The NFL Scouting Combine wrapped up on Tuesday as this year’s cornerbacks and safeties completed their workouts. The Detroit Lions are in the market to find a corner that can step in and contribute on the field from day one and that position could be fulfilled with the tenth overall pick in this year’s draft.
The nine teams that will select ahead of the Lions in the 2014 NFL Draft will ultimately play a deciding role in who Detroit will draft. Based on the current trend of drafting “best player available” ahead of highest need, there are a handful of prospects that could arguably become the Lions’ first round pick. For the sake of this argument however, let’s say that general manager Martin Mayhew and his coaching staff will ultimately draft the first corner in this year’s draft with the tenth overall pick.
Who should it be? Is the best cornerback prospect Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State? Or is it Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert?
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Height: 5’11″ Weight: 199 pounds Arm Length: 30 1/4″ Hands: 9″
Dennard’s 40-yard dash was originally clocked at 4.42 seconds, which could have solidified him as a top-10 pick. When his official time of 4.51 seconds was announced, many experts moved him back behind Gilbert. He had 15 reps on the bench press, which isn’t great but it proves he has the strength to still be a press-corner in the pros. He did not compete in any of the other workouts.
His size, strength, and physicality enable him to match up with NFL receivers. He is an athletic press-man who puts himself in a position to make a play on the ball. Dennard was a cornerstone to the Spartans’ defense, which was widely considered one of the best in college football last year. He also does a great job of seeking out the ball-carrier in the run game.
Straight-line speed. Receivers at the next level are much faster than those in college, his inability to run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash leaves his ability to keep up with NFL receivers questionable. He had previously undergone double hernia surgery and doesn’t have much experience playing zone coverage.
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Height: 6’0″ Weight: 202 pounds Arm Length: 33 1/8″ Hands: 8 5/8″
Gilbert displayed his world-class speed in the 40-yard dash, doing so in just 4.37 seconds. His vertical jump was measured at 35.5-inches and his broad jump at 126-inches, both respectable numbers. The biggest surprise may have been his display of strength on the bench press, 20 reps, which was tied for third-most by any corner. Gilbert also competed in the three-cone drill with a time of 6.92 seconds, anything under seven seconds is adequate.
His measurements and workouts declare him the most physically and athletically gifted corner in the draft. His quickness and explosiveness give him the ability to match up with any speedy-receiver at the next level. He has great ball-skills and can also contribute in the return game. Shows an inflated ego at times. (It seems to be working for Richard Sherman.)
When it comes to making tackles or shedding blocks in the run game, he lacks physicality. He is often pushed around and has been viewed as a great player that relies on his natural ability too much at times. Shows an inflated ego at times. (Which is usually viewed as a weakness, depending on how it is used.)
If the draft were to be next week, then I would move Gilbert ahead of Dennard as the best corner. His tangibles are the most impressive of any corner in the draft, hands down. He is fast enough to keep up with any receiver and is strong enough to challenge any receiver. His lack of assertiveness in the run game is not a giant downfall in my eyes, of course it would make him an even better player but it shouldn’t take away from what he can do in the passing game. However if Dennard can run a sub-4.45 in his workouts leading up to the draft, his ability to help in the run game could make him the best fit for the Lions moving forward.
So for now, Gilbert looks to be the best conerback prospect in this year’s draft but Dennard still has an opportunity to show why he should be the first corner taken off the board on draft day.
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