February 25, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard slower than Justin Gilbert at combine

Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine Tuesday in Indianapolis. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

The only concern NFL draft analysts had about Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard was his speed.

And after running the 40-yard dash Tuesday at the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, Dennard did little to help or hurt his status as a likely top-20 pick in May’s draft.

Dennard officially ran the 40 in 4.51 seconds, a fairly average time for cornerbacks. His initial hand-clocked time from NFL Network was 4.42 seconds, and some NFL evaluators put more stock in scouts’ hand-clocked times than the league’s official times.

“If he runs well, Dennard is a top-15 pick,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said last week. “He’s my favorite corner in the draft. I’d like to see him run well.”

Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Dennard’s top competition to be the No. 1 cornerback in the draft, ran an official 4.37-second 40 to lead his position, but he expected to be faster than Dennard.

“I think (Dennard is) a pretty complete player,” Gilbert said Sunday at the combine. “He’s not as fast as me. I can tell you that.”

Mayock said the Lions, who select 10th in May’s draft, might have been inclined to pick Dennard if he ran a 4.4, but the decision between Dennard and Gilbert likely will come down to a team’s preference.

Gilbert has the speed and return ability while Dennard is better in press coverage.

“I think both corners are going to go between, worst case, 11 and 20,” Mayock said. “If (Dennard) runs 4.4, 4.2, anywhere in the 4.45 or under 4.5 range, he’ll be fine. If he runs 4.58 or 4.55, there’s going to be questions.”

Dennard wasn’t slow enough to create questions, but whether he was fast enough to become a top-10 lock will depend on the evaluation of NFL teams.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said last year he prefers cornerbacks who run sub-4.5 in the 40, but he also gave Dennard an optimistic review last week.

“He can be an excellent player,” Mayhew said. “He’s a really good man-cover guy, got a lot of talent.”

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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