Buccaneers Could Have Options at Cornerback in NFL Draft

Cooper DeJean

Getty University of Iowa cornerback/return specialist Cooper DeJean.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of the components you look for in an elite NFL defense.

They have an NFL All-Pro safety in Antoine Winfield Jr. They have first-round pick Calijah Kancey at defensive tackle. They might have an elite edge rusher in 2023 fourth-round pick YaYa Diaby. They have one of the best middle linebackers in NFL history in Lavonte David.

What they don’t have is an elite cornerback.

USA Today’s Jason Kanno broke down the best-case scenarios for the Buccaneers if they were to take a cornerback in the 2024 NFL draft.

“When it comes to defensive backs, Bucs general manager Jason Licht definitely has a type,” Kanno wrote. “Out of the 13 defensive backs Licht has drafted in his 10 years as general manager, just one was under 195 pounds … Licht likes his corners big, tall, and usually, fast.”

Iowa’s Cooper DeJean Might Drop to Buccaneers

Kanno has DeJean as the “best-case scenario” for Tampa Bay at the No. 26 overall pick.

DeJean is slotted at No. 23 to the Arizona Cardinals via a trade in a mock draft from The Athletic’s Dane Brugler and No. 23 to the New England Patriots via a trade in Matt Miller’s mock draft for ESPN.

PFF’s latest market-implied mock draft from Arjun Menon has DeJean dropping to the Buccaneers at No. 26.

“The Iowa corner is one of the best run defenders in this year’s draft class, and can play multiple positions in the secondary,” Kanno wrote. “While the Bucs need an outside corner most of all, DeJean would be an overall weapon for Bowles not unlike All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr. If he falls to the 26th pick and the top pass-rushers are off the board, DeJean should be the pick for Tampa Bay.”

DeJean is value added because of his ability to return punts — he was the Big Ten Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and Big Ten Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year in 2023.

Talent-Rich Draft for Cornerbacks in 2024

Brugler has five cornerbacks being taken in the first round of his mock draft, while Miller’s has four. Menon’s market-implied mock draft has six corners drafted in the first round.

Kanno’s list only included McKinstry as another potential first-round pick for Tampa Bay but added several options for later rounds, including Notre Dame’s Cam Hart, Colorado State’s Chigoze Anusiem and NCAA Division II All-American Willie Drew out of Virginia State.

“If Jason Licht’s historical drafting patterns are any indication, Hart is a bulls-eye target for the Bucs this year,” Kanno wrote. “He brings ideal size at 6’3″ and 202 pounds, and enough athleticism to hang with NFL wide receivers. There are technique deficiencies in coverage, and Hart lacks ball production, but these are the same problems Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean had coming out.

“Hart is the kind of bet Licht tends to make in the middle of draft, and could be taken with one of the Bucs’ third-round picks.”

Read More