With the 238th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears selected Stephen Denmark, a cornerback out of Division-II Valdosta State. Denmark, a wide receiver turned cornerback, is an incredible athlete. At 6″3′ and 220 pounds, he posted a 4.46 40-yard dash and a 43.5 inch vertical jump during his pro-day.
During his senior season at Valdosta State, Denmark accounted for 55 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, and three interceptions. These are some pretty good marks, considering he transitioned from wide receiver the offseason prior. It is worth noting how seamless his transition to defense was, as he went from playing four games at wide receiver in 2017 to being drafted into the NFL at cornerback one year later. This shows just how dedicated to the game of football Denmark is.
Athleticism. As I stated above, Denmark ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and reached 43.5 inches in the vertical jump. That is a faster 40 and a higher vertical than future Hall of Fame cornerback Richard Sherman. He proved in college that he is athletic enough to play cornerback by being able to keep up with receivers downfield, and he showed an ability to drop down and make a play at the line of scrimmage.
— Danny Shimon (@dshimon56) April 27, 2019
Tackling. Denmark is an aggressive and punishing tackler at the line of scrimmage and a conservative tackler in the open field. This tells me two things: A) His situational football I.Q. is very high, and B) he doesn’t need to rely on others to help him make a tackle. In the clip above, you can see an example of his tackling at the line, and it’s also noticeable just how hard he hits. Punishing a player for coming into your area with the ball is my favorite attribute that Denmark has.
Fundamentals. Denmark’s fundamentals will need a complete overhaul if he makes the Bears roster. He doesn’t really have a three-step drop that most corners will utilize. He sort of just flips his hips as soon as the receiver gets close, and that could be disastrous if the receiver is running a short hitch or an out. If he does add a three-step drop, it would also be beneficial to his deep coverage because it would give him extra time to gain speed on the receiver.
Transition. Being a cornerback, Denmark is usually positioned out wide or a few yards off the ball, meaning he has more ground to cover in order to make the play. When a defensive back recognizes a play, they have to transition from coverage to tackling, and that can be rocky for Denmark. He can do it, but it is not pretty. He also takes false steps, which really only slow him down. Additionally, his change of direction needs to be much smoother. When he does so, Denmark often stands up straight, which will decrease your speed as well.
Experience. As I stated before, Denmark only has one year of defense under his belt. He still needs to learn a lot of the basics. Obviously, with time and practice it should not be too difficult for him, but he will need to put in a good amount of work to get to the point where he should be.
Denmark is the true definition of a project draft pick. He won’t be an immediate starter, as is the case with most seventh-rounders, but his size and athleticism should allow him to contribute on special teams right away.
If Denmark’s development goes right, he could turn out to be a steal at the bottom of the draft for Ryan Pace and the Bears.