UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - SEPTEMBER 23: Penn State Nittany Lions Wide Receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (1) runs with the ball after making a catch with Iowa Hawkeyes Defensive Back Cooper DeJean (3) defending during the second half of the College Football game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions on September 23,2023, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - SEPTEMBER 23: Penn State Nittany Lions Wide Receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (1) runs with the ball after making a catch with Iowa Hawkeyes Defensive Back Cooper DeJean (3) defending during the second half of the College Football game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions on September 23,2023, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Iowa’s Cooper DeJean Transitioning to Safety in the NFL?

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IOWA CITY, IA – OCTOBER 07: Iowa Hawkeyes left corner back Cooper DeJean (3) as seen during a college football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Iowa Hawkeyes on October 07, 2023, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Ia. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If you have to pick a “most valuable player” in college football for a team, it would be Iowa’s Cooper DeJean.

He has been the leader and cornerstone of Iowa’s defense in recent years.

So much versatility comes out when watching the film, which is what defensive coordinators love.

Athletes who can move around the field, and fill a variety of roles such as New Orleans Saints safety-corner Tyrann Mathieu are vital.

It’s a great value when it comes to scheming up a defense. Mathieu, who came into the league as a corner, plays safety, corner, slot corner, and can blitz. Having a player like that allows a lot of game-planning flexibility and creativity.

DeJean being a natural zone defender with high-level IQ and versatility could be seen as a potential hybrid player in the NFL.

Overview: Cooper DeJean

6-foot-1, 207 pounds

40 Time: 4.50 (nfldraftbuzz.com)

2022 stats: 75 tackles, 8 PBU’s, 5 INT’s & 55.6 QB rating when targeted

Level of Competition: Medium

2022 Film Evaluated: Iowa State, Michigan & Ohio State

2023 Film Evaluated: Iowa State, Penn State & Wisconsin

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report:

He has the EXPERIENCE of playing in 26 college games so far and the 2023 season isn’t over yet. He’s an explosive, versatile athlete with good size, stellar zone awareness, route IQ, and reaction quickness. He also has the rapid closing speed to trigger and wash in front of errant throws. Possesses rare mass and frame with his physicality at the position. He demonstrates great initial burst especially when reacting on a route or down under to make the initial tackle. He showcases exceptional corrective twitch (switching direction) and recovery. Extremely natural zone defender with smooth backpedal skills while keeping his eyes downfield. He’s one of the best if not the best in the draft with keying in on the eyes of a quarterback in zone coverage and being able to identify a route quickly. He has good body control and balance to redirect and break down in the open field.

DeJean is a strong, disciplined, and physical run support defensive back who can be a mismatch on wide receiver blocks. Great at flowing downfield and shedding initial blocks with toughness. Brings great energy and effort on every down. His versatility and IQ will allow him to play that short to off-ball corner and rotate to safety if needed. That will intrigue a lot of NFL organizations.

Weaknesses: Lacks consistency in angles so he needs to tighten his angles in pursuit. DeJean can overcommit against double-moves and be late to react and recover especially if in press-man. Finally, he can be lazy with little fundamentals at times.

Why the transition to safety?

DeJean’s traits and style combine perfectly with zone and off-man schemes. Doesn’t have a lot of press man experience due to recovery speed and hip rotation. DeJean doesn’t quite have elite fluidity but he’s fluid enough with exceptional corrective athleticism. There are times when he struggles to sink on sharper transitions.

His diagnostic tools, both physical and mental are at an elite level. He’s a prolific ballhawk with unmatched playmaking skills and a support defender with physicality and utility. NFL safeties must have great vision, reaction, and instincts and he brings that to the table. This is the reasoning behind why he may become a hybrid player in the NFL. Don’t be shocked if DeJean splits time between the boundary and the slot at times but stays at the safety position primarily. With that being said, he’s an extremely role-versatile player based on game preparation. Managing the game, playing in space, and letting him crash downhill and attack blocks is key.

Who will he remind us of?

2013 third-round draft choice Tyrann Mathieu who has played in 156 NFL games for the Cardinals, Texans, Chiefs, and Saints.

Colton just graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Science at the United States Sports Academy. He has previous coaching experience as a former offense and defensive line coach at a local high school. While performing those duties, he also worked at PFF (Pro Football Focus) for a brief moment of time. He currently develops scouting reports here at firstroundmock.com. His aspirations are to become an NFL Scout/GM in the future.

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