Why Cooper DeJean is the best value defensive back in the 2024 NFL Draft

Some draft experts are split on Cooper DeJean, and that may be for the best.
Iowa v Minnesota
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Cooper DeJean has been a bit of a polarizing prospect for NFL Draft experts. Some view the former Iowa Hawkeye as a cornerback while others see him as a safety. The truth of the matter is, his versatility is what makes him so valuable.

DeJean finally was able to participate in his pro day in early April after rehabbing a lower leg injury. He ran a 4.43 unofficial 40-yard dash and was every bit the freakish athlete he has been advertised to be. It would also appear that DeJean will be ready for training camp, which will certainly boost his stock. It could even solidify his position as a first-round pick.

While fit is important to every prospect in the draft, DeJean will need to find a home that is equal parts creative and patient with him. Any team that drafts DeJean and is hell-bent on pigeonholing him as any one thing could be doing themselves nothing but a giant disservice.

DeJean doesn't need to be an outside cornerback to be considered a success, nor does he need to seamlessly transition to safety. He just needs to prove he can do one or both successfully. The 'both' aspect is what makes him so valuable.

The NFL has been somewhat lagging behind in valuing the nickel cornerback position, but teams that have a strong nickel are definitely thankful. Take the Detroit Lions for example. The Lions have a fairly suspect secondary, save for their quality nickel-safety hybrid Brian Branch.

Branch is the example DeJean should be molded by. While Branch is a better coverage DB and DeJean is a stronger tackler, their similarities in circumstance run nearly parallel.

Like Branch, DeJean can be asked to do everything in the defense - cover, blitz and stuff the run. He can square up in the box, drop into the deep third or half, or take a wideout one-on-one.

A defensive coordinator who asks DeJean to do just one thing will be disappointed. Look at how Isaiah Simmons's career has panned out. He wasn't trusted to do much in Arizona and now he's a coverage linebacker that doesn't get enough respect in the league.

Of course, DeJean won't be a top-10 pick like Simmons and the expectation is that he won't be a second-round pick like Branch. If that holds true, DeJean adds a ton of opportunity to any defense willing to add him to the secondary and show creativity in their usage of him.

DeJean is a freakish athlete. Whichever NFL franchise opts to employ him need only treat him as such and reap the benefits.

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