In the following days I will preview potential options for the Jets at #18. However, I’m not going to bother with the "obvious" options, like Watkins, Evans, Lee, Ebron, Amaro. Those guys have been rehashed over and over, and we already have them on the radar. As such, I will NOT be looking at WR or TE, because I consider all of them to be "obvious". We all know we need offensive weapons, to the point where it seems like a lot of Jets fans would burn down Radio City if the Jets don’t take a WR or a TE in the first round. Two things though: 1. We don’t know how the Jets will stack their board, and if the Jets don’t value a prospect highly, they should NOT take him even at a need position and 2. This is a DEEP WR and TE class, and the Jets can find quality talent later if they are so inclined. The WR class has been talked about and the TE class, already pretty deep with talent, got bolstered significantly with the early entry of Troy Niklas and Richard Rodgers, both of whom would likely be on the first round radar in the 2015 draft. It should NOT be viewed as a failure if the Jets go with another position in the first round, because we know the Jets are doing it because they see the prospect they chose as TRULY the best player on their board and the guy that is right for their squad. Judge the player, not the position he plays.
Intro aside, I will dive in. My first entry is Darqueze Dennard, the Thorpe Award winner from Michigan State. I’m going to be completely honest here: I absolutely LOVE Dennard. The more I watch, the more I love. The best cornerbacks I can remember having watched in college were Champ Bailey, Terence Newman, Antrel Rolle, and Patrick Peterson. Dennard might be the best out of all of them in my opinion, based solely on the film. He shut down every WR he went up against. He went up against Stanford’s big play receiver Ty Montgomery and made him a non-factor. According to the NFL Draft Report, who have been evaluating prospects statistically since 1968, Darqueze Dennard’s coverage metrics in 2013 aren’t just the best in the Big Ten this year or the best of any corner in the draft... they are arguably the best OF ALL TIME. They have him marked down for (amazing stats to follow, does not include the Rose Bowl game where I had him marked down for one catch for 13 yards):
17 catches allowed (15.32% completion)
91 yards allowed
5.35 yards per completion (best of the BCS era according to this source)
0.819 yards per target (this was the best of any prospect they have ever scouted)
Less than a yard per target. And having watched pretty much all 8 games on the nfl draft breakdown website, they seem to be accurate numbers for those games. Only 2 others they have scouted have ever allowed under 1 yard/target; Jim Marsalis in 1968, and Deion Sanders in 1988.
So why isn’t this guy hands down a top 5 pick? Well, putting aside the fact that I think he should be, there are some questions about his athleticism. A 2 star prospect coming out of high school, he doesn’t look to have the 4.3 speed that you want out of a top CB prospect. He also doesn’t have the 6-3, 210 pound frame to match up to the big WRs. He’s roughly Revis’s size at 5-11, 200 pounds.
That said, I think he’s a guy who should excel in the NFL. He reminds me a lot of #24. He doesn’t have Revis’s hips or quick-twitch movement, but he’s reminiscent of Revis in his physicality, his intelligence, his competitiveness, his aggressiveness, and his ability to mirror receivers. He also looks to be adept in zone coverage as well, but he made his name playing close man coverage. Despite the questions of his athleticism, he was rarely beaten down the field though he was often tested. And he’s a willing participant in supporting the run. There are some I’ve seen in Spartan-land who think he may test better than believed. To me, if Dennard is in the 4.5 range, that’s plenty good and could put him in the steal territory.
Before the year, it was said that 2013 could be Antonio Cromartie’s last year in a Jet uniform. His play this year may have all but confirmed it. He was bad, looked injured, slow, and the opposite of a guy who looked like a shut down corner in 2012. Dee Milliner, last year’s first round pick, could be the answer on one side, but if (or likely when) Cromartie is released, it leaves a big hole on the other side of a defense that depends on its corners playing good man coverage. The Jets have Kyle Wilson on the roster, but it has become increasingly clear that the Jets see him as a nickel back only, as they never gave him a shot to start over Milliner, and when Milliner was benched 3 times this year it was Ellis Lankster and Darrin Walls who replaced Milliner, not Wilson. Even so, there is value in having 3 capable cornerbacks, especially with Rex’s D, and I don’t think Lankster or Walls are any type of answer. So is there a place for Dennard on this team? Absolutely. Also, you can never rule out Rex’s team taking a cornerback, especially if it’s one of value. Dennard may be that.