Range - In 2017, showed terrific instincts and range to make plays on the ball as a center-fielding safety despite a clear lack of long speed. Quick mover who can get out of the blocks fast from a deep alignment. In 2018, was startlingly non-impactful as a deep safety, failing to finish to routes down the sideline and hardly making a single play on the ball. Often slowed to watch CB-WR compete rather than finishing the rep with a challenge at the catch point.
Ball Skills - Rare that I have seen ball skills completely disappear like Denis’. After seven interceptions and 10 pass breakups in 2018, finished with one pick and two passes defensed this season. Failed to find the ball and challenge receivers in the air on vertical passes. Missing the anticipation that led to so many plays on the ball the year before.
Man Coverage - Gets in his pedal early from off coverage. Knows his lack of speed is an issue, but still gives up separation vertically. Has good transitions to close from off coverage when flat-footed, although typically not in time to make a play on the ball. Gives up separation with inconsistent footwork on in-cutting routes.
Fluidity/Agility - Transitions from pedal to close require an extra step or two to come to balance and attack forward. Short-area movement skills are ideal, just needs better technique. Turns and change of direction are very fluid.
Tackling - Highly inconsistent as a tackler. Has moments of valor where he comes downhill fairly aggressively, but almost always receives the worst of a collision. Gets thrown off as a tackler by bigger backs. Receivers have stiff-armed him to the ground (Jamal Custis). Small frame is already at a disadvantage, but also shows a passive demeanor too often and will backpedal away from contact and wait for teammates to finish the job.
Run Defense - Receivers bullied him in the run game too often. Struggled to get off blocks due to lack of size and strength. He was fairly active in his run fills as a safety, but he didn’t stick his nose in the action early enough. Reads his keys and won’t get caught out of position.
Route Recognition - Seemed slow to process routes in his zone in 2018, but in 2017 consistently broke on throwing windows with anticipation. Inconsistency in this area makes the mental side of Denis’ game tough to predict heading into the NFL. Wasn’t caught out of position often in the games I studied.
Versatility - Despite versatility being his calling card at BC - Denis played as a corner his first two seasons, switched to free safety, then played both in 2018 - I don’t think the NFL will view him the same way. Denis is small and light for a safety, can’t play around the box and doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to play single-high. His best spot will likely come in the slot, but he needs technical work in order to be a viable starting option at nickel in the NFL.
Competitive Toughness - Pile inspector tendencies won’t sit well with many teams or coaches. Not egregious enough to call him soft, but he definitely is a finesse player whose lack of physicality could be an issue in his quest to make an NFL roster.
Athleticism/Size - Small, wiry frame that shows up as such far too often on tape. Running 4.64 at his size is hard to bounce back from. Agility is good on tape and showed up the same way in his Combine results.
BEST TRAIT - Fluidity/Agility
WORST TRAIT - Tackling
RED FLAGS - None
Denis was a top 100 lock based off his 2018 tape in coverage, but tackling and physicality concerns have followed him for years, and now it appears he doesn’t even create the splash plays to negate those worries. Denis’ tape isn’t terrible, he was just non-impactful in deep coverage last year, gave up too many plays in man and is far too inconsistent as a run defender. He’s likely a developmental nickel corner that needs to star on special teams despite not playing with a ton of tenacity over the course of his career.
Round Grade: Late 5th/Early 6th