Advertisement

5 cornerbacks the Dolphins could consider with pick No. 21

The Miami Dolphins own pick No. 21 in the 2024 NFL draft set to take place on April 25, and this is a crucial offseason for the aqua and orange coming off a devastating end to a promising season.

There are a lot of questions that’ll be answered as to the direction of the team, as free agency decisions will likely determine what the Dolphins will do come draft night.

Miami came into last season with high expectations in the secondary with the trade for Jalen Ramsey and the second-round selection of rookie Cam Smith. Unfortunately, Ramsey missed significant time to start the season while Smith was rarely given an opportunity to see the field.

The Dolphins secondary struggled mightily late in the season, especially in open-field tackling, as they were decimated by injuries most of the season.

Cornerback is one position that can’t get enough depth. They’ll always be highly sought after in the first round no matter the quality of a particular class. This class, in particular, doesn’t have a surefire top-10 selection like Jalen Ramsey or Sauce Gardner, but there are certainly five to 10 guys who could make a case for going in the first round.

Here are five cornerbacks who the Dolphins should consider selecting if they decide to go that route.

Nate Wiggins - Clemson

(Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/Getty Images)

20-year-old cornerback Nate Wiggins is entering the NFL draft after his junior season at Clemson University. Appearing in 10 games last season for the Tigers, Wiggins recorded 29 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He was named to the All-ACC first team in 2023.

Wiggins stands out as a true shutdown corner. He stands at 6-foot-2 with a lengthy build. He has the speed to match up against some of the top receivers in the NFL. He is an aggressive playmaker who is not afraid to take risks being a ball hawk.

Wiggins has the unique ability to read routes and break quickly to the ball. His speed combined with his aggressive style makes him a threat to return an interception for a touchdown on any given play.

Just to get an idea of how fast Wiggins is, he clocked 22 miles per hour on this chase-down forced fumble against North Carolina running back Omarion Hampton.

 

It would be a slight surprise if Wiggins is still available at pick No. 21 since he is ranked as the top corner in many early mock drafts. If the Dolphins are indeed thinking of selecting a corner, Wiggins would be a great addition to an already talented Miami secondary if he is indeed available.

The only glaring area where Wiggins can improve upon is his strength. Only weighing 185 pounds will likely present matchup problems against more physical receivers. The Dolphins might shy away from lighter corners due to open-field tackling already being an area of weakness.

Terrion Arnold - Alabama

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Redshirted sophomore out of Alabama Terrion Arnold has been a rising star for the Crimson Tide. He has worked his way up the cornerback rankings for this draft with his play the previous two seasons. He is an NFL-ready player who has the speed and versatility to match up well on the outside. Alabama has been a hub for NFL quarterbacks during the Nick Saban era, and this year is no different.

Arnold was originally recruited as a safety but switched to corner during his redshirt year at Alabama. Two years after switching positions, Arnold was named a First-team All-American corner by the Associated Press. Pro Football Focus grades him at 88.3.

With many offenses trying to throw the ball away from fellow Alabama corner Kool-Aid Mckinstry, Arnold saw a lot of action and rose to the occasion. Arnold recorded five interceptions and 17 passes defensed in 2023. He also made 63 total tackles with 6.5 being for a loss. Arnold’s statistics improved all across the board from 2022 to 2023.

Arnold has the capability to impact the game both in the pass and run game. He can line up both outside and in the slot. He also has the ability to excel in press coverage.

Arnold showed great adaptability switching from safety to corner, which is a sign of a coachable player who is ready to rise to any challenge. There are no questions about Arnold’s tackling ability which could make him an enticing option for the Dolphins following the struggles in that category late last season.

“Your corners have to be able to tackle, and they have to be able to tackle in space. Arnold can do that, and he gives you the versatility as well,” said ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

The Dolphins had success last year with defensive players who are multi-purposed such as Andrew Van Ginkel, and Arnold would fit that trend with his experience at corner and safety. His unique run-stopping ability might catch the eye of a defensive coordinator like Anthony Weaver. With Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard as the established outside corners, Arnold could find himself in a very diverse role if he is to wear the aqua and orange.

Cooper DeJean - Iowa

Mandatory Credit: Lily Smith/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
Mandatory Credit: Lily Smith/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

Cooper DeJean from the Iowa Hawkeyes could be the most NFL-ready defensive back of this class. He is listed at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds with elite versatility and can play multiple positions, lining up outside and in the slot. His skillset might translate well to the safety position similar to Arnold. He will be a good fit for most schemes at the pro level.

DeJean was named First-team All-Big Ten in both of his last two seasons. 2022 was his most impressive campaign, as he started in all 13 games and recorded five interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns.

Last season, DeJean missed a couple of games with injury but was equally as impressive. He saw a dip in interceptions, recording just two. However, according to Pro Football Focus, DeJean made up for the decline in forced turnovers by not allowing a single touchdown in 2023.

DeJean is an electrifying talent. Teams could see him as a potential return man on special teams considering he displayed elite vision when returning interceptions for touchdowns. This one against Rutgers in 2022 is a perfect example.

While he could excel on special teams, he is probably far too valuable on defense to take that risk.

DeJean would be a great addition to the Dolphins defense. Since he doesn’t need to play on the outside, he could easily be used with Ramsey and Howard playing their normal positions.

Weaver will be able to use him in multiple coverage schemes. If he was to be drafted by the Dolphins, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he made the switch to safety especially if DeShon Elliott departs in free agency.

Quinyon Mitchell - Toledo

Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Quinyon Mitchell, out of Toledo, is an interesting prospect who could almost go anywhere from picks Nos. 10-32 in the first round. Mitchell comes from a much smaller school than the other corners on this list, but make no mistake, he is an elite talent. When a player from a school like Toledo is discussed as a potential first-round pick, it illustrates a significant impact made.

Mitchell dominated his competition a season ago, giving up zero touchdowns in 2023, and quarterbacks completed just 43% of their passes when throwing his direction. Mitchell held opposing quarterbacks to a 51.4 passer rating, according to PFF.

PFF graded Mitchell as a 91.5 which is the highest among anyone on this list. He displayed great coverage skills that will translate well to the NFL. He looked good in man coverage and has no questions about his tackling ability.

A truly amazing statistic of Mitchell’s is he did not commit a single penalty last season. This is an area highly sought after when scouting corners. If a corner is observed as too handsy at the college level, it can often become a more obvious issue in the pros. No penalties combined with other elite statistics should have Mitchell as a late first-round or early second-round pick,

Coming from a smaller school has its obvious drawbacks translating to the NFL considering the gap in completion will be more significant than someone who played in the SEC. A team like the Dolphins could be a good landing spot for him to further develop his game. Having two established starting corners would allow the coaching staff to work with Micthell in practice and put him in ideal game situations.

Mitchell has all of the tools to be an all-around elite cornerback at the NFL level. Keep an eye on him come draft day, as it will be quite interesting to see where he is selected.

Kamari Lassiter - Georgia

[Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]
[Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Kamari Lassiter has been a player on the rise for the Georgia Bulldogs. He has shot up the draft boards with his performance in 2023. He’s had success in both man and zone coverages while also being effective against the run.

The downsides that will scare away scouts are obviously his strength and also his lack of turnovers forced during his college career. Scouts might look at his one career interception as a sole reason to skip past him.

However, if you look a little closer at his statistics, his lack of interceptions and passes defended are largely due to him not allowing much separation. According to PFF, he was only targeted 39 times and allowed just 15 receptions in 14 games.

Lassiter held quarterbacks to a 48.7 passer rating. He improved tremendously in the majority of statistical categories from 2022 to 2023.

Pick No. 21 might be considered too early to draft Lassiter, but the Dolphins might view him as someone who can be a well-rounded corner who they can mold into someone who fits the system. He has no questions regarding his tackling ability and can be plugged in almost anywhere in the secondary. Teams often look for players who can adjust to the team’s needs.

Lassiter is an unlikely option for the Dolphins since there will probably be better options at pick number 21. However, if a couple of corners are selected earlier than expected, Lassiter would be a quality option for a Dolphins team who could use some more depth in the secondary.

Story originally appeared on Dolphins Wire