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2024 NFL Draft cornerbacks rankings and analysis

Toledo v Notre Dame
Toledo v Notre Dame

1 - Terrion Arnold, Alabama

Arnold (5’116/189) originally started playing football in order to stay sharp physically for basketball season, which is his first love and the sport he initially thought he would play in college. Considered a four-star safety prospect out of high school, he transitioned to cornerback shortly after arriving on campus in 2021 and didn’t play a snap his true freshman season as he acclimated to the pace of play at the SEC level.

He started the 2022 season opener opposite Kool-Aid McKinstry and was targeted often downfield until he proved worthy of his CB2 role, leading the Tide with a 16.7 ADOT. Arnold gave up a few chunk plays as he cut his teeth ranking last year allowing an unexceptional 1.33 yard per coverage snap. However, his 51% completion rate, 9 PBU and 73rd percentile PFF defensive grade were strong enough for Arnold to receive Freshman All-American recognition.

While Arnold was overshadowed by McKinstry in 2022, he took a backseat to nobody this year by leading the SEC with 16 PBU and five interceptions with the third-highest PFF defensive grade in the Power Five. The First Team All-American forced incompletions 29% of the time and slashed his yards allowed per cover snap to .58 as he climbed to the top of the 2024 NFL Draft cornerback leaderboard.

At the Combine his 1.52s 10-yard split was a strong 90th% time, but his 4.50s 40-yard dash is a less impressive 70th% mark. Arnold ran a magnificent 6.69s 3-Cone (96th%) at his pro day to go with a 10’09” broad jump (93rd%) for a rock solid 9.27 RAS that verifies the dynamism he displays on the field.

His safety background is evident when it’s time to converge on a ball carrier and also in his savvy coverage instincts. Arnold is savvy enough in zone coverage to pick up his responsibility in phase, but still keep his eyes in the backfield reading before peeling off his man and making the play on the ball before the quarterback has released the ball. It reminds me of the way Texans S Jalen Pitre would hedge his responsibilities playing the STAR position at Baylor. Advanced stuff. His oily hips and refined technique help him make up for modest recovery speed. Arnold is one of the most projectable, scheme-versatile players from a strong 2024 cornerback group.

2 - Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

A late rising three-star in the recruiting process, Mitchell (6’001/195) eschewed several higher profile offers out of loyalty to Toledo whom he initially committed to. He was forced to sit freshman year due to academic restrictions, enrolling in 2020 and playing in six games before assuming a starting role in 2021 when he recorded an 80th percentile PFF defensive grade.

Mitchell’s standout play hit the stratosphere in 2022 allowing just 27 receptions on 70 targets (39%) for 270 yards, 25 PBU (#1 in FBS), five interceptions and an absurd 5.7 raw QBR. He returned this year and proceeded to establish himself as a Second Team All-American performer for the second consecutive season, earning a well-deserved Senior Bowl invite.

He solidified his status as a top flight corner at the Senior Bowl by shutting down the best receivers the 2024 class has to offer. Answered questions about his ability to stay with upper-echelon wideouts in man coverage by making numerous plays on Power Five standouts in Senior Bowl practice sessions. His athletic bonafides were confirmed at the Combine when he ran a smoking 4.33s 40-yard dash (99th%), jumped 38” (85th%) and 20 bench reps for a remarkable 9.79 RAS.

Mitchell has a rocked up, square frame but proved he could mirror even the most agile slot wideouts when called upon. He played relatively little press-man at Toledo, but was comfortable enough in off zone coverage to rack up a robust 44 PBU over the last two seasons with 82 tackles and 6 INT. Can be a tad late transitioning out of his backpedal, which is to be expected from such a well-built physical playmaker. Mitchell is destined for a starting NFL role and has the pedigree to develop into a true shutdown CB1.

3 - Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

The number-one rate cornerback from the 2021 recruiting class, McKinstry (5’114/196) excelled as a two-way CB/WR and state champion basketball player who scored over 1,000 points in his high school career. The home-state boy who grew up in Birmingham, AL opted to play for HC Nick Saban and even practiced with the Alabama basketball team before giving up his hoop dream his freshman season.

McKinstry pulled off the rare Alabama feat of starting six games as a true (479 snaps), but proved the decision to be warranted by being named to the Freshman All-SEC Team. The five-star prodigy fulfilled his potential in 2022, leading the SEC with 16 PBU while earning First Team All SEC, and Second Team All-American honors. PFF graded him above the 75th percentile in every relevant phase of the game, with Kool-Aid allowing a scorching 2.6 yards per target and a 36% completion rate.

Arguably the 2024 NFL Draft CB1 heading into this season, McKinstry allowed 37 receptions on 80 targets in 2022. He managed to cut that number in half to 19 catches allowed on 39 targets while ranking fifth nationally with .35 receiving yards allowed per coverage snap. He received First Team All-SEC and All-American nods for his standout play before adding a Senior Bowl invite to his offseason plan.

A right foot ailment shelved him for the Combine, but he ran a strong 4.47s 40-yard dash (78th%) at his pro day, though a pair of uninspiring jumping tests and no agility testing means we have an incomplete athletic profile to work with from a testing perspective.

Is more instinctive in zone diagnosing route concepts as opposed to being a pugnacious in-your-face man corner. Profiles as a solid all-around player who doesn’t possess supersonic long-speed but has a firm grasp of the nuances of the position and also can return kicks. Rakes at the ball and seems to go for the PBU as opposed to trying to reel it in, as is evidenced by his two interceptions in three seasons. McKinstry should be yet another productive Alabama cornerback to excel in their transition to the NFL.

4 - Nate Wiggins, Clemson

Wiggins (6’013/173) was a highly sought after recruit who enrolled early and earned 128 reps as a freshman while showing a glimpse of things to come by holding opponents to just one reception on seven targets. Sophomore year he assumed a starting role and proceeded to lead Clemson with 14 PBU to go with a 98-yard pick-six and 79th percentile PFF cover grade.

Wiggins was ready to assume CB1 shutdown corner this year, and did so in impressive fashion. His 44% completion rate with a 44.4 NFL passer rating in 2023 was a noticeable improvement over his 51% comp rate and 74.8 NFLPR from his 2022 campaign. He also slashed his yards per catch allowed from 12.4-to-9.8 while drawing just one coverage penalty and allowing one reception of 20+ yards all season.

Wiggins dazzled at the Combine by running a sensational 4.28s 40-yard dash that ranked in the 99.8th percentile and was the second-fastest 40-time from the 2024 class. He posted a 36” vertical (67th%) and 10’07” broad jump (88th%), but didn’t perform any agility drills or bench for a somewhat incomplete 9.44 RAS. Also of note is his pro day weigh-in of 182 was nine pounds heavier than the 173 pounds he weighed in Indianapolis.

Wiggins shows an iron will to compete, combined with elite jets to carry receivers down the field in lockstep. Him chasing down Omarion Hampton from 50-yards away to create a goalline fumble saving a touchdown was one of the signature plays of last season. Though speed is his calling card, he also manages to snuff out many of the short-to-intermediate routes he faces and displays brash confidence when breaking on the ball. The knocks on Wiggins mostly stem from his ability to muscle up to NFL-sized wideouts and in run support, but there are few naysayers when it comes to his coverage acumen.

5 - Cooper DeJean, Iowa

DeJean (6’004/202) was a star AAU basketball player in addition to being a local Odebolt, IA legend for his two-way football stardom, playing quarterback and DB in addition to being lethal returning kicks on special teams. A rou-star 2021 fall camp arrival, DeJean bided his time as a special teamer before exploding on the scene in 2022 with a season for the Iowa ages.

He started all 13 games while playing mostly corner, but also spending 140 snaps in the slot and another 91 snaps in the box to take advantage of his hybrid safety skillset. He recorded 75 tackles, 25 stops and five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. The Second Team All-Big Ten corner accounted for a microscopic 4% missed tackle rate (4th in FBS) with 2.8 adjusted yards per target which greatly contributed to his 89th% PFF defensive grade.

DeJean was named to the coveted Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List prior to 2023 and delivered another praiseworthy campaign of 41 tackles, seven PBU and two interceptions before suffering a broken right leg that limited his season to 10 games. The Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year in 2023, DeJean shifted to corner full-time and flourished by limiting opponents to a 38% catch rate with a meager 44 yards after catch allowed on 20 receptions.

Though he was unable to test at the Combine, Iowa’s CB1 ran a 4.46s 40-yard dash (80th%) with a 1.52s 10-yard split (90th%) and 38.5” vertical (88th%) for a 9.85 RAS, though he opted to not perform any agility tests.

6 - T.J. Tampa, Iowa State

A star basketball player whose father and sister both played college hoops, Tampa (6’007/189) was being recruited on the hardwood and as a wide receiver before ISU HC Matt Campbell cajoled him into giving defense a chance. He arrived on campus in August 2020 due to Covid and spent his freshman season honing his craft before starting five games with a pedestrian 53.6 defensive grade in 2021.

Tampa came of age in his third-year starting every game for the next two seasons while leading the Cyclones with 10 PBU and 80th%+ grades in coverage, run defense and overall. He held opponents to a 46% catch rate with a dirt-low 70.7 NFL pass rating when targeted while being named Second Team All-Big 12. It was on from there, as Tampa continued to raise his game by charting 44 tackles, 9.0 PBU and a scintillating 54.8 NFL pass rating, receiving Third Team All-Big 12 accolades for his exemplary play.

A hamstring injury kept him from playing in the Senior Bowl while his 4.58s pro day 40-time (44th%) and 1.64s 10-yard split (22nd%) illustrated some of the top-end speed limitations he exhibited on film. Tampa did manage to run a 4.07s shuttle and 6.97s 3-Cone (65th%), though he didn’t perform any jumps or bench, which is an interesting choice from a former hoops star that has thrown down some impressive dunks.

A filled-out and agile outside corner with an NFL frame, Tampa likes to take an aggressive, hands-on approach to redirecting receivers and is adept at raking the hands at the catch point to create incompletions. His keen instincts make him an effective zone defender, which can help to mask his less-than-ideal long speed that can be exploited in man coverage. Tampa has one of the highest upsides of the Day 2 cornerback group.

7 - Ennis Rakestraw, Missouri

Rakestraw (5’113/183) was rated as a standard three-star prospect and the 70th cornerback from the 2020 recruiting class. Though he only enrolled in June due to pandemic restrictions, he somehow managed to start every game of his freshman season recording 544 snaps with 6 PBU and a 63rd % PFF defensive grade. The Dallas, TX product was then dealt a setback by tearing an ACL four games into his sophomore year.

Rakestraw diligently rehabbed the ACL injury and was able to return in time to start Missouri’s 2022 season opener against Louisiana Tech and play a career-high 725 snaps, 10 PBU and a 50% completion rate while forcing incompletions on 23% of his targets. Injuries crept up again this year, as he missed four games and was hampered in several others due to a groin injury he sustained in September. Rakestraw still managed to post the highest coverage, tackling and run defense grades of his career despite being compromised in the hyper-competitive SEC.

He ran a respectable 4.51s 40-yard dash (67th%) with a laudable 1.52s 10-yard split that ranks in the 90th percentile. His 4.38s shuttle (32nd%) wasn’t his best moment and 13 bench reps (53rd%) would have been the second-lowest number of any 2024 Combine cornerback. Though spindly at 5’113/183, Rakestraw has abnormally long 32” arms which help him probe receivers and be disruptive at the catch point.

Comfortable in press coverage and has legitimate mirroring skills that keep him in phase during breaks. Noticeably light and can get washed out when he doesn’t get an immediate read on the play, but is more than happy to step up in run support and do his job on the outside. Had trouble staying on the field with injuries which could add to concerns about his slight frame and questionable long speed. 205 snaps from the slot over the last two years shows his versatility to play inside or outside. He profiles like a less-athletic version of Washington Commanders CB Emmanuel Forbes.

8 - Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

Lassiter (5’114/186) was considered the 18th cornerback from the 2021 prep cycle after lettering in baseball, basketball and football in high school. He managed to penetrate the ultra-deep Georgia depth chart as a true freshman by playing 158 snaps with a 77th percentile defensive grade for the National Champions. He would go on to start 29 straight games over the next two years, earning Second Team All-SEC recognition in the process. Lassiter was tested as a first year starter, allowing 32 receptions on 55 targets for a 58% completion rate, 419 yards and two touchdowns with a 94.4 NFL pass rating when targeted.

It was a different story in 2023, with Lassiter cutting his coverage production in half by giving up just 15 receptions on 39 targets for a 38% completion rate, 136 yards and a 48.7 NFL pass rating. He checked the agility boxes at the Combine with a 4.12s shuttle (84th%) and a 6.62s 3-Cone that led all cornerbacks. He waited to run until the Georgia pro day, and it became obvious why when he posted a disheartening 4.64s 40-yard dash that would have tied Syracuse CB Isaiah Johnson for the slowest cornerback 40-time at the Combine had he tested in Indianapolis instead of Athens.

Adept at using the sideline to his advantage by walling off receivers on go routes, while loose hips help him stay in phase on double-moves. Very difficult to fool but Lassiter has a tendency to keep his eyes trained on the catch point instead of turning to find the ball which contributed to him picking off just one pass in three years. Can lower the boom, though he lacks ideal size and speed which could be an issue since he only saw 75 reps in the slot over 1,689 career snaps. Lassiter’s situation reminds me of his former UGA teammate Derion Kendrick, who ran a brutally slow 4.79s 40-yard dash, but has carved out a starting role with the Rams.

9 - Andru Phillips, Kentucky

A state champion triple-jumper in high school, Phillips (5’106/190) followed in his linebacker father Carlos’ footsteps by attending Kentucky. He didn’t see much of the field during his first two autumns in Lexington, but that changed in 2022 when he played 257-of-363 reps in the box/slot and allowed completions on 15-of-32 targets for just 120 yards on the year.

This season he played 426-of-710 snaps outside, with 223 reps coming from the slot. He struggled giving up completions on 39-of-58 targets for 438 yards and a four-to-zero TD/INT ratio, resulting in five PBU with a passable 72nd percentile PFF defensive grade. He struggled bringing down ball carriers by producing a 23% missed tackle rate despite 24 stops in run support.

Phillips earned a Senior Bowl invite before running a solid 4.48s 40-yard dash (76th%) and 6.98s 3-Cone (63rd%). He really showed out in the jumping tests with 99th percentile marks in the vertical (42”) and broad (11’03’) for an 8.13 Relative Athletic Score. A tenacious competitor who brings a physicality to his game, Phillips has one season of full-time starting reps and extensive slot experience. His ability to play inside is likely his best path to playing time in the NFL, since he is on the smaller side at 5’106/190 and has trouble contesting bigger wideouts.

10 - Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri

In high school Abrams-Draine (5’113/179) started as a freshman on the varsity basketball team and played QB and WR in addition to cornerback on the gridiron. A three-star prospect, the Mobile, AL product was one of the first signings for new HC Eli Drinkwitz and spent his first offseason at wide receiver before switching sides a few games into his pandemic-shortened freshman year.

He embraced the move with gusto and proceeded to lead the Tigers with 10 PBU to go with three interceptions and a laudable 83rd percentile defensive grade in 601 snaps as a sophomore. Abrams-Draine’s standout play reached an apex in 2023 as he led the SEC in passes defended with 16, led Mizzou with a 30% forced incompletion rate and ranked second overall among Power Five corners with an 89.9 PFF coverage grade.

While the lockdown Missouri cornerback ran a strong 1.52s 10-yard split (90th%) and 4.44s 40-yard dash (86th%), his 4.41s shuttle (24th%) and 7.15s 3-Cone (36th%) were very disappointing. Throw in a 33.5” vert (36th%) and 9’07” broad (22nd%) to go with sub-standard height/weight and Abrams-Draine’s 4.69 RAS leaves some doubts about his ability to translate to the NFL.

A feisty, highly-productive outside corner with oily hips and an aggressive demeanor, Abrams-Draine has proved himself as a formidable adversary who allowed a 47% catch rate in the hyper-competitive SEC. Less than ideal size is going to be a detriment, but he could be a key defensive cog at the NFL level if he can become proficient in a slot role.

11 - Mike Sainristil, Michigan
12 - Max Melton, Rutgers
13 - Jarvis Brownlee, Louisville
14 - Caelen Carson, Wake Forest
15 - Khyree Jackson, Oregon
16 - Cam Hart, Notre Dame
17 - DJ James, Auburn
18 - Nehemiah Pritchett, Auburn
19 - Renardo Green, Florida State
20 - Decamerion Richardson, Mississippi State
21 - Myles Harden, South Dakota
22 - Kalen King, Penn State
23 - Josh Newton, TCU
24 - Marcellas Dial, South Carolina
25 - Chau Smith-Wade, Wake Forest