NFL Draft Notebook: Ranking the top 5 cornerbacks of the 2024 NFL Draft class

This week's NFL Draft Notebook takes a look at the 2024 cornerback class, highlights how NFL Draft needs have changed due to free agency, and more.
Kool-Aid McKinstry
Kool-Aid McKinstry / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The 2024 NFL Draft cornerback class is a strong group and has plenty of talent at the top of the draft. The top player on my board Kool-Aid McKinstry will likely not be the first corner, but when going solely off his game film it’s hard to argue with him being the cream of the crop. He is closely followed by his Alabama teammate Terrion Arnold who is coming off the best season of his career.

My number three cornerback is Quinyon Mitchell who is widely viewed as the top cornerback in the 2024 NFL Draft, by other draftniks. While I am a fan of his and have a mid-first round grade on him he doesn’t have the feel for the game McKinstry or Arnold have. The other two corners who should hear their name called on April 25th are Clemson’s Nate Wiggins and Iowa’s Cooper DeJean.

In addition, to taking a look at the top cornerbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft this week’s NFL Draft Notebook also highlights how some of the top free agent moves will impact this year’s draft. We also discuss a cornerback who that is seeing his stock fall and a day-three quarterback who could be a fit in Denver.

Top five cornerbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft

1. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

Alabama's Kool-Aid McKinstry is one of the more polished cornerbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft. This sound play allowed him to be a shutdown corner at Alabama the past couple of years having been named a 2023 All-American and leading the SEC in passes defended in 2022 with 15 breakups. In addition to playing with great technique, he is a longer corner who is not afraid to challenge wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. When it comes to how high he will be drafted a lot will come down to his long-distance speed and if he is fully recovered from the Jones fracture in his right foot. One team that could be a good fit for him is the Hoston Texans, who met with him during the NFL Combine.

"Kool-Aid McKinstry is more reliable and consistent than Terrion Arnold, but I think Arnold has more pure cover talent."

NFC scout to

2. Terrion Arnold, Alabama

The other Alabama cornerback who will likely be taken in the first round is Terrion Arnold. Like McKinstry, Arnold is coming off an All-American season after leading the SEC in pass breakups and tying for first in interceptions. One of the reasons he was able to make so many plays on the ball was his quick closing speed. He also did a great job of being physical with the man he was guarding and he broke up several passes this year by playing through his man. In addition to thriving in pass coverage, he earned a 90.5 run-defense grade from Pro Football Focus which was the third-best mark in the nation. Another similarity he shares with McKinstry is a lack of great testing speed having only run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

3. Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

A corner I am a little lower on than other people are is Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell, with that being said I still have a mid-first round grade on him. One of the reasons I have a first-round grade on him is his well-rounded games. His 4.33 40-yard dash speed allows him to keep up with any receiver and helped him finish as Toledo's all-time leader in career pass breakups. He also shows good strength for a 195-pound cornerback bench pressing 225-pound 20 times at the NFL Combine and squatting 555 pounds. This physicality showed up at the Senior Bowl as he routinely controlled wide receivers at the line of scrimmage despite spending most of his time in off coverage at Toledo. One concern I have with him and why he was my third-rated corner is that he sometimes takes too long to diagnose routes.

4. Nate Wiggins, Clemson

A player who has zero concerns about his speed is Clemson’s Nate Wiggins. Wiggins posted the fastest 40-yard dash among cornerbacks this year at the NFL Combine with a time of 4.28. This speed shows up on film as well displaying the quickness to close on the ball and the long distance speed that makes it very hard to beat him deep. He also has loose hips which allows him to change directions quickly and shows he has the potential to be a shutdown corner at the next level. An area he does need to improve on though is his strength. Wiggins came in at only 173 pounds and that lack of size makes him a liability vs the run. It also allows receivers to outmuscle him at the catch point. A couple of teams Wiggins has already met with include the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

5. Cooper DeJean, Iowa

The most versatile cornerback in the 2024 NFL Draft is Iowa’s Cooper DeJean. DeJean has the skill set to play either safety or cornerback in the NFL. In addition to being able to play multiple positions on defense, he is also an excellent punt returner and thrives at covering punts. As a pro prospect, he is a physical corner who excels in zone coverage. He has tremendous ball skills having picked off seven passes over the past two seasons. One team that is bringing in DeJean for a visit is the Philidelphia Eagles and he should be someone they consider with the 22nd pick overall in the 2024 NFL Draft.

"I feel like it’s more about my versatility. I’ve proven that I can play outside and inside. Obviously, I haven’t played safety in college. But I feel like I have the ability to play multiple different positions in the back end."

Cooper DeJean about playing safety

NFL Draft news and notes

Look for Dallas to draft a center: The Cowboys lost several key players in free agency this year including center Tyler Biadasz who signed with the Commanders. This loss will likely mean Dallas will look to add a center in the first or second round of the 2024 NFL Draft. In the first round, they should consider Jackson Powers-Johnson of Oregon. However, if they decided to address another need like offensive tackle in the first round a player who could be an ideal fit in the second round is West Virginia’s Zach Frazier.

Braden Fiske staying in state: One of the more intriguing defensive tackle prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft is Florida State’s Braden Fiske. Last season, Fiske accounted for six sacks in his first season at Florida State. A team that will likely look to address the defensive tackle spot early in the 2024 NFL Draft is the Miami Dolphins after they lost Christian Wilkins to the Las Vegas Raiders. Fiske could help fill this void and is someone Miami could likely get in the second round.

Look for Bears to go with a wide receiver at #9: Another free agency move that shows how a team thinks about the 2024 NFL Draft is former Chicago wide receiver Darnell Mooney signing with the Atlanta Falcons. This makes finding a number two wide receiver a must for the Bears, and one they will likely fill with the ninth overall pick. While I don’t think Marvin Harrison Jr and Malik Nabers will be on the board when the Bears go on the clock for the second time Washington’s Rome Odunze has a good chance of being around. He would give the Bears a dynamic set of playmakers that includes Caleb Williams, running back D'Andre Swift, wide receiver D. J. Moore, and tight end Cole Kmet.

Ideal fit: An NFL fit I love is Oregon RB Bucky Irving to the Kansas City Chiefs. He has the ideal skills to fit in this system including great hands out of the backfield having caught 56 passes last year. If added to the Chiefs offense he would give Patrick Mahomes another receiving threat out of the backfield. In addition to being one of the better receiving backs in the 2024 NFL Draft Irving is an underrated ball carrier who rushed 1,180 yards last season while averaging 6.3 yards per carry. If the Chiefs took him it would most likely be with their third-round pick which is the 95th selection overall.

Stock falling: One cornerback who has seen his stock fall significantly this year is Penn State cornerback Kalen King. This season he struggled in coverage against teams like Ohio State and saw a major drop in production. In 2022 he led the Big 10 with 21 passes defender but this season only had two. He was also hurt by a poor NFL Combine running the 40-yard dash 4.61-second which was the second worst number among cornerbacks. On the positive side, he does do a good job of jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and would do best in a cover-two scheme.

Kalen King
Kalen King / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Mid-round quarterback interests Denver: A quarterback the Denver Broncos have shown a lot of interest in is Tulane’s Michael Pratt. The team met with Pratt at the NFL Combine and also had several interactions with him at the Senior Bowl. Pratt is currently ranked as my eighth quarterback and has a fourth-round grade on my board. He is a pocket passer who throws a very catchable ball, and he can make plays with his feet when needed. He also is a good decision maker having only thrown five interceptions compared to 22 touchdowns last season.

Michigan connection: A player Seattle head coach Mike Macdonald may reunite with from his Michigan days is cornerback Mike Sainristil who the team has already met with. Sainristil is one of the better nickel corners in the 2024 NFL Draft, having picked off six passes last season. In addition to his impressive ball skills, Sainristil is a tough physical corner who is not afraid to challenge receivers. Look for the Seahawks to strongly consider drafting him with one of their two third round picks.

"His leadership, I mean it's constant. He just affects everybody that he comes in contact with in a positive way. I'm sure you see the see same thing that we do. Loved by the players, loved by the coaches, and it's great to see. He's already a Michigan legend, right? To see him continuing to add to that is just a beautiful thing. A wonderful, wonderful thing."

Jim Harbaugh on Sainristil

Drawing plenty of interest: A mid-round running back who is getting his share of interest is Kentucky’s Ray Davis. Davis has already met with at least five teams including the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, and New England Patriots. Davis is currently rated as the fifth-best running back on my board and I have a fourth-round grade on him. His biggest positive as a pro prospect is his physical running style which has helped him become the first player in NCAA history to have 1,000-yard rushing seasons at three different schools. He also has the football character coaches will love and is someone who has already overcome his share of adversity.

James Williams moving to linebacker: A player who is trying to change positions in the NFL is Miami safety James Williams who is shifting to linebacker. This will likely be his best position due to his weaknesses in coverage and 4.65 speed. If he is to make this switch though he will need to improve his strength and do a much better job of getting off blocks. A couple of teams that have shown an interest in him are the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL Draft quotes of the week

“Any receiver in this draft would love to play with Patrick Mahomes. Just the dynamic he can bring to the game and the plays he can make with his feet, roaming around the pocket. I just feel like any receiver would love to play with Patrick Mahomes.” Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy on possibly being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs

“The tackle class is really deep this year with a ton of talent. Young, strong, big, all the measurables that you need to play the right way.” Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles via CBS Sports

“I’ve grown up a Ravens fan. Their style of defensive play fits me.” Alabama outside linebacker Chris Braswell

Chris Braswell
Chris Braswell / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

“I am the number one all-purpose back in this draft. “ Clemson running back Will Shipley

"It just changed my whole entire life. It made me focused, made me disciplined. This game of football is special because what it teaches you as a man, and how it can help your life in many areas. It was always a dream of mine to play in the NFL." Missouri running back Cody Schrader

"I'm definitely a press man to man in your face corner." Oregon cornerback Khyree Jackson

“Whether it’s drafted or undrafted, I think an opportunity will arise and that’s all that matters. I mean shoot, I walked on at Oklahoma now I’m sitting here talking to you guys. At the end of the day, all I need is an opportunity.” Oklahoma wide receiver Drake Stoops

NFL Draft stats of the week

16: There have been 16 defensive backs since 2003 to weigh 175 pounds or less at the NFL Combine. Only one Emmanuel Forbes has been taken in the first round. Clemson's Nate Wiggins hopes to be the second one after weighing in at 173 pounds.

9: The hand size of Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, which is the smallest hands of any quarterback on my draft board.

34: The total number of compensatory draft picks awarded for the 2024 NFL Draft

5: The number of compensatory draft picks the 49ers were awarded. They received a third, fourth, fifth, and two sixth-round picks.

0: No college running back that has run a 40-time slower than 4.65 and been drafted since 2015. Two running backs Audric Estime and Dillon Johnson ran slower times at the NFL Combine.

84.5: This is the length of Florida State wide receiver Johnny Wilson's wingspan, this is also the longest wingspan of any WR in NFL Combine history.

184: The weight Oregon wide receiver Tony Franklin weighed in at his pro day. This is eight more pounds than he was at the NFL Combine.