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NFL Scouting Report: Cooper DeJean

John Moran

NFL cornerback prospect Cooper DeJean in his Iowa Hawkeyes uniform.

It’s finally begun. NFL Draft hype took off as soon as the regular season ended, and now, the GOAT’s getting into it. In this article, star Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean will be reviewed. Remember, watch the film before forging your own opinion, but here’s mine.

Most football players have one trait that marks their game as a player. Tyreek Hill had his speed, Tom Brady had his intelligence, and Calvin Johnson had his dominance on jump balls. With Cooper DeJean, it’s his general athleticism. He was a three-sport varsity letterman in football, basketball, and track. He was also a four-star quarterback prospect coming out of high school. The guy is one of the most well-built cornerbacks of the modern draft era. His 6’1” 205-pound frame is big for a cornerback, even big enough to play safety, but his incredible movement skills make him quick enough to play cornerback. Of all of the cornerbacks in this draft, DeJean is definitely the best mover. He has exceptionally quick hips and a very smooth backpedal as well. His transitions from backward movement to running downfield to breaking down on cuts are excellent, aided heavily by his near-perfect footwork. He also has what appears to be the best play strength on film out of the cornerbacks that I’ve watched this year (Nate Wiggins, Terrion Arnold, and DeJean) and great play strength when compared to the league at large. I expect him to be a stand-out at the combine in the bench press and the shuttle drills. 

DeJean’s footwork and athleticism already make him an extremely desirable prospect, but his versatility makes him even more exciting. Iowa, his alma mater, chose to play him at slot corner much of the time, but he took reps as the boundary corner as well, and in both positions, he was agile and intelligent enough to maintain lockdown coverage. As stated earlier, his size would make him a potential safety as well. Additionally, he took a lot of snaps in the box as a nickel corner, and he was excellent there as well, showing a strong ability to stop the run and tackle through the legs of running backs. It is true that he does have a higher chance of getting swept out of the play by pulling blockers, but he isn’t afraid to try to stack and shed like a linebacker. It doesn’t work all of the time, but he is better at it than your average corner by far. So the guy can line up at nickel CB, boundary CB, slot CB, or safety and be a stand-out player wherever.

DeJean isn’t the most instinctual of corners this year, but he has a good football IQ, certainly enough to handle the complexities of NFL defenses. His style in zone coverage is to stay in the right spot rather than gambling on guessing routes or attacking opponents too aggressively. This more reserved nature can lead to some short flat routes getting dumped off on him, but his excellent form tackling makes sure receivers don’t get any additional yards after receiving the football. His play in press-man coverage is similarly disciplined, and his play strength leads to massive jams that throw off QB-WR timing perfectly. 

In college, he was truly a lock down defensive back. According to Pro Football Focus, DeJean was targeted 46 times and allowed only 20 receptions for 194 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions in 2023, which is a tremendous line for a corner. Additionally, on the year, he recorded 41 tackles, five pass breakups, and returned 21 punts for 241 yards (11.5 yards per return avg.) with one touchdown return.

If I had to compare him to an NFL player, I would match him up with Kyle Hamilton. Both guys have nickel corner/safety experience, and they both have the versatility that defensive coordinators drool over when devising complicated zone blitz coverage concepts. 

A drawback with Cooper DeJean is his top-end speed. He isn’t the absolute speediest of corners. His explosiveness, short-burst quickness, strength, and general athleticism are off the charts, but his bulkier frame makes him less of a speedster than he could be. However, I think that’s fine for the way he plays the game. He lined up a lot as a slot cornerback, a place where an underneath route is more likely than a deep go/post/corner route, so playing him in the nickel or slot cornerback role where he can help with the run would erase this speed problem. That isn’t to say he couldn’t be a productive boundary corner, but his strengths lend themselves more to an interior cornerback role. 

Cooper DeJean is a clear freak athlete and one of the most confusing prospects in this 2024 Draft process. It is my belief that he will be a great NFL defensive back, but I have no idea at which position he will line up. Will he play a blitzing nickel safety role like Kyle Hamilton? Will he become a true one-on-one boundary corner like L’Jarius Sneed or lockdown in the slot like Brian Branch? There’s no telling. My NFL Draft grade on him would be a 6.71, meaning I consider him to be a player worthy of starting his rookie year. His position in the slot corner is one that doesn’t receive enough attention, and he has a high chance of becoming the best at the position quickly. He’s my CB1 this year, and I think a Pro Bowl year from him down the line isn’t out of the question. I think he will certainly succeed in the NFL, and I await his career with anticipation.


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