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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers Target Cooper DeJean Could Convert to Safety

The Pittsburgh Steelers landed Cooper DeJean in the latest mock draft by, grabbing the versatile defensive back.



Steelers Iowa CB Cooper DeJean

Iowa cornerback and potential Pittsburgh Steelers target Cooper DeJean put together some impressive numbers at his personal pro day. And shortly after that, he came to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit, indicating the Steelers interest in the talented cornerback. In fact, if his numbers from the unofficial testing numbers hold, DeJean would have the best Relative Athletic Score from any cornerback in the entire class.

DeJean did run the agilities, but his explosive drills and coming in at over 200 pounds while doing it are impressive. It is no surprise that he ran fast, as DeJean has always been someone who has burners on the football field. It would be more interesting that he did not do the agilities, especially with the thought that many teams view him as a safety. Regardless, DeJean projects as someone who can play outside, in the slot, or at safety. So, this is a versatile chess piece that could have huge benefits for a team like the Steelers.

And in NFL Network’s latest mock draft, DeJean lands with the Steelers.

“I forced Brock Bowers into the top 10 above. Now I’m bringing similar conviction to this projection for DeJean, as I’m bullish on the versatile defensive back ultimately being a top-20 pick. Absent through most of the pre-draft process due to a broken leg suffered in November, DeJean just put on an athletic show for scouts at his private workout. The playmaking extraordinaire — and prolific return man — is made for today’s NFL, with defenses valuing coverage versatility and ball skills at a premium,” they wrote. 

But not everyone loves him. Longtime analyst Greg Cosell sees some tightness in his game that might force him to switch positions.

“There will be a lot of teams that see him as a safety. He’s a little stiff and it shows up on tape. Even when he plays press. I mean, he struggles a bit,” Cosell said on the Ross Tucker Podcast. “In fact, I could easily make the argument that the corner a year ago from Iowa, Riley Moss, who was drafted by Denver, if I remember correctly in the third round, is a better corner prospect than Cooper DeJean. Some may even see him as a big nickel safety. Some may see him as a star playing in the slot.”

A fantastic athlete, DeJean has dynamic athleticism that sticks out and allows him to play in all areas of the field. And while he primarily worked at either slot cornerback or outside cornerback, there has been talk of moving him to safety. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah would go a different route, instead embracing the versatility that DeJean has, and he believes he is a first-round pick.

“I think he can play anywhere. That’s one of the things I love about him. You are drafting a big-time athlete who has just got — he has football instincts. He has ball skills,” Jeremiah said on a conference call with reporters. “At corner there’s one — just one little thing that bothered me a little bit. I just think there’s a little bit of a pause in his transition, but I’m probably nitpicking a little bit there. To me I like the fact of having a guy that you could play — he could play nickel and be a big, physical nickel. You could play him as a high safety, let him do that. I think you kind of sort it out. I hate saying it this way, but you almost sort it out when you get him there and see who you have got. He allows you, almost like an offensive lineman that is versatile, to get your best five DBs on the field because of his versatility and athleticism to be able to play in any spot. I wouldn’t pigeon-hole him into corner or nickel or safety at this point in time.”

He had seven interceptions in his college career, returning three for touchdowns, and also returned punts for the Hawkeyes. DeJean suffered a leg injury that ended his season late in the 2023 season. But now that he is recovered, DeJean’s testing numbers on just 12 days of training are impressive.

DeJean projects as someone who will go in the back end of the first round, and the Steelers feel like one of the teams that could bite, mainly due to his schematic fit.