In a recent poll that I posted on the site, I asked readers to rank 10 players that I believed could possibly be on the board when the Pittsburgh Steelers are on the clock with the 15th overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard came in second behind Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. While the consensus seems to be that Evans will likely be gone by the time the Steelers pick, I think one team stands in the way of Dennard dropping to the Steelers.
The Detroit Lions, who currently own the 10th overall selection, are in need of a cornerback as they just can’t count on current starters Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston to carry the load in 2014. To be specific, Mathis will turn 34 prior to the start of the season and Houston, 29, hasn’t been the same since 2012. To make matters worse, Houston still isn’t 100 percent healed from the toe injury that he suffered late last season.
While Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert certainly could be an option for the Lions at the ten spot, Dennard probably best fits the Lions defense and is probably the more NFL-ready of the two, according to Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.
“Dennard is the best in terms of overall play and being able to compete at the position,” Kiper said last week during his pre draft conference call with the media.
During his Thursday conference call with the media, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock also listed Dennard as a legitimate option for the Lions at No. 10.
“I think if they stay at 10, there could be a whole lot of different ways they go,” said Mayock. “I’ve done a bunch of different mock drafts on my own. Last night I did a dual mock draft where I picked two picks for every team. One of them I had Darqueze Dennard, another one I had Zack Martin.
“From my perspective defensively, they need a back-end guy, a safety or a corner, and offensively the highest rated O-line men was a wide receiver. I really believe that Watkins is going to be gone. There’s a good chance Mike Evans could be gone so they have to be ready in case those guys are gone to look at the highest rated corner or offensive lineman on their board.”
Being as he played his college football at nearby Michigan State, the Lions certainly should know quite a bit about Dennard. However, just in case they did miss something, new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin put him through a private workout back in March.
The Lions have also brought in Gilbert for a pre draft visit, so I think it will come down to either him or Dennard. Which ever one they pass on could be the one the Steelers wind up taking five picks later.