Cornerback Dwayne Gratz began last season as one of the Huskies' defensive leaders, but he was often overshadowed by Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Sio Moore and Trevardo Williams. After a strong senior season, and solid pre-draft workouts, Gratz was the first UConn player drafted, taken in the third round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. And now, with NFL training camps some six weeks away, Gratz is poised to move into a starting role in Jacksonville.
Ryan O'Halloran of the Florida Times-Union wrote last week that during offseason workouts Gratz "looked completely in place working with the veterans (and is) expected to be a Week 1 starter.
And Rob Rang, of NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com, thinks Gratz is a great fit for what the Jags are looking for.
(New Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, who came to Jacksonville from the Seahawks) hasn't been given enough credit, however, for his role in the development of Seattle's long, press corners Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Their success bodes well for the future of third-round pick Dwayne Gratz, Bradley's first hand-picked cornerback in Jacksonville.
Bradley's scheme requires size, physicality and ball-skills from his cornerbacks -- traits that Gratz used to record 189 tackles and 10 interceptions during his time as an All-Big East performer at Connecticut.
While lacking the length that has helped turn Sherman (6-3, 195) and Browner (6-4, 221) into stars in Seattle, Gratz, 5-11, 201, offers great toughness. Some scouts ranked him behind only Alabama's Dee Milliner, whom the New York Jets selected No. 9 overall, as the best run-supporting cornerback in the 2013 draft. Considering that Jacksonville allowed an average of 141 yards on the ground last year (30th in the league), his physicality on the edge will be a welcome addition.
Gratz isn't just physical, however. He also possesses the fluidity and straight-line speed to handle coverage responsibilities.
We mentioned it earlier this year, but we felt that Gratz had a better senior season than Wreh-Wilson. Whether that translates to NFL success is another matter, but Gratz will get an opportunity to prove himself. And really, that's all any player wants.