2022 NFL Draft Profile: Fresno State CB DaRon Bland
Bland made a splash in his lone season with the Bulldogs, but has he shown enough to carve out a spot in the NFL?
Not just a one-year wonder.
DaRon Bland has been selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 167th overall pick, in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) April 30, 2022
It took a little while for cornerback DaRon Bland to emerge for the Fresno State Bulldogs last season but, in retrospect, perhaps it should not have.
Though he only spent one year with the team, he’d racked up plenty of accolades in his college career before that. A native of Modesto, California, Bland played for three years at FCS Sacramento State while also running track and built a reputation as a stingy defender, earning first-team all-Big Sky honors in both 2018 and 2019.
After COVID-19 wiped out the Hornets’ season in 2020, Bland took the opportunity to make the jump to the FBS level and more than held his own at Fresno State, breaking into the starting lineup after about a month and entrenching himself as the team’s best cornerback. The question now is whether NFL teams see enough in his tape to enable him to make one last jump to the pros.
Measurables (taken from Dane Brugler and Barkboard.com)
Height – 6′ and 1/4″
Weight – 197 pounds
40-yard time – 4.42 seconds
10-yard split time – 1.55 seconds
Arm length – 32″
Hand size – 9″
Wingspan – 76 3/4″
Vertical jump – 35 1/2″
Broad jump – 10′ and 3″ (or 123″)
Shuttle time – 4.15 seconds
3-cone drill time – 7.26 seconds
Bench press – 14 reps
— Fresno State Football 🧸 (@FresnoStateFB) October 23, 2021
One thing that many draft analysts agree upon regarding Bland is that he has size and physicality you can build upon. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, for starters, noted that he “smothers receivers on the outside” while Venie Randy Soares of Turf Show Times believes he’s particularly well-suited to playing press man coverage.
He’s also a very willing tackler and, though he was asked to do so more at Sacramento State than at Fresno State, can attack the backfield and defend the run as a result: Bland had just one tackle for loss with the Bulldogs in 2021, but he had 9.5 TFLs across his two seasons as a starter with the Hornets and also racked up at least 40 total tackles in each of those three years.
Bland also had many of his best performances in high-pressure situations, as well: In Sacramento State’s 2019 FCS playoff loss to Austin Peay, for instance, he had two tackles for loss; against UCLA, he forced a fumble that halted a Bruins scoring threat in the second half. He also had a 101-yard interception against Boise State that was erased by penalty.
Add to that his prior experience on special teams — he returned punts at Sacramento State, as well — and there’s a good chance he’ll find more than one way to contribute in the NFL, a plus for his chances to stick.
What most draft analysts seem to believe is that there’s still room for growth when it comes to refining the little things in cornerback play. Brugler points to improved “eye use and route recognition”, but Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline cautions that there are still inefficiencies in the angles he takes while in coverage. In short, there are no glaring holes in Bland’s game, but his ultimate role will depend on tightening up those finer points, processing and reacting just a beat faster.
Bland isn’t someone being talked about a huge amount, but he has plenty of supporters in his corner like Cam Worrell, a former Bulldog who knows a thing or two about being a defensive back in the NFL. Teams will look at the upside and, though he may need some work out of the gate, it seems likely someone will like him enough not to let him get away. He’ll hear his name called in the later stages of Day 3, perhaps in the seventh round.