Darqueze Dennard is the only Spartan projected to be drafted in the first round.
The first team you see with a need at cornerback is the Detroit Lions at pick No. 10. I have said many times that I think it will be a mistake for Detroit to pass up on Dennard, but it is a mistake they are likely going to make.
Going down the board, the next team that would be likely to pick up a cornerback is the Pittsburgh Steelers at pick No. 15. I believe they will do so, however, I project them to draft Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State. Gilbert’s size and speed has scouts drooling, and I think it has distracted them from the fact that Dennard is the better overall corner.
The Philadelphia Eagles have secondary needs to be addressed at pick No. 22, but I believe Chip Kelly will try to grab one of the many talented receivers in this class.
The magic number here is pick No. 24, where I believe Dennard will be drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals had the fifth best passing defense last season, giving up only 209 yards per game, but current corners such as Terence Newman are entering the twilight of their careers. This will be a great fit for Dennard, a place where he can learn from experienced players while also competing for the starting job on day one.
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Despite the Spartans’ defensive reputation, the other defensive Spartans in the draft are not getting the recognition they deserve. That being said, I do not expect we will hear another Spartan’s name called until the last day.
I believe the next player to go will be hard-hitting safety Isaiah Lewis. Amongst teams with needs at the safety position are the Minnesota Vikings. They were the second-worst passing defense last season, giving up over 287 yards through the air last season. To help fill that need, I project they will draft Lewis with their fifth-round pick at No. 148 overall. Getting a player with this much experience to go along with great tackling discipline, Lewis is a steal at this pick.
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Max Bullough has the size of an NFL linebacker. Measuring at 6-foot-3 and around 250 pounds, there is no worry there. The worry is his lack of athleticism.
He has to prove that he can cover the pass and is not only a run-stopper. With his size and football I.Q., he might have otherwise been an early-round pick. Add his mysterious suspension from the Rose Bowl on top of his struggle in pass coverage, and he likely will slip to the fifth round.
At pick No. 149, immediately after I have Isaiah Lewis getting drafted, the Tennessee Titans have a need at linebacker. They also have a talented pass defense, so Bullough would be in a good place to learn and adjust. I project the Titans will pull the trigger here and draft Bullough.
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Staying in the fifth round, I believe the next Spartan to be drafted is wide receiver Bennie Fowler. Fowler has decent size for a receiver, measuring in at 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds. He also flashed some great speed at his Pro Day, running an official time of 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Multiple scouts had him hand-timed at a blazing 4.27 seconds.
Looking at teams with wide receiver needs, a big one that jumps out is the New York Giants. Although they have a star in Victor Cruz and a rising player in Rueben Randle, they lost Hakeem Nicks in the offseason and could use another guy at the position. I project the Giants to draft Bennie Fowler with their fifth-round pick at pick No. 174.
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Denicos Allen led the team in tackles last season, recording 98 overall. His efforts earned him a third-team All-American honor by the Associated Press. He is a speedy linebacker with good athleticism and has a knack of sniffing out plays early.
However, he is very undersized for a potential NFL linebacker, measuring in at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds. The Denver Broncos have a need at linebacker, but Allen would not likely be able to play as a NFL linebacker initially.
The Broncos do have a history of turning special teams players into contributors on either side of the ball, so I believe Allen would be a good pick for them. I project the Broncos to select Allen with their sixth-round pick at No. 207 in hopes of him adding to that history.
Dan Tyler is the host of the Spartan Red Zone for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports