As most of the nation was watching how far Johnny Manziel would fall in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals had their sights glued on Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard.
And when Dennard, who was projected to be gone long before Cincinnati picked at 24, was there, the Bengals jumped at him.
“It was a no-brainer for us,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “I thought he’d be long gone to be quite honest with you. That was stressful stuff.”
The 5-foot-11, 196-pound Dennard becomes the fifth first-round cornerback on the Bengals roster, joining Terence Newman, Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and the man Cincinnati coaches compared him to, Leon Hall.
“(Defensive backs coach Vance Joseph) and I went to the workout together, and when we left we both said, ‘That’s Leon Hall,’ ” Guenther said.
“That’s a pretty good comparison,” Joseph added. “He’s smart. He’s physical. He’s competitive. He does things right. In this league as a corner, if you’re a technique-sound corner, and you play smart, you can play a long time.”
While the Bengals were thrilled to see Dennard fall that far, Dennard called the wait stressful.
“My family and friends were getting kind of anxious,” he said. “Before the call some of the guys got up and started dancing to lighten the mood. When I got the call, the room erupted.”
Asked what he will bring to the team, Dennard said, “A shut-down corner. I can press. I can blitz. I can play inside, outside. I’m very smart. Great ball skills. As far as weaknesses, I don’t think I have any weaknesses to be honest. My overall game is a complete player.”
Added Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, “We’re so excited to be able to sit here and pick Darqueze Dennard with our pick at 24. We went into the draft feeling like we could get some new life and improve our football team in a couple of areas, and in the secondary was one option. And we were able to hit that on the head with this pick. We really feel good about him.”