He has some of the same traits as Prince in that he is smart, plays with instincts and understands how to support in run defense and play the role of a staunch football player at the corner who does more than just cover.
While he is not particularly stellar with any singular trait, he has the size, athletic ability, and overall above-average skills that blend together to make a nice prospect.
He is the type of corner who could contribute heavily on special teams in his rookie year, and although he has not been tested much working in the slot, could likely be picked in the late first or early second round.
He trusts his speed and footwork in man coverage and can fill nicely as a run defender in both run plays and in zone. He is a solid athlete who has fluid hips and can adjust to make ball plays in mid-air.
He understands how to play with leverage and jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage, as he is a very balanced and strong player who rarely falls off his stance or gets pushed off coverage by bigger wideouts. Dennard has a lot of experience starting games at a high level and is NFL-ready.
He got on the field as a true freshman, making 12 tackles, then started out his sophomore season the team's top reserve corner before earning starts the final nine games and accumulating 31 tackles, four for loss, and eight pass break-ups. Dennard stood out enough as a junior (four interceptions, seven pass break-ups) that Big 12 coaches voted him second-team all-conference.
Dennard was already a very talented player, but new Nebraska defensive backs coach Corey Raymond (a former NFL defensive back himself) is looking to improve his young players' technique in 2011. Adding better footwork and hands to prevent receivers from coming off the line to his ball skills and tenacity outside could help him join Amukamara (selected 19th overall last April by the New York Giants) as first-round picks.
Man Coverage: Physical player, tough to get off the line against and willing to mix it up downfield. Fluid hips and good short-area to stay with receivers after initial move. Solid if playing off the line, as well, quick feet allow him to catch up to receivers if failing to get a hand on them initially. Deep speed and recovery speed are average, adding that to below-average height could spell trouble against playmaking NFL receivers downfield. Gets too physical at times, gets flagged for grabbing and holding.
Zone Coverage: Could flourish in zone systems due to closing speed and secure tackling ability. Jumps underneath and slants routes quite well, baiting quarterbacks to throw in his direction. Regularly stands straight up in his backpedal, which causes trouble transitioning when receivers stop their routes short.
Ball Skills: Breaks up passes with hits and by getting his hand on the ball before it arrives at his man. Make acrobatic interceptions by high-pointing or extending for throws, has excellent vertical jump to compensate for lack of height. Runs well with the ball in his hands, capable of winding his way through traffic to the end zone. Inconsistent adjusting to low throws.
Run Support: Often out on an island and not forced to support the run in 2010, but there's no issue with his physicality or willingness to stick his nose into the play. Showed capacity to attack screens and runs to his side as a sophomore, both cutting down and wrapping up ballcarriers reliably. Larger receivers can keep him from getting to the ball, though the effort to beat the block is there.
Tackling: Compact, strong build, tenacity and good closing speed make him a solid tackler on the edge. Rarely misses the tackle to stop receivers they catches passes in front of him in zone or when playing off. Wraps low and holds on to prevent yards after the catch. Good speed and angle gets him credited with tackles while ensuring ballcarriers get to the sideline.
Intangibles: Feisty player who asks to take on bigger number one receivers and likes to talk on the field. Earned more playing time as a junior due to better preparation. Missed most of two games in 2010 with a concussion. Played through a shoulder injury in 2009."
Lacks ideal technique and plays a bit out of control in all areas of the game. Will get caught overextending into receivers at times with the wrong arm or both hands and can be stroked off the line in press.
However, does a nice job sitting into his drop, staying low while keeping his feet under him and generates a burst when trying to make up for a false step.
Likes to be physical down the field as well and despite being able to cleanly flip and run, will get caught losing his balance trying to outphysical receivers and struggle with his balance at times because of it.
Is a tough guy to separate from though once he gets his hands on a wideout. Showcases below average deep speed when asked to turn and run, tracks the football and competes, but looks like a 4.6 guy.
Isn't as natural in off-man coverage, has a tendency to get upright in drop, not as smooth with his footwork and likes to hop in his backpedal and when closing on the football. Is a target for double moves.
Is very aggressive and has a nose for the football, but isn't real clean when asked to click and close, gets caught with his feet parallel to one another and will allow receivers to get behind him.
Displays natural ball skills and has a solid feel in zone coverage. Would like to see him do a better job plucking the football as too many throws get into his frame, but exhibits the ability to jump under a route in zone and finish on the play. Is a willing tackler, will stick his head in and has some pop on contact.
Closes well off his frame, but again, plays out of control too often. Will take some bad angles in space and isn't as consistent as his physical talents say he should be.
Impression: He's strong/feisty, can press off the line and turn and run. Needs to clean up some technical flaws both in press and off the line, which hinders his balance. But can be a guy who could start both on the outside and in the slot at the next level."
Lacks ideal height and length but has good bulk and is physical and aggressive for his size — jams and mirrors the release of the receiver, displaying balance and efficiency of movement to shadow in coverage and transition with little wasted movement.
Has good eyes and instincts and shows route recognition and burst to close on throws, particularly underneath.
Tends to clutch and grab downfield and is a fairly passive tackler who could be harder on the edge.
Always will have limitations but has starter-caliber traits combined with desirable makeup and work ethic to become a solid No. 2."
Dennard has been a starter since midway through the 2009 season but really came on as a junior. He finished last season with four interceptions and seven pass breakups while starting 13 games. Dennard is an all-around cornerback who plays the run well, when asked. Dennard strongly considered going pro following his junior season, but his mother urged him to return to school. That will allow Dennard to get his sociology degree.
His game compares favorably to Leon Hall of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Games Viewed: Washington (2010, twice), Texas ('10), Missouri ('10), Texas A&M ('10), Oklahoma ('10)
Bold Statement: Dennard may not be a top 15 pick in the NFL Draft, but he'll be a good pro for a long time.
• Gives too big of a cushion at times and will be beaten when wide receivers work back to the inside. The Oklahoma game exposed this flaw the most, though it is partially a scheme issue.
• Is at his best when he can be physical with a wide receiver to break up a play.
• Uses good hand placement to make a play on the ball but not get hit with pass interference calls.
• Plays with a lot of sudden movement and looks to have good quickness to break on the ball.
• At a listed 5'10, Dennard may have slightly short arms, but he knows how to use them jamming at the line.
• As a high school wide receiver, Dennard has natural hands which he gets to use when he's playing in front of the receiver. Finished 2010 with seven pass breakups and four interceptions.
• On run plays, Dennard can struggle getting off blocks, which is surprising considering his bulk.
• Injuries of note include shoulder injury as a sophomore and a concussion as a junior."
Not overly, but a thick, well-built corner who is very physical in press coverage; technique is not always the smoothest and will over-extend and lose his balance at times, but can turn and run, tracks the ball well, and has good ball skills;
Also is very quick with good balance and body control, can change direction on the fly and is a good leaper; still pro scouts probably would like to see a little more production; had only 30 tackles last fall and while he had 4 picks had only three other pass break-ups;
Also not as consistent playing in reverse as he isn’t that smooth coming out of the break, but does close quickly; has some durability issues as he had problems early in his career with a shoulder injury and was knocked out for a game last year with a concussion."
Does a good job blanketing and staying with receivers when they come into his zone and breaks well on the ball... Does not allow much separation on short and intermediate routes, man and zone coverage skills are both slightly above average... Pretty good at staying with receivers at the break...
Has good recovery speed when he gets beat on deeper routes, makes up for mistakes... Has some pop in his pads, shows good toughness, can make the big hit and will fit in well on a team lacking physicality in the secondary...
Is a solid athlete, flashes the ability to make big plays and has all the physical tools to be a good performer at the next level... Was a bit overrated in 2010 but got better at the end of that season and impressed me the more as I watched him as a senior.
Negatives -- Has slightly below-average height for the position... Questionable ball skills, only four picks in his collegiate career... Looks a little awkward in the backpedal, slow out of his transitions, struggles to turn and run... Needs to get better at locating the ball in the air, is sometimes slow to get head around when covering deep routes...
Will get blocked away from the ball carrier with relative ease, does not utilize good leverage at times, gets stuck watching the ball carrier instead of focusing on disengaging to make a play... Needs to get better in run support, is much better in pass coverage than playing the run...
Tackling technique needs to improve, does not form up well on bigger ball carriers... Aggressive corner but a bit undisciplined, tends to gamble a lot and can give up some big plays to his side, will bite on double moves in man coverage...
Has the build of a free safety and there are some rumblings he may have to move to safety, struggled in Senior Bowl practices in a scheme not best fit to his abilities...
Has some durability concerns, including a minor shoulder injury in 2009 and a concussion in 2010, also missed three games with a pulled muscle in his leg in 2011... Threw a punch at Alshon Jeffery and was ejected in Nebraska's bowl game vs. South Carolina."
Dennard runs really well in man to man coverage and is able to stay on the hip of receivers. In press coverage, he really gets after opponents and can move receivers off their line.
When the ball is in the air, he needs to improve his reaction. Sometimes, he flails for the ball rather than taking the extra split-second to locate the ball and therefore make a more effective swipe at it. He doesn't display particularly good hands to secure the pick, nor the ability to leap and catch the ball.
His biggest asset may be his competitiveness and focus within the game. His instincts and read/reaction to the receiver are good, but can be beat by quality route runners. Dennard will need to improve footwork to make cleaner breaks on the ball and make cleaner transitions with his hips."