Dwayne Gratz is one of two projected NFL draft picks among Connecticut cornerbacks.
Third Round, 64th Pick
Dwayne Gratz has been overshadowed in the pre-draft process by Connecticut's other starting cornerback, Blidi Wreh-Wilson. It would not be far-fetched, however, to project that Gratz could become the better NFL player of the two.
Gratz is unlikely to receive the early-round hype leading up to the 2013 NFL draft that Wreh-Wilson has, but he should be selected at some point in the draft.
Gratz is a good athlete and versatile cornerback who is experienced in both man and zone coverage. He is good at picking up receivers in off man coverage on the breaks of their routes, and he is a rangy playmaker who closes well in zone coverage.
He breaks in on passes well to make plays on the ball and can also break up passes by striking receivers in midair to separate them from the ball.
Gratz has some struggles in man-to-man coverage, as he does not consistently get his hands on opposing receivers and tends to get beaten by double moves. Against fast receivers on the outside, Gratz does not have the recovery speed to eliminate separation.
Against the run, Gratz struggles when plays are run in his direction. He tends to play the run more conservatively than aggressively, and he struggles as an open-field tackler.
Gratz has very solid measurables for an NFL cornerback. He has good size (5’11”, 201 lbs, 32.125” arms) and big hands (10.5”). He proved his explosive athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine, with a 4.47 second 40-yard dash, 38” vertical jump and 10’5” broad jump.
Gratz’s athleticism, however, does not always translate to the field.
While he is good at accelerating off a break, he can struggle with change of direction due to tight hips and a sloppy backpedal.
His strength does not translate either. While Gratz was one of the top performers among defensive backs with 22 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press at the NFL Scouting Combine, he tends to get driven back by receivers, blockers and on tackles.
(All measurables per NFL combine results via NFL.com)
Gratz has good on-field instincts, as he is good at knowing where to be in zone coverage and does a good job using his eyes to read the plays of opposing offenses and get himself in proper position.
All indications are that Gratz is a high-character player. He has no documented off-field issues and was honored following his senior season by UConn with the Brian Kozlowski Award, which is awarded to the team’s most courageous, hard-working and productive player, according to UConn’s official athletics website.
Gratz is a well-rounded cornerback in large part because of the defensive system he played in for the Huskies. He was used in both press and off man-to-man coverage and also in zone coverage, as one of the team’s two starting cornerbacks on the outside of the defense.
Playing the Ball
Making plays on the ball is one of Gratz’s best strengths. He does a good job breaking in on routes from man-to-man coverage to get his hands on the ball, while he does a good job covering ground quickly in zone coverage to make plays on the ball in the air.
He is good at striking receivers in midair to separate them from the ball and force incompletions that way, but he also does a good job when running with the receivers to turn toward the football and play the ball rather than the receiver. As it pertains to getting interceptions, he misses some due to inconsistent hands.
Against the Run
Gratz struggles when he allows the ball to be run toward him. He takes good angles as a run defender and can tackle on the attack, but he struggles to disengage from blockers and with open-field tackling.
He has some experience as a corner blitzer, but is not particularly effective in that role. While he struggles as a tackler in the middle of the field, he does a good job forcing runners out of bounds when he has sideline help to work with.
Gratz needs to become a more consistently physical cornerback to succeed in a man coverage scheme. He does not jam receivers at the line effectively in press coverage and does not consistently gets his hands on opposing receivers.
He is better in off man coverage than press, as he does a good job of picking up receivers downfield and breaking with receivers on routes.
However, his stiff hips often get exposed by double moves, and he can be beaten over the top when he allows a receiver to beat him on the outside by not using his hands well enough. When a receiver obtains separation on a deep route, Gratz does not have the second gear to get back into the play if the pass is thrown properly.
Gratz looks most comfortable in zone coverage. He is a rangy and instinctive playmaker who does a good job finding receivers within his zone and closing on a play.
He has strong coverage instincts, and by covering ground quickly, he can come in and make plays on passes even outside his zone by getting a hand on a pass or hitting the receiver to separate them from the ball.
Missed tackles are a problematic issue in Gratz’s game.
Although he takes good angles to the ball, he tends to lunge at ball-carriers with his arms rather than leading into them with his body. As a result, runners frequently run through or by Gratz’s tackling attempts, and even when he does get his hands solidly on a ball-carrier, he tends to be driven backward by ball-carriers, when it should be the other way around.
Gratz’s technique needs some work in man-to-man coverage.
He has experience with a decent backpedal, but needs to become more fluid and comfortable in reverse. He needs to become better at using his hands against receivers within five yards. He also tends to allow receivers to run by him on his outside up the sideline, rather than using the sideline to his advantage and forcing receivers out.
Gratz uses his feet well and does a good job of using his eyes in zone coverage to pick up receivers and find the football. In downfield man-to-man coverage, he effectively turns to play the ball rather than playing the receivers, which avoids penalties and enables to break up or intercept passes.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Gratz has the ability to play in any defensive scheme, but is best suited to play in a zone coverage scheme, where he projects as a possible starter. He may be best suited to play as a situational dime cornerback in any scheme, but has the potential to develop into a starting-caliber player if he can refine his technique, become more physical and improve his tackling.
Gratz lacks the consistency and skill set of an early-round cornerback prospect, but he has the potential to be a very solid addition to an NFL secondary. He is a likely mid-to-late Day 3 pick in a deep draft class of cornerbacks.