As we head into the offseason of what was a disappointing 2013-2014 season for the New York Giants, there is some work to do. The Giants will be looking to fill several holes in this May's NFL Draft and one of those holes is at cornerback, where they are in need of another top flight cornerback.
Terrell Thomas, Truman McBride and Jayron Hosley provide solid depth, but with Corey Webster likely moving on, the Giants will be for a cornerback to play opposite Prince Amukamara. There should be a few cornerback options available at the No. 12 pick, and here will be compare the top two options: Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State and Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State.
Gilbert and Dennard come from two drastically different schemes but both excel in man coverage. At Michigan State, cornerbacks were left one on one with wide receivers on the outside with no safety help at all over the top. Given how he had to play in college, Dennard is probably the more likely of the two to develop into a true shutdown corner. Gilbert has experience playing in both man and zone coverage, and faced better receivers this year than Dennard did. Gilbert played on outstanding game in the Cotton Bowl, where Missouri's three top wide receivers all measured over 6'5". Gilbert did a great job on Dorial Green-Beckham, one of the elite wide receivers in college this year, while spending most of the night on an island. Where Gilbert has an advantage over Dennard is that Dennard does not have the elite speed that Gilbert has, so Dennard will have trouble recovering if he does get beat by a faster receiver. Overall, Dennard's skills are more polished, and has a slight advantage in this area.
Both players are also excellent in run support, and Dennard did a great job against Stanford in the Rose Bowl. He seemed to be in the middle of every running play, which was a good sign for NFL scouts. Gilbert's bigger frame will probably help him adjust better to NFL running games, until at least Dennard puts on some more weight. Both players shed their blocks well and know how to wrap up and finish a tackle. Dennard and Gilbert seem to be pretty equal in run support.
Dennard had limited opportunities to make interceptions, as quarterbacks did their best to avoid him in his great career at Michigan State. Dennard has an exceptional feel for knowing when to turn and make a play on the ball. However, he doesn't have the elite athleticism to make the tough interceptions or the strength at the moment to win most one on one balls at the NFL level. Much like Dennard, Gilbert also has a great feel for turning and making a play on the ball. Where Gilbert has the edge on Dennard is that his elite athleticism and strength for a corner will help him in one on one jump ball situations. His hands wouldn't be considered elite, but his top end speed will help turn his interceptions into big plays and possible scores.
Both players posses great instincts, but Dennard has a clear edge in this area. Gilbert is great at anticipating plays, however he gambles a lot and that can get taken advantage of on double moves at the next level. Dennard rarely finds himself out of position and doesn't fall victim to the double move.
Dennard had issues with injuries at Michigan State (shoulder in 2012, concussion and ankle in 2011, knee surgery in 2010), which is always a concern. Gilbert stayed healthy his whole career, never missing a game. Gilbert's height and weight is ideal for the NFL (6', 200 pounds) and has longer than average arms for the position. His elite speed gives him the edge here, as he will end up clocking in the high 4.4 to low 4.5 range.
The New York Giants really can't go wrong picking either guy. Gilbert probably fits Fewell's system better, as Dennard has played little to no zone coverage in his career. There is a chance Dennard could end up like Revis did in Tampa Bay, but if the Deoin Sanders comparison is correct it would be worth Fewell adjusting the system. Gilbert's playmaking ability in the a secondary with Antrell Rolle and Will Hill could make the secondary extremely dangerous. At the moment, there really is no right or wrong choice between the two, so we will see how they perform at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine.
The Pick: Inconclusive
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