DaRon Bland has had a record-breaking season for the Dallas Cowboys. The recent months have constituted a breakout campaign for the second-year cornerback. He has broken the single-season NFL pick-six record and become a household name. Having his big moment come on Thanksgiving certainly didn’t hurt.
However, having gone under the radar in the NFL Draft, it hasn’t always been that way.
Where Was DaRon Bland Selected?
Bland has proven to be an absolute steal for the Cowboys. Not only did Dallas find themselves a hidden gem, but they also found him later in the draft, producing more surplus value.
Overlooked by NFL teams and NFL Draft analysts alike, Bland was selected 167th overall in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. However, he didn’t manage to escape the attention of the Cowboys.
Dallas liked him so much that they attempted to keep his name out of the national discussion in the lead-up to the 2022 NFL Draft. Then, when Bland’s name was called, many fans may not have even recognized him.
With little college production, Bland was considered a developmental prospect who would be taken later in the draft. The corner was considered such an unlikely star that he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that “Really, nobody was on him. Ross Wuensche, the Cowboys area scout, was on him and wanted to keep it quiet. Josh Arnold, Bland’s agent, was telling the Cowboys, ‘I got a guy. Bring him in.’ They were like, ‘We know.’ They didn’t want anyone to know. Eventually, they brought him into his visit late.”
Bringing Bland in late was a master stroke for the Cowboys as it prevented other teams from catching on to him. Rapoport continued, “He had so much interest late that he couldn’t do all his visits. That’s how late people were on him.”
Since being drafted, Bland has thrived in Dallas. In 2022, he played in 17 regular-season games, ending with seven passes defensed and five interceptions. It capped off a great rookie season for the fifth-rounder.
But in 2023, Bland has excelled to new heights. Through 11 games, he has seven interceptions and five pick-sixes, breaking the single-season pick-six record.
On what has led to Bland transitioning so well in the NFL, Cowboys DC Dan Quinn said, “I think the ball attributes. Will [McClay], Jerry [Jones], Stephen [Jones], and the guys look for that. That’s such a big piece of that because you’ve got a better chance of being a person who’s got ball production if you’ve got some of that in your background, where you can see it and demonstrate. He certainly has it.”
Where Did Bland Go to College?
From Modesto, California, Bland attended Central Catholic High School but was vastly under-recruited. Bland left high school unranked by all the major recruiting sites. The only college offer that Bland received was a scholarship offer from Sacramento State.
Playing three seasons for Sacramento State between 2017-2019, Bland played in 30 games, 92 tackles, and three interceptions. In 2019, he was named All-Big Sky Conference as a junior.
But in 2020, Sacramento State’s season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying Bland’s senior year. It led to Bland deciding to enter the transfer portal and play out his remaining eligibility with the Fresno State Bulldogs. Fresno State offered a higher level of competition for Bland, who had another two interceptions to his name in 2021.
Bland may not have had the most impressive college career, but if you have talent, the NFL will find you. Bland nor the Cowboys have looked back since.
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