Denard as an NFL prospect

Submitted by cypress on January 4th, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Denard is probably one of the most unique NFL prospects to come along in a while. Breathtaking speed, ridiculous feet...but if you are an NFL franchise, how high do you value him, and where do you see his future? It will be interesting to see his career as it unfolds, right now it appears to be an open book at the next level.

If you type his name and NFL draft into google, you will see him listed as a prospect for WR, RB and CB. To me, he doesnt really look like a WR, although he carried the ball and took a pounding in college, he doesnt seem like an NFL RB either. My opinion is that someone will spend a 3rd round pick on him as a KR/PR specialist, with the idea that he could potentially be used on offense in different capacities as well. Really looking forward to following his career and seeing what he can do.



January 4th, 2013 at 3:18 PM ^

I would think wr but my question is: can he catch? I would assume no. I dont remember him catching a ball more than 5 yds out and it seemed like he struggled pulling in the ball quickly when catching the ball in the backfield. The guy is great at what he is great at but my fear is that this just won't be good enough for the pros. Hope I am wrong.


January 4th, 2013 at 3:25 PM ^

The biggest impediment for him is that he's not a very good route runner.  Whenever Michigan tried to throw to him downfield throughout his career, he was allowing the defensive back to stay with him and jostle him.  He's got the speed and change-of-direction ability to get separation, but he doesn't know how.

Pretty much every quarterback I've ever been around has great hands.  They usually play quarterback because they're the best overall athlete on the team, and they catch the ball so much during warmups, in shotgun snaps, when balls are thrown back to them during practices, etc., that I really don't think catching the ball would be a problem for most quarterbacks.


January 4th, 2013 at 6:12 PM ^

The instincts to grab balls in the air (e.g., Hemingway, Gallon) don't just happen overnight.  Neither does the precision and timing that goes with route running.  It's not about drops when you're wide open, it's about battling with CBs, positioning your body, pushing off, and using your hands on defenders to put yourself in position to catch the ball.

We saw with Gardner how rough it can be for a guy who never played WR to try it.  I would think Denard would have the same issues, so his role as a WR would be limited for years, if a team used him that way.

Meanwhile, as a runner, his skills are already well developed and proven.  He has good instincts for finding wholes and the transition would be pretty smooth.

Lucky Socks

January 4th, 2013 at 3:33 PM ^

I think the "Denard can't take the hits" argument is overrated.  He's carried the ball 20x a game for the last three years, plus hits he endures when throwing.  Oh he's left games with injuries? Name one bellcow running back that doesn't get dinged up.  PLUS many of his injuries have been related to his need to throw the ball (see: ulnar nerve, shoulder).  

I think he has plenty of potential as a running back because that's essentially what he's played for his whole life.  Will he carry it 30x a game as a pro?  Nope.  But if Jahvid Best can be a first round pick... Furthremore, the NFL is trending towards multiple ball carriers instead of an "Adrian Peterson-type" on each team.   I think he has tremendous potential as a specialized running back.  He'll need to continue to add strength, learn to pass block, and catch out of the backfield.  He will also need to learn the nuances of the position but that's his future IMO.  He's a weapon.

My prediction:  3rd round draft pick to be a "Home-Run Running Back" (5-15 carriers a game) who you can hopefully line up in the slot from time to time.  KR/PR as well.  


January 4th, 2013 at 3:30 PM ^

Probably 4th - 6th round. I think NFL teams would be concerned with the pounding he's taken the last four years. However, he could be a steal if he develops as a RB, adds a few pounds, look out.


January 4th, 2013 at 4:18 PM ^

he hasnt taken a pounding, hasnt had those 300+ carries in a season. He has had a lot of carries I guess and been injuried but he isnt like some of those workhorse running like Bell for state that rack up 30+ carries a game. according to this site: denard has 154 carries on the season, i know he had more the last two years but monte ball has 300 some and has been getting that many carries for the last 4 years


January 4th, 2013 at 3:42 PM ^

Denard looks like a KR/PR-type, maybe a situational back who can run a little of the spread option you see percolating up with guys like RGIII and Wilson.  Still, he's not as good an overall QB as either of those guys, and unlike a Hines Ward he isn't that physical, so he'd either have to really improve as a blocker or only be used in limited circumstances.

I think he is very talented and a great college player, but he feels a bit like Eric Crouch from Nebraska years ago, but with better physical tools.  I don't think he'll wind up as a corner, though, since he hasn't played the position for at least 4 years, amd I'm not sure if a team would spend the time and effort needed to teach him proper technique and play recognition at the next level.  At least on the offensive side, he's used to the flow and knows what to do with the ball.


January 4th, 2013 at 3:47 PM ^

I'm glad he's entering the league at a time when OCs are starting to be a little creative.  He needs to go to the right team (and NFL teams often seem remarkably bad at knowing what players will fit into their systems), but on the right team he could be a real difference-maker. I don't think he would have found a home in the league 10 or 20 years ago, but I think he can now.  I'd love to see him go to Washington and scare the bejesus about of people with RGIII...I don't think he'll be a guy who you hand the ball to 20 times per game or throw to 10-15 times per game, but I think he could get about 10 touches per game from a variety of places on the field, including wildcat QB.

Buck Killer

January 4th, 2013 at 4:07 PM ^

That is where I would look to draft him. I would want his attitude even more than his skills. If he was bigger and injury free I would say 2nd round.


January 4th, 2013 at 4:12 PM ^

New England in the 3rd round . . . Brady and Company will make it work!  What a team!  Belichek is a genius and will not let Denard get away from him, if he feels he has to make some moves cause someone else is going to pull the trigger he is deal for Denard!  Bank it!



January 4th, 2013 at 4:12 PM ^

New England in the 3rd round . . . Brady and Company will make it work!  What a team!  Belichek is a genius and will not let Denard get away from him, if he feels he has to make some moves cause someone else is going to pull the trigger he is deal for Denard!  Bank it!


Chuck Woodson

January 4th, 2013 at 4:43 PM ^


Long lurker - new poster.

i think this topic is really intriguing.  I used to think that he was a returner/slot type guy at NFL level but my thinking has changed over recent weeks. I lean toward a RB who gets 8-15 carries a game.  And then I think about his size vs C. Johnson, who gets far more carries.  And then, I think he's more a Darren Sproles type with lots of swing passes, third down back. And then I go back to thinking he could just play anywhere cuz he's like magic.  No more and thens...

Perkis-Size Me

January 4th, 2013 at 4:51 PM ^

Denard has too many elite attributes to not get drafted. Some team will see good value in him, and will be willing to take a chance on him. While I think his likely scenario is a late-round pick, some team with a crafty OC could potentially want to take him in a middle round. If Chip Kelly goes to the NFL, Denard should be on his radar. Not as a QB, but as that X-Factor to your offense, much like Percy Harvin. I could also see a team like the Panthers or the Redskins, with their style of offense, wanting to draft a guy like Denard. I can't imagine how dangerous Washington's offense would be with RGIII, Morris and Denard all on the field at the same time. Too many weapons for a defense to account for.

Blue Mike

January 4th, 2013 at 5:00 PM ^

I see Denard as a RB-type in the pros.  He's great at getting tough yeards, has an amazing ability to slip between guys between the tackles, and has homerun ability on every play.  I think he could be a CJ or Jahvid Best kind of player, only without all of the concussions and attitude.

I think it was during the Ohio game when the announcers were talking about how many qualities he has that NFL scouts are looking for in a running back.  Just the fact that he could get 7 yards a carry this year, and 4.8 against South Carolina, behind this offensive line should show that he can be a productive running back in the NFL.

That said, he's probably a 3rd or 4th round pick because of the uncertainty.


January 4th, 2013 at 6:26 PM ^

RB makes the best use of his strongest game-proven skills.  And Denard is strong as well as fast - he can break tackles or stick his nose into a pile to pick up a first down.

Who will draft him?

Probably a good (or possibly even elite) team that can afford to take something of a gamble on a position-switcher with a tantalizing skill set.  Perhaps a playoff team who ranks poorly in rush offense, like Denver (16th), Indy (22nd), or Atlanta (29th). 

New England would be a great fit.  Although they currently rank 7th in rushing, Denard's speed would be an intriguing contrast/complement to Stevan Ridley's bruisingness.  They could also try him in the slot. Wouldn't be surprised if Belechick took him early to get him off the board, maybe as high as the 2nd round...


January 4th, 2013 at 11:52 PM ^

He would be a great RB on a team with a mature offense. New England is an intriguing possibility - Danny Woodhead who set all sorts of D2 records is an example - only DR is a much better runner. He is strong enough and powerful enough to run 10-12 x per game if needed, but really his real strength is popping him free on quick passes which can become lots of yards after catch. The other teams you mentioned may not be as good a fit. Denver needs to win now or tomorrow - can't plan on Peyton Manning beyond a few years, so if they need a runner, they'll need a RB more like Alfred Morris - who can really pound it between the tackles.

We just have to hope he gets drafted by a team that has an interest in getting him on the field. The NFL is such a copy cat and conservative league, it is hard to be the first one to break ranks.

He'll get drafted, but he'll have to be the trailblazer - his breakaway speed and elusiveness are clear, but how to best use his talents has so far not been clear - look at Pat White and how he ended up. If he becomes a star, it will make it easier for future players of the same style.

An earlier poster also asked if anyone has ever swapped from offense to defense and been any good. The only name I could recall was Nolan Cromwell who was a running QB out of Kansas who later had a good career as a  DB for the old LA Rams.


January 4th, 2013 at 6:53 PM ^

I don't know where he'll go or what he'll play but whatever it is I think I might just watch a pro football game again (thats isnt the superbowl) for the first time since the mid 90's.  Would it be too OT for the blog to post his plays every week?


January 4th, 2013 at 9:17 PM ^

as a kick returner.  extraordinary athlete with nowhere near the skills or training to play DB in the pros, not a good enough QB to play in a pro system, and if you think he's really 6'0 and 197 lbs and ready to play RB, then maybe your t.v. needs adjusting.  love the guy and will miss him next year, but he is the odd man out despite his exceptional skills. 


January 5th, 2013 at 12:04 AM ^

I personally don't see him holding up to well.  He only (intelligently) reduced his injuries by running out of bounds when within five yards of a defender after his freshman year.  That luxury doesn't exist in the NFL.


Whether he is selling cars or selling insurance in a few years, as long as he is honest and works hard, he'll always be a Michigan Man for the remainder of his days....