The Patriots managed to steal another low risk player when they took Nebraska DB Alfonzo Dennard in the 7th round. Dennard's stock plummeted due to altercations with the law (assaulting a cop), but Bill Belichick said he felt comfortable enough with the situation to take Dennard late in the draft. Dennard also has a history of injuries that has forced him to miss time each season (shoulder in 2009, concussion in 2010, leg in 2011, hip-flexor in 2012 during Senior Bowl).
Dennard participated in 36 games, with starts in his last three seasons. He totaled 4 interceptions and 21 passes defended in his career. He was Nebraska's Defensive MVP in 2011 and was named First Team All-Conference in 2010 and 2011. He stands at 5'10, 205 lbs and ran a 4.55 40 at the combine, but that was after recovering from his hip-flexor injury- his actual numbers are unknown.
There is a school of thought that believes Dennard could and should make the move to free safety due to as he was consistently beaten by receivers in off-coverage. However, others argue that his strength is in press coverage and that he was misplayed by the coaches at the Senior Bowl, which led him to be burned on deep throws. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots play Dennard on defense.2011: Nebraska vs Wisconsin, Ohio State
2011: Nebraska vs Iowa - Keeps Marvin McNutt on lock for a lot of the game.
Elite press coverage corner who can sit in the pocket of the receiver
High points the ball to knock it out of the air
Had success against a wide variety of offenses, playing in both the Big 12 and the Big 10
Plays with a mean streak
Plays bigger than he is
Special teams value as both a returnman and a gunner
Head on a swivel to know when the ball is in the air
Struggles in off-man coverage
Often gives up a big gain when he takes a misstep because of an inability to recover
Looks hesitant in run defense and will often make a half-hazard tackle attempt
Off-the-field question marks
Dennard is talented enough to play outside, but would most likely need safety help over the top. His best place would most likely be in the slot where he can be physical with the receiver. He could also benefit playing free safety as he takes great angles and is smart in coverage.
He is a top 50 talent who has issues that cause him to plummet- similar to Ryan Mallett of last season. If Dennard is able to sort out his off-the-field problems, the Patriots just picked up a very solid press-slot corner with special teams value and potential safety ability.
For a seventh round pick, Dennard is a low risk and high reward selection.