Alfonzo Dennard

Draft Grades: New England Patriots

The New England Patriots are always a tough team to predict in the draft, and Bill Belichick proved why once again. Belichick builds his own draft board and sticks to it, regardless of how it matches up with the consensus opinion.

I was somewhat surprised by the trade up for Chander Jones, but I like the pick. He’s a perfect fit at end/linebacker in the Patriots hybrid defense. And while he’s still developing, Jones has the potential to be a true three-down lineman.

The selection of Dont’a Hightower felt like a slight reach in my opinion, and it’s tough to figure out how he’ll fit in the Patriots defense. That said, Belichick stacks his draft board with players whom he sees a specific role for in his defense, so I have no doubt that they have a plan for him.

While I’m willing to give Belichick the benefit of the doubt with Hightower, I can’t be so generous with the selection of Tavon Wilson. He’ll provide some much needed depth in the secondary but it’s tough to imagine him ever developing into a starter. Belichick does not have a strong track record drafting defensive backs, and this is just the latest slip up.

Jake Bequette was a great 3rd-round pick. He’ll have a chance to compete for a starting job, and should be used as part of the rotation at defensive end. He’s not an explosive pass rusher, but should be an asset on running downs.

Nate Ebner was the biggest 6th-round reach I’ve ever seen. He’s a former rugby player who was exclusively a special teams contributor at Ohio State. His measurables are impressive, but it’s tough to justify spending a 6th-round pick and a roster spot on a guy with so much development needed.

Alfonzo Dennard was overrated and his recent arrest led to his fall, but he was well worth the risk in the 7th round. However, it’s difficult to understand why the Patriots waited until the 7th round to address their need for a cornerback. Depth at the position was serious issue last year and relying on Dennard to fix the problem is a risk.

Jeremy Ebert will be Belichick’s latest project at receiver. He was productive at Northwestern and has the skill set necessary to contribute in the Welker/Edleman role. However, it’s getting crowded at the receiver position in New England and he’ll have a tough time making the final roster cuts.

Overall, this was just a so-so draft for the Patriots. They made some significant upgrades to their defensive front-seven, but the secondary was essentially ignored. It’s tough to imagine Wilson, Ebner or Dennard providing any meaningful contributions this season, which could mean their passing defense struggles from last season will carry over to 2012.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Patriots Comments Off

NFL Draft Risers and Fallers through Senior Bowl

It’s still very early in the draft process, but the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl are the first test for the top prospects. With those two all-star games behind us, we can begin to evaluate whose stock is on the rise, and whose stock is starting to fall, before we head to the Combine in late Februrary.

Josh Norman – CB – Coastal Carolina
Norman concluded the season as a relative unknown, having not been tested against top competition, and was expected to be a late-round prospect. However, he shined at the Shrine Game and impressed scouts so much that he earned a late invite to the Senior Bowl. He now looks like a top-100 lock, and could climb as high as the 2nd round.

Alfonzo Dennard – CB – Nebraska
For those that watched Dennard closely this season, his stock probably didn’t change much. But the Senior Bowl served notice to everyone that he just doesn’t have the athleticism or the technique to be considered an elite prospect. There has even been some talk of him moving to free safety in the pros. He rode the momentum of his junior year – when he played opposite Prince Amukamara – as long as he could, but we’ve now seen the real Dennard.

Bobby Wagner – OLB – Utah State
Wagner was already a solid 3rd or 4th-round prospect heading into the Senior Bowl, but may have risen into the early 2nd round with his performance. Aside from his relatively short stature, he’s the complete package. Wagner also benefits from this being a relatively weak class of linebackers. Scouts were impressed with his athleticism, and also with his play on special teams.

Dwight Jones – WR – North Carolina
The knock on Jones, which has become a theme for the Butch Davis-era Tar Heel prospects, is that he lacks effort and concentration. He drops too many balls, and isn’t always a crisp route runner. These issues are magnified due to his relative lack of speed.

Vinny Curry – DE/LB – Marshall
The all-star games are always most important for the small-school prospects, and Curry took advantage of his opportunity to play with the big boys. His best moment came in the one-on-one drills when he had little issue beating Mike Adams off the edge with his speed rush. He definitely displayed the athleticism necessary to play standing up in a 3-4 defense.

Kellen Moore – QB – Boise State
Moore was hoping to establish himself as the next Colt McCoy this offseason, as an undersized but accurate signal caller. Unfortunately, Moore simply doesn’t have an NFL arm. There were even reports of CFL scouts saying they weren’t interested in Moore because they need quarterbacks who can whip the ball through the windy conditions they sometimes face.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft 2 Comments

All-Overrated “Team”

Here is my pre-Senior Bowl all-overrated “team.” It’s not exactly a full team because certain positions don’t have a truly overrated prospect… yet. Depending on the media’s reaction to the Senior Bowl and/or Combine, players could drop off the list, or earn their way onto the roster in the coming months.

QB Ryan Tannehill Texas A&M
Every year a quarterback or two see their stock inflated due to team needs. Tannehill is this year’s victim.
RB LaMichael James Oregon
James is an impressive athlete with speed to burn, but he isn’t an every-down back.
RB Chris Rainey Florida
Much like James, Rainey is heralded for his speed, but he will be limited to special teams duty in the NFL.
WR Alshon Jeffery South Carolina
There’s no denying Jeffery’s raw ability, but his inconsistency raises a big red flag.
WR Nick Toon Wisconsin
Toon was a productive college receiver who benefitted from Russell Wilson’s prescence in 2011. He’s a 3rd or 4th option in the NFL at best.
TE Coby Fleener Stanford
Fleener is my top rated tight end, but that’s exactly why he’s being overrated. He’s just the best of a mediocre class.
OT Jonathan Martin Stanford
Martin will be a fine pro, but not at left tackle. Anyone who falls for the hype will be moving him to the right side, or to guard, within three years.
OT Mike Adams Ohio State
Adams certainly looks the part, but he’s terribly soft and not especially quickon his feet.
DE Quinton Coples North Carolina
You can put together a highlight real that makes Coples look like a top-five pick… but you can’t find a single game where he shows it from start to finish.
DE Jack Crawford Penn State
Crawford never lived up to expectations at Penn State despite his impressive athleticism.
DT Alameda Ta’amu Washington
Ta’amu has the size to play nose tackle, which boosts his stock significantly, but he may not have the stamina to be a three-down lineman.
LB Zach Brown North Carolina
Brown is an athlete, but he’s undersized and will get pushed around by NFL linemen.
LB Bruce Irvin West Virginia
Irvin flashes elite athleticism at times, but he had to fight for playing time throughout his career due to inconsistent performances.
LB Vontaze Burfict Arizona State
Top-10 talent, undraftable character. Not worth the trouble.
CB Janoris Jenkins North Alabama
See above.
CB Alfonzo Dennard Nebraska
I have a hard time understanding where the 1st-round love for Dennard comes from. He’s a physical corner and his injury prone – a bad combo.
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft Comments Off

Alfonzo Dennard scouting report

Alfonzo Dennard CB Nebraska #15
Ht: 5’10″Wt: 205
Strengths:
Strong for his size; good overall build. Does a nice job turning and getting into position to make plays on the ball. Above-average straight-line speed; has the speed to make up for mistakes. Willing to mix it up at the line of scrimmage with bigger receivers. Plays a surprisingly physical brand of football for a cornerback of his size.
Weaknesses:
Undersized; lacks the height most teams like in their top corners. Struggles to match up with receivers in press coverage; takes too many false steps and easily gets beat – often makes up for mistakes with speed, but that won’t always be possible at the next level. More fast than quick. Not a very enthusiastic tackler; tackles with his arms and tends to shy away from head-on collisions. Ball skills are lacking; does a nice job making plays on the ball but rarely comes down with the interception. Serious injury concerns. Missed time with a shoulder injury in 2009. Missed time with a concussion in 2010. Missed three games with pulled leg muscle in 2011.
Comments:
Dennard was a productive college cornerback, but failed to take his game to a new level as a senior. He has the skills to play at the next level and potentially compete for a starting job down the road, but he lacks the skills necessary to make an immediate impact.
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Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 Comments Off