Nov. 22, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) is tackled by New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (37) during the second half on Thanksgiving at Metlife Stadium. Patriots won 49-19. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick's 2012 Draft Steal: Alfonzo Dennard

With the 224th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the New England Patriots are presented second round talent for seventh round fees. Bill Belichick decided to give Alfonzo Dennard a chance. The Nebraska cornerback had a successful rookie campaign for the Patriots. He started off with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for four weeks. After that, Dennard made big strides for the Pats secondary, who were desperately searching for solutions at cornerback. He has great closing speed, can be physical at the line, and has a knack for getting a hand on the ball. He had two interceptions in his first two starts, and picked off one more pass a few weeks later. He also forced a fumble against the New York Jets.

In the last three seasons, the Patriots have seen many changes at defensive back. Three years ago, New England had Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung at safety, with Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington starting on the outside at CB. As of today, the Pats will likely be starting Adrian Wilson and McCourty at Safety, with Aqib Talib and Dennard playing corner. Meriweather and Chung are long gone. Arrington, who struggled mightily on the outside, is a new-found commodity covering the slot. Dennard and Talib both have good coverage skills and a strong chemistry on the field. For the first time in years, the Patriots secondary looks poised for a strong season.

Dennard was rated highly in the draft by scouts and NFL teams; however, he had some issues keeping him from being taken early in the draft. A fight on the field, an overall weak display at the Senior Bowl, and punching a police officer put up red flags for NFL executives. His arrest came just before the draft, which didn’t give merit to his decision making. His arrest also presented a huge unknown: Would he miss time in the season? When Dennard fell to the seventh round, the potential reward far outweighed the risk of drafting a talented player with character concerns. If things didn’t work out with Dennard, releasing him would do no harm.

The criminal charges against Alfonzo Dennard resolved with 30 days in jail and two years probation. The jail time will be served in March following the upcoming season, and he won’t miss any offseason preparations. Knowing the sentencing should help Dennard focus on football and make progress in his second season. As long as Dennard can stay clean and avoid violating his probation, his main concerns will not affect his football career. I hope that all of the insanity surrounding Aaron Hernandez puts everything in perspective for Dennard. The two situations are nothing alike, but he needs to hold himself to high standards and make smart decisions. Dennard has the chance to be a long-term starter in the NFL.

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Tags: Alfonzo Dennard Bill Belichick Cornerback New England Patriots NFL Offseason

  • Joe Willie

    The pats should change their uniform colors to black and white to prison strips .

    • AndrewGibbs

      Don’t forget that the jets have had their share of player arrests the last few years.

  • Hal Bent

    Great article, Andrew! Fonzie is a huge part of the team’s plans moving forward and is such great value. Expect he will be on his best behavior after the Aaron Hernandez release no doubt drove home that one mistake can lead to the end of a career. Just letting McCourty be able to move to safety last season and provide that stable centerfielder that was desperately needed and nearly got them to the Super Bowl.

    • AndrewGibbs

      Yeah I imagine that Hernandez madness would help the rest of the team remember how good they have it and how easily it can be taken away. I’m really excited for our secondary this season, first time I have said that in a while! McCourty is primed for a huge year now that Adrian Wilson has signed. Dennard has everything he needs around him, the season is his for the taking.

      • Hal Bent

        It’s nice to see the secondary return 3 starters and bring in an upgrade (Wilson) for the glaring weakness (Gregory). My thinking is that the offense will be fine despite the turnover on offense (seriously, was one blown lead by the defense against Indy in AFC Championship away from the Super Bowl in 06 with an aging Troy Brown, Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney and Doug Gabriel at WR) defense will be such a huge improvement with some pass rush and continuity that by mid-season ESPN will be back to the “never count out Bill Belichick” articles…