As we work our way through the official 30 visit list there were a couple of names that stood out. DaRon Bland, the corner out of Fresno State was not a name I have heard mentioned in draft circles often. If the Cowboys are doing their homework on him, so should we. Frankly, after watching his film I’m left with more questions than I was left with answers. Bland was a two-way player in high school and was named second team all-state medium school by Cal-Hi Sports as a senior. After high school he enrolled at Sacramento State before transferring to Fresno State in 2021, exercising his extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID-19.
It’s tough to say his career took off at Fresno State, but he certainly garnished more attention than he was doing at Sacramento State. Bland would play in all 13 games for Fresno State, starting the last nine. He ended the season with an invite to the Tropic Bowl for a chance to showcase his talents for NFL teams. Do the Cowboys view him as a corner at the next level? Or is he a candidate for a position change? Let’s dive into the film to find out.
Measurables and Stats
Listed Height: 6-foot
Listed Weight: 200 pounds
Jersey Number: 1
Tackles (2021): 34 solo tackles, 45 total tackles
Impact Plays (2021): 1 tackle for loss, 2 interceptions, 5 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble
Film Study Information:
Games Watched: Oregon (2021), UCLA (2021), Nevada (2021), Boise State (2021)
Best Game: Boise State (2021)
Worst Game: Oregon (2021)
Physical Skills Evaluation:
Pro Day: Bland ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at his pro day, had a 35 1/2-inch vertical and measured in with 35-inch arms and nine-inch hands. His three-cone was 7.26 and his short shuttle time was 4.15.
Long speed: Ran a 10.73 40-yard dash in high school. Has the speed to keep up with the shiftier players. Once his hips are opened up he is generally running step for step with the receiver.
Run Support: Although he isn’t shy about taking on contact from oncoming blocks, he doesn’t go about deconstructing them in the best way. Just charges at them and welcomes contact and doesn’t try to out athlete or finesse his way away from the block.
COD Ability: Gets a good break when he is changing directions. Able to open his hips up well, very little wasted movement when charging downhill.
Tackling: His physicality carries over to this part of his game as he is a physical hitter. Lacks control over his body when he is chagrin downfield to make a hit. Has let a number of tackle opportunities slip from his grasp, tackling needs to be improved.
Physicality/Toughness: Isn’t shy about taking on contact from receivers when deconstructing blocks.
Man Coverage: Can be a bit grabby when in man coverage, and this could lead to a holding or pass interference problem in the NFL. Stays on top of routes well. Doesn’t move his feet before attempting to engage in press which can leave him grasping at air.
Zone Coverage: Adapt at disguising zone coverage pre-snap. Adapt at passing off concepts when they leave his zone and picking up another player.
Reaction/Recovery: Can sometimes get a step behind the receiver when they release off the line of scrimmage, but his hip fluidity allows him to recover well. Can get pushed on his heels on 9 routes and become a step behind when he opens his hips up to run with the receiver.
Ball skills: Prefers playing with his eyes back on the QB where he can break when he starts his throwing motion. Tracks the ball well and times up his jump to contest the throw. Can get out-bodied by bigger receivers in goal-line scenarios.
Awareness: Gets drawn in on play-action bootlegs and gives up a completion behind him. Recognizes route concepts at an effective level, but he lacks the natural ideal sense that top corners play with. Uses the sideline to his advantage.
First and foremost he is a very physical player. He is handy during the stem of the route and doesn’t shy away from contact when it comes to deconstructing blocks or hitting the ball carrier. Prefers playing in zone with his eyes back on the QB where he can get a break on the pass. Has clean hips when transitioning in space. Uses the sideline to his advantage when he is man coverage.
Can’t hold up in man coverage without getting grabby; this will surely lead to penalties in the NFL. Gets pushed on his heels when he is tested vertically. Lacks ideal body control when coming down-hill to make a tackle. Doesn’t go about deconstructing blocks in the best way. Looks for contact rather than attacking it with a clear and concise plan to disengage from it. Doesn’t have the frame to hold his own in goal-line fades.
Fit with the Cowboys:
If Bland was drafted by the Cowboys, it wouldn’t surprise me if they view him as a safety at the next level. If this sounds familiar, Dallas just attempted this with Tulsa’s Reggie Robinson, who was released this offseason after being a fourth-round pick in 2020 and not seeing the field much.
Bland does his best work in zone, with his eyes back on the QB. This allows him to get a good break on the throw, and with his transition ability in space, it could be a favorable move for him. He is a physical player, never shying away from contact. He can’t hold up in man coverage, he gets grabby with the receivers during the stem of their route and he gets out-bodied in goal-line scenarios. Having him as a player who plays with his eyes in the backfield and can charge down hill to use his physicality projects favorably for him.
Man Coverage (15)
Run Support (5)
Zone Coverage (10)
COD Ability (10)
Long speed (10)
69.9, 5th round player