep thinkingis,….. The Steelers always use one pressman CB and that has been Ike. This is probably Ike’s last year. … Dennard is a pressman type CB. Not as fast as Ike, but he has gotten the job done in college. Pressman CB is a position that I think could be played by a Rookie by the 2nd half the Season if kept in simplified role.
    Am I saying Dennard will be the pick? No because a lot will depend on what prospects are still on the board. Also what prospects are on the board , may determine if the Steelers run to the podium or try to move down in round 1.

  • joed32

    Gilbert’s good and more likely to get picks but I still think Dennard is “stickier” and has pretty good ball skills. I’ll be happy with either. Just feel that CB is a big need and not as deep as the WR class.

  • steeltown

    The problem arises with where we are selecting, after 15th and 46th we don’t pick again until 97th overall (comp pick) I think we can all agree that the top 5-6 CBs will most likely be gone by the time we select in the 2nd Rd, then you have a good amount of 3rd Rd prospects that are enticing, but we wont have a selection till the backend of the 3rd

  • Jacque Strappe

    You trade down to one of the teams that is salivating over him and restock the cupboard.

  • dgh57

    If there is a consensus forming for us drafting Dennard then I would think other teams would know that also. With that knowledge if any team behind us wants him bad enough and if they’re in need of a CB they trade up to pick him if he’s not off the board already. Seems like I remember Darrelle Revis being linked to us in 2007 and the Jets proceeded to trade up in front of us to draft him. A lot of things will have to go right for Dennard to still be there at 15.

  • dgh57

    We don’t totally 100% play zone defense. If Dennard is drafted it will be with the idea of playing to his strengths and playing more press man coverage as doing otherwise would be foolish.

  • Kareem Daniels

    I’d rather have Fuller.The more I see and read about him the more I like. He can play off, press man and zone. Denard does a lot of grabbing and holding. He is a PI waiting to happen.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    You still need OLB’s. And it’s not just for depth, but especially because of injuries that always pop up. The great Steelers defenses have always had plenty of LB’s.

  • dgh57

    If the Coaching staff feel like the grabbing and holding can’t be coached out of him we won’t be drafting him.

  • Doug Sawyer

    I brought this up before…I think because we are going to double dip,that in fact means we won’t draft a CB in round one…I just can’t see Pittsburgh drafting a guy at 15 and saying “you’re our guy” and then turning around and drafting another guy at 3…that’s like immediately slapping your top pick in the face and indicates you have questions about your own pick…
    Way easier to draft a CB in the 2nd and 4th and not have that conflict of interest but rather a healthy competition to earn a starting roster spot

  • Josh Knepshield

    Trade back and take Fuller

  • Doug Sawyer

    we play mostly in a zone D …we’re not going to change that for a rookie CB

  • Doug Sawyer

    yeah…I agree for the reason I stated above…we wouldn’t draft a WR#1and then draft another WR in the 3rd round…it wouldn’t be smart…I think because
    we have been notoriously bad at taking CB’s in the first
    we are going to double dip at CB(the position of most need)better to take a CB in the 2nd and 4th and allow them to compete for spots on thestarting line up,as opposed to drafting a guy number 1 then undermining him by drafting a guy right behind him…you are either setting yourself up in not backing your top pick whole heartedly or you are relegating a top 4 pick to the bench…bad way to draft

  • scott2443

    i dont have that opinion yet but leaning that way because of diff spots they are looking at on the visits and how many are in the same positions ..to me they dont seem to be going ok number 1 is and 2nd is and 3rd is it just seems to me they plan on doing stack picks which would mean moving back and getting extra picks giving up the 15th to get more depth on the team..so do you give up dennard if hes there for more picks to give team depth over giving up those picks to get him ..and so i am of mind maybe maybe they agreed to trade back with another team already

  • dgh57

    I’m talking about 2015 and beyond.

  • dgh57

    We double dip to replace Taylor in 2015 and Gay in 2016. Plus the second guy could be a CB/S like a Antone Exum who has Safety experience.

  • Doug Sawyer

    You double dip to make sure you get at least 1 starter…If the golden rule is you get 3 starters out of a draft class.I just can’t rationalize taking a guy at 1 and then again at 3 or 4 .A first round guy should be a lock starter drafting a guy in the 3rd would be a waste as a double dip as we have pressing issues now…I think Pittsburgh can address our CB issue by drafting 2 CB’s in the top 4 rounds…but doing so at 1 and another guy soon after, creates perception problems

  • dgh57

    To me the purpose of a double dip in the 1st rd. is to get a starter and the again in rd. 4th or later for depth purposes with hopes he can develop into a starter down the road. After they address other areas like DE, WR, and possibly a change of pace RB with speed I see them going for a 2nd CB 4th rd. or later. I think all the top tier CBs will be gone by our 2nd rd. pick and will lessen the odds of us getting a starter for 2015.

  • Weiss Chad

    Corner back and nickle back.makes sense to me .sure up entire secondary for yrs

  • Weiss Chad

    Why would u go wr in first then?its the deepest wr class I have ever seen.I don’t understand your logic..don’t take dennard because there’s not much difference between him and second tier but you wanna take a wr who should go in rd 3 but will prob go late 1 early two.Trust me I get the height thing .Id take Davonte adamms,Robinson,matthews, or moncrief ahead of Benjamin and there second and third rounders.My money’s on cb and I’m hoping it’s either dennard or fuller.love the rest of your draft though

  • dgh57

    joed32 I agree! With Dennard WRs will have a harder time getting into their routes which will come in handy especially in the short passing game where they use those quick slant plays.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I think he would perhaps be the best CB candidate in the draft to have a chance to start for the Steelers — IF they’re willing to play to his strengths — due to his tackling ability.

  • WIINGY

    We play a lot of Cover 3 zone, and you can play press out of it. Seattle does it all the time with Sherman. He’s still responsible for his deep third but plays press man and press bail.

  • JAMESH

    Thank you.

  • Doug Sawyer

    that is true,but we mostly play it because we have more talent in our safety position than at CB thus the Clark Polamalu Thomas configurations that we saw this year
    the weakness of the cover 3 is CB’s bail on their responsibilities in press and drop into their deep zones
    …any real QB will also decimate a cover 3 unless there is a solid rush from LB’s or DL

  • Doug Sawyer

    I hear what your saying…I just don’t think that’s the best way to achieve what we both want…why not wait until next year and spend a second round pick on a nickle corner?…when we don’t have Gay or a slowed down Ike in front of them …in fact Ike could play in the Nickle for a couple of years and be ok

  • Doug Sawyer

    you are completely assuming that both draft picks become starters and solid ones…that’s a reach in thinking…hey I’m not hopeless in dreaming,but the NFL transition is brutal…I think if you draft a 2nd and 4th round CB this year you will have a good shot at getting a starter out of one of the two…you turn around and spend a 2nd for nickle and dimes a year later…then you have the position locked down for a few years

  • Doug Sawyer

    and …for one second…consider…what if our top CB is a bust?…then we have only left ourselves hope a 4th round or later CB can step in somewhere and stop the anemia …that does not work

    that’s why when you double dip you do it in close together rounds…for us doing that in top 4 rounds is the best case to insure we get a starter…it’s called a solid insurance plan
    but you can’t do that to a top pick because it says you don’t believe in them…I honestly think none of the top hyped CB’s are shut down guys on the pro level…yes starters but with question marks …that is just not worth a pick at 15

    we knew Troy would be a devastating pick at 16 …we don’t know that about any of these CB’s

  • WIINGY

    probably the reason for the Beckham smokescreen.

  • Dave

    agreed.. we’re not going to change the way we’ve been doing things because of one rookie CB, that’s why I think if he’s there and we don’t pick him, it’s because of the scheme, not the player. Dennard looks like a stud, just maybe not for us.

    I’m starting to think more about Fuller as the pick than Dennard based on the defense he played in college. Before Roby acted like….. a Buckeye I was starting to believe we’d draft him ahead of Dennard and Gilbert.. Either way, odds are this pick is a corner.

  • Doug Sawyer

    who ever we take at number one will be more a fit for our system rather than top athlete at a position ..ideally you want a great athlete who fits what you do