In selecting Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard with their initial seventh-round pick (224th overall), the Patriots land a talented player who was expected to be off the board much earlier, but who likely slipped because of an April 21 arrest. Dennard was charged with assaulting an officer and resisting arrest.
That Dennard would put himself in that type of situation one week before the draft naturally raises some concerns about his decision-making, so this selection has a risk/reward aspect to it.
The risk is that Dennard, who was also ejected from a 2011 bowl game for fighting with South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery, can't get things together and doesn't yield a return on the investment. At this point of the draft, in the seventh round, the Patriots obviously felt comfortable with that risk.
Meanwhile, the reward is that if Dennard does mature and get it together -- perhaps with him slipping to the seventh round as a wake-up call -- the Patriots will have stolen a player much later than he was expected to be picked.
This pick reminds me of the Giants selecting running back Ahmad Bradshaw in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, as Bradshaw had also run into some trouble (albeit in a different form) in college. Few were questioning Bradshaw's talent at the time, but there were concerns about the off-field component.
Bill Belichick personally worked out Dennard in March, and based on the pick, one can assume that he developed some level of comfort with him.
As for the cornerback spot, the Patriots have Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Will Allen, Marquice Cole and now Dennard atop the depth chart. Nice depth and competition there.
Arrington, Allen and Cole are scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the 2012 season.