Trade Proposal Lands Commanders ‘Freakish’ Athlete in NFL Draft

Iowa's Cooper DeJean

Getty Iowa defensive back/return specialist Cooper DeJean.

The Washington Commanders need a little bit of everything in the 2024 NFL draft, so getting a player who can do a little bit of everything tracks.

The Athletic’s Ben Standig proposed a trade that sends three picks from the Commanders in the second round, third round and fifth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for an additional pick in the first round at No. 21 and a fifth-round pick.

The Commanders already have the No. 2 overall pick — Standig has them taking LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels then adding All-American Iowa cornerback/return specialist Cooper DeJean with the No. 21 pick from the Dolphins.

“I don’t see DeJean as taking another cornerback,” Standig wrote. “The 6-footer with 4.4 speed is much more than that. There’s the freakish athleticism. DeJean’s anticipatory coverage skills led to returning three of his seven interceptions for touchdowns. The competitive defensive back plays physically.”

Cooper DeJean: From Small-Town Iowa to Big-Time Football

DeJean’s career at Iowa took on Paul Bunyan status in 2023, when he was named a unanimous Associated Press All-American on the way to being named Big Ten Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and Big Ten Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year.

It was an incredible journey for DeJean from playing for a consolidated high school in tiny Ida Grove, Iowa (pop. 2,015) to becoming one of the biggest stars in college football.

DeJean had 7 interceptions across his final two seasons despite missing the last four games of 2023 with a broken leg. He also had 31 punt returns for 406 yards and 1 touchdown in that time.

“His best football is played with his eyes forward, using his instincts to challenge quarterbacks and his big downhill burst to smack whatever needs smacking,” wrote NFL analyst Lance Zierlein. “He would seem to be a no-brainer as a punt returner and gunner in Year 1.

Commanders Took Big Swing at Cornerback in 2023 Draft

The Commanders took a cornerback in the first round with Mississippi State’s Emmanuel Forbes Jr., who struggled mightily in his rookie season.

One problem with Forbes was that despite setting the FBS career record with 6 interception returns for touchdowns, he wasn’t physically ready to face NFL wide receivers at 6-foot and 166 pounds. DeJean is 6-foot and 203 pounds.

Forbes was torched by Philadelphia Eagles star A.J. Brown for 9 receptions, 175 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 4 and seemingly never recovered. That dismantling got bad enough that Brown landed a $10,927 fine for taunting Forbes at one point during the game.

Forbes ended up getting benched multiple times during the season but gets a new start with head coach Dan Quinn — one of the NFL’s most well-known defensive coordinators over the last decade.

“Forbes was the 2023 class’ most instinctive secondary defender (14 INTs in three years), but the first two months of the season weren’t kind to the Mississippi State product,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Ryan Fowler in Nov. 2023. “He was benched after allowing 401 yards as the primary cover man through five weeks.”

One reason Standig’s draft proposal might be a real possibility is because Dolphins general manager Chris Grier is known for making blockbuster trades around the draft. Don’t forget Grier is the same guy who got the San Francisco 49ers to trade three first-round draft picks so they could move up to get Trey Lance at No. 3 overall in 2017 then sent the bulk of those picks to the Kansas City Chiefs a few years later to get wide receiver Tyreek Hill.