Last year, Northern Illinois saw it's star safety Jimmie Ward get selected in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers. Ward left behind a side-kick, Dechane Durante, who is now looking to get to the NFL himself. Durante was 'hard not to notice' in scouts' eyes while they watched film on Jimmie Ward last year, as he now tries to enter the NFL himself.
Durante shows some promise with his size, the safety stands at a tall six foot two inches tall, although he only weighs 193 pounds. Durante's frame is one that is moldable. His height is certainly appealing, and that is one of the qualities that had some scouts projecting Durante as a fifth round selection heading into his senior year campaign for NIU. Yet, if Durante is to find success in making an NFL roster, he would have to add some beef to his frame.
When you watch him play, you can certainly see his length and athletic ability, but it's not a rare occurrence to see Durante's lankiness get taken advantage of when others go to block him in the opening field or break through tackles.
Durante would not be the first player from a Northern Illinois secondary to break into the NFL. As mentioned above, Jimmie Ward was a first round choice for San Francisco in the last draft. Also, Rashaad Melvin, who played for NIU's Orange Bowl team, was picked up by Tampa Bay as an UDFA in 2013. Melvin was placed on IR that same season, then proceeded to be released, yet he enjoyed being on the Baltimore Ravens roster this past season.
For Durante, he stacks up identically in terms of his weight with a guy like Melvin. Both weigh in at 193 pounds, both are 6-2. The issue is that Melvin is a slot corner in the NFL while Durante would be a safety. Durante simply is not quick enough to match up at the line with NFL receivers. In order to play his position at the pro-level, Durante must bulk up in the time that remains leading up to the draft, as well as after that.
Looking at Durante's capabilities on the field, his ball skills are a positive. Durante's length made him a good ball hawk for NIU throughout the course of his career, he was able to range over the middle and make plays on the ball as a defender. For instance, just look at the two interceptions Durante hauled in at the MAC title game. He has an aggressive mentality that hunts for turnovers.
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This incredibly gifted running back has a real chance to turn heads, if only NFL teams look past the glaring off-the-field red flags.
Although Durante may have the length to be a great 'center fielder' at safety, his inability to be in the right position for coverage hinders his play badly. Too many times this season you would see Durante get beat over the middle by a tight end or another player due to him leaving the whole deep middle uncovered. Scouts have said that Durante suffers many 'mental lapses' and blows assignments.
In his senior season, Durante ranked third on the team with 78 tackles, which was a career high. His run stopping game is a little sub par. Durante can make the stops at times, the numbers show that, but he certainly is no sledge hammer that is an enforcer in the run game on defense.
For Durante, this season it seemed as if he was inconsistent at times in both pass and run defense due to the fact he was playing along Marlon Moore, a converted corner who was at safety to compensate for a lack of depth on the NIU roster. While Durante had Jimmie Ward by his side, he seemed to play with much more confidence and the duo were far more effective and steady against both pass and run.
Though Durante most likely will not get drafted into the NFL, he is projected to be a 7th round selection by nfldraftscout.com. It is a good possibility that he gets signed as an undrafted free agent and gets a look at a camp by an NFL squad. Look at Rashaad Melvin, he did it and now is on a 53 man roster.
The NFL is almost bereft of real good quality safeties, and Durante ranks 11th out of all Free Safeties on nfldraftscout.com, that shows promise. NFL teams will certainly gravitate to the height, athleticism and lengthiness of Durante, but strength and coverage skills will be questioned.
At the end of the day though, Durante came into this senior year with a chance to real enhance his draft stock and inconsistent play muddled his resume. This entire year was a job interview, and Durante was only there half the time it seemed.