Arizona Cardinals could target Cooper DeJean when NFL Draft rolls around

The Arizona Cardinals could address a major hole by selecting the University of Iowa cornerback during the latter part of Round 1.
Michigan State v Iowa
Michigan State v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

Rarely does an offseason go by without the Arizona Cardinals needing some help at cornerback. Maybe one of these years, the club will acquire two or three dependable individuals for the position and keep them around for a while. At the very least, Cards general manager Monti Ossenfort must try to find the next Patrick Peterson, so the opposition's best wide receiver can be kept in check on a weekly basis.

This coming April, Arizona will enjoy the luxury of having a pair of first-round picks at their disposal during the 2024 NFL Draft. An ugly 4-13 record left the franchise with the fourth-overall choice, while last year's trade with the Houston Texans has given the club the 27th selection in Round 1 as well. The Redbirds should be eyeing Ohio State wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. with the first of the two selections, but could the second opening-round pick be spent on a difference-making cover guy?

Ok, maybe University of Iowa corner Cooper DeJean isn't as highly-ranked as Peterson was 13 years ago when the former Cardinals stud made his jump from LSU to the pros. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't similarities between the two.

DeJean, like Peterson back in 2011, should be erased from draft boards fairly early. Thanks to his superb play in Iowa's defensive backfield, the 6 foot 1, 207 pounder has been lumped in with the best cornerbacks of this year's draft class. And there's another aspect of DeJean's game that also draws comparisons to a three-time, First-team All-Pro like Peterson.

Following his rookie season back in '11, Peterson was voted to the NFC's Pro Bowl squad as a kick returner. Remarkably, the Florida native returned an incredible four punts for touchdowns as a first-year youngster. Peterson's success in that area was almost unfounded, and the speedster also received All-Pro honors that season for that outstanding work as a return man.

Cooper DeJean could be utilized in two different ways for the Arizona Cardinals if he's drafted this coming April

DeJean, if selected, could bring more of the same to the Cards. Back in 2022, the sophomore averaged an eye-popping 16.5 yards on 10 punt returns for the Hawkeyes. DeJean was then credited with 11.5 yards per return this past fall, and took a punt 70 yards to the house against Michigan State University back in September.

Of course, DeJean's main contributions would come on the defensive side of the ball for Arizona . The South Dakota native absolutely shined in '22, totaling 75 tackles, five interceptions and eight passes defensed for the Hawkeyes secondary. Even more impressive is the fact that DeJean returned a whopping three of the five picks for touchdowns that fall.

It would've kind of impossible to duplicate that level of success in 2023, but DeJean gave it a whirl. In 10 appearances for Iowa, the talented corner racked up 41 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass breakups. Those numbers would've been higher if DeJean hadn't suffered a season-ending leg injury in mid-November.

Even with the campaign being cut short, DeJean was still voted a Unanimous All-American for his performance in '23. The 20-year-old never allowed a touchdown, despite being in coverage for over 400 snaps. DeJean was also named First-Team All-Big 10 at the conclusion of each of the past two seasons.

It's no secret that one of Ossenfort's biggest priorities this offseason will be to strengthen the cornerback spot for defensive coordinator Nick Rallis. A free-agent addition is certainly a strong possibility. A highly-touted draft prospect could also be included in the plan, and it would not be surprising in the least if DeJean checks that box for the Cardinals in three months time.


(Statistics provided by College Football Reference)