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2024 NFL Draft: 15 Cornerback Prospects to Watch

2024 NFL Draft: 15 Cornerback Prospects to Watch

With the college football season approaching, it’s time to take a deeper look at some of the top NFL Draft-eligible players at each position. This will help us assemble an early list of prospects to watch this fall.

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2024 NFL Draft: Cornerbacks to Watch

Below are 15 Draft-eligible cornerbacks who I’ll be keeping an eye on this coming season.

Terrion Arnold (Alabama)

Terrion Arnold was a highly-rated safety recruit but has played cornerback at Alabama, redshirting in 2021 and then starting seven games last year. At 6’0″, 188 pounds, Arnold has solid size and shows lightness on his feet and a physical on-field temperament. Alabama had him playing a lot of zone/shuffle during my limited review, but he seemed more comfortable with traditional press-man, where he did a good job of using his length and hands to stay connected. In my view, no school does a better job of preparing prospects for the pros than Alabama, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Arnold can take the next step this year.

Javon Bullard (Georgia)

One of the top slot cornerbacks in college football last season, Javon Bullard, stands 5’11” and 180 pounds, so it’s conceivable some teams could view him as an outside option, as well. He’s still developing his vision/recognition skills, but he has quick feet, transitions well when driving on a spot and is a willing tackler with appropriate technique. Georgia often had him sitting in off-coverage during my limited review, but he shows the ability to turn and run with receivers as well, either on outside or inside releases.

Denzel Burke (Ohio State)

Denzel Burke’s been starting for the Buckeyes for the past two seasons, so he’s one of the more experienced of high-end cornerback prospects. He struggled a bit last season compared to 2021, but at 6’1″, 190 pounds, he has a solid set of tools to play from shuffle or press-man techniques. Burke’s flashed good ball skills when in phase in his first season as a starter. At times, he can look out of control and off-balance, but as his pattern recognition continues to develop, he should settle down and begin to play with more patience.

Fentrell Cypress II (Florida State)

Playing for the University of Virginia since 2019, Fentrell Cypress II broke out last season, holding opposing receivers without a touchdown while getting his hands on plenty of throws. He’ll join the Seminoles for his last season, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to a new defense. At 6’0″, 184 pounds, he has a lanky frame, above-average flexibility and solid balance/footwork when backpedaling. His conservative approach limits big plays, and he is able to use his length and timing to break up passes when targeted.

Cooper DeJean (Iowa)

Cooper DeJean, who played opposite 2023 third-round pick Riley Moss last season, may be the better prospect of the two. He has excellent size at 6’1″, 209 pounds, and is coming off a sophomore season in which he intercepted five passes and ran back three for touchdowns. He may not have elite speed, but he plays with patience and discipline, lining up both outside and in the slot and limiting big throws over the top. Moreover, he’s one of the most reliable tacklers in college football (missing just 3.9% of his attempts per PFF), with excellent technique and plenty of stopping power.

2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Draft Advice

D.J. James (Auburn)

After spending the first three seasons of his collegiate career at Oregon, the last as a starter, the lanky D.J. James (6’1″, 174) transferred to Auburn and fit right in, starting 10 games and allowing just 40.7% of his targets to be completed, per PFF. He played a lot of off-coverage, showing good patience to keep the play in front of him, and is also able to use his hands effectively to stay with opponents in press-man. For a player whose listed weight is so low, he has more physicality and functional strength in his game than anticipated.

Kalen King (Penn State)

One-half of one of college football’s best cornerback duos last year, Kalen King played opposite Joey Porter Jr. and enjoyed an excellent season, limiting opponents to just one touchdown and a completion percentage of 45.8% when targeted, per PFF. At 5’11”, 188, he doesn’t have Porter’s elite size but is a more disciplined player overall. He plays with speed and explosiveness, with quick feet to match releases at the line and effective hand use to stay connected and put himself in a position to make plays on the ball, where he shows excellent ball skills (three picks last year).

Kamari Lassiter (Georgia)

We discussed teammate Bullard above, but it was Kamari Lassiter who started opposite Kelee Ringo for the Bulldogs last year, his first season as a starter and second overall. He has impressive size and length, and the physical corner flashed solid reaction times and discipline for a first-year starter. He may not have Ringo’s elite athletic traits, but the former four-star recruit could establish himself as a high-end cornerback prospect in his own right if he plays with more anticipation and gets his hands on more throws (four breakups and no interceptions last season).

Jason Marshall Jr. (Florida)

Jason Marshall Jr. played over 600 SEC snaps in each of the past two seasons, so he’s one of the more experienced corner prospects in the class. He’s also one of the smoothest athletes at the position, with nice transitions and solid stickiness through the stem when working in man coverage. Fewer than half of his targets have been completed since 2021, and he’s allowed just two touchdowns in coverage (none in 2022). The 6’1″, 198-pounder can get physical at the line and plays with an appropriately feisty, competitive temperament.

Kool-Aid McKinstry (Alabama)

A five-star recruit who ranked as the top cornerback in the class of 2021, Kool-Aid McKinstry is also the favorite to be the first corner off the board in 2024. He started six games as a freshman and all season last year, limiting opposing receivers to just one touchdown in each season. The 6’1″corner has been asked to play a variety of techniques, with the ability to jam opponents at the line, turn and run from press-man or play off-coverage. He may not have elite quickness, but he possesses a strong frame and excellent ball skills to break up throws when targeted.

Max Melton (Rutgers)

Max Melton’s seen his role expand over each of the past three seasons, from six starts in 2020 to 10 in 2021 and 12 last year. He hasn’t exactly been a lockdown corner in school so far (nine touchdowns allowed over the past two seasons) but has solid physical tools and pro bloodlines (his brother Bo is a Packers receiver). He’s a relatively smooth and patient corner and has solid ball skills when in phase owing to his size (6’0″, 190) and vision. He may be a better fit for a more conservative defensive scheme.

Malachi Moore (Alabama)

Primarily an aggressive nickel defender, Malachi Moore has played very few snaps on the boundary but some as a box or high safety. The four-star recruit’s trajectory is one of the weaker in the class, though:  He played over 700 snaps in an excellent freshman campaign back in 2020, then just under 500 in 2021 and under 400 last year. Moore plays with quick feet and a sense of urgency and competitiveness, whether covering from the slot or playing downhill and has better size than is typical for a slot defender at 6’0″, 190. It’ll be interesting to see whether he can reassert himself and show the playmaking skills that made him a sensation as a freshman.

Josh Newton (TCU)

The most experienced top corner in the class, Josh Newton, made a seamless transition from Louisiana-Monroe to TCU last year. He enjoyed the best of his four seasons as a starter, with just 35.3% of his targets being completed, per PFF. He has very quick feet and loose hips to work in, man, and he also played a lot of zone coverage during my limited review. He locates quickly, his on-ball production has increased each year and he ran back one of his three interceptions for a touchdown as a Horned Frog in 2022. He’s listed at 6’0″, 195, but there appears to be some room for improvement in terms of functional strength.

Nehemiah Pritchett (Auburn)

Nehemiah Pritchett’s been a three-year starter for the Tigers. Like his teammate James, he has a lanky, thin build at 6’1″, 182 pounds. Although the relatively quick-footed long-strider has just two career interceptions (none last year), he can use his length to break up throws and has allowed just one touchdown in each of the past three seasons. I’d like to see him play with more discipline and technique, particularly as a tackler; he’s increasingly lapsed into torpedo attempts rather than wrapping up opposing ball carriers. Playing with a wider base and more knee-bend could help as well.

Nate Wiggins (Clemson)

Nate Wiggins made an impact in his first season as a starter last year and is listed as the tallest corner in the class at 6’2″. During my limited review, he played a lot of man coverage, sometimes in bracket coverage against an opposing receiver, and does a nice job of using his length to stay connected and make plays on the ball. He shows quick reflexes at the stem in man, and his flexibility and balance are impressive, as well, with relatively few clunky or clumsy reps. Filling out his thin 180-pound frame should be a priority.

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Notice any prospects I missed? Feel free to let me know on Twitter @draftexaminer!

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