NFL Draft 2014: Bengals add Darqueze Dennard to strong secondary

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation 2014 NFL Draft

The Bengals already have one of the best defenses in the NFL. On Thursday, they just got a little bit better, adding cornerback Darqueze Dennard with their first-round pick. Dennard has been a favorite of mine, and the Bengals can now pair him opposite Leon Hall.

Two common terms you hear scouts mutter over and over are "closing burst" and "click-and-close." They're largely synonymous, but both relate to a cornerback's ability to transition from a backpedal or grape-vine style strafe to a forward movement. This is what Dennard has in spades.

Watch Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard below:

Video via the excellent resource, DraftBreakdown.com.

Notice Dennard's backpedal, how he keeps his eyes in the backfield, and as soon -- and I mean, the instant -- he sees where the play is going, he transitions from that backpedal into a full-on run forward, closing with explosiveness on the ball carrier. He makes a strong tackle to finish the play.

Dennard also displays fluid athleticism. While it's just one example, watch as he transitions from a standstill to a backpedal to a dead run in the matter of three or four footsteps. This is fluid athleticism.

Video via DraftBreakdown.com.

Below, he anticipates an outside release, then reacts to a post-route up the middle of the field. He almost floats as he nearly opens the gate outside, but then flips back inside with outside leverage. A stiff-hipped player would have gotten his feet tripped up making this transition, likely, but Dennard quickly moves from a backpedal to downfield run with ease.

Video via DraftBreakdown.com.

Let's go back to the first example for one second.

Watch Dennard's helmet as he reacts to the receiver turn his head back toward the quarterback.

He locates the ball well, and tracks the ball in the air. A cornerback's ability to recognize route depth and route strategy is key. Above, you can see Dennard run with the receiver down the sideline, and as soon as the pass catcher turns his head to find the ball, Dennard follows suit with perfect fundamentals to find the ball. The pass is way off the mark, but Dennard had set himself up perfectly to intercept the pass had it been accurate.

That's the upside. The downside is that he's less versed in zone coverage, so there's some projection to do there. Overall, though, it's a pick that I like for the Bengals and the rich just got richer.

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