When Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was arrested and accused of punching a police officer days before the NFL draft, it was about as big a pre-draft mistake as a player could make. But in the long run it could benefit the Patriots.
New England drafted Dennard in the seventh round, and afterward, coach Bill Belichick said that while Dennard’s draft stock dropped after the arrest, the team still felt like a player so talented he was once discussed as a likely first-round pick was worth a chance in the seventh round.
“Obviously the incident affected his draft position but certainly we’re aware of it,” Belichick said, via Tom Curran of CSNNE.com. “We researched it, we found out as much as we could about it. Obviously, as an organization we’re comfortable making the selection where we did.”
Belichick praised what he saw on the field from Dennard, who was named the best defensive back in the Big Ten last season.
“He’s strong. He’s a physical player,” Belichick said. “Obviously he played at a high level of competition, particularly in the 2010 season where they played so much in the passing conference [the Big 12] – a lot of spread out offenses, a lot of nickel, dime coverage and that type of thing. Then this year, when Nebraska went to the Big Ten, they saw really a whole different schedule, a whole different style of offensive football from those teams that they played so it was interesting to watch all that . . . two different years, really two different styles of offense. He’s gone up against a lot of good players and competed well.”
The Patriots saw Dennard go up against enough good opposition that they believe he can play in the NFL. They’ll just hope he doesn’t go up against any more cops.