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Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

NFL draft 2024: Late first round steals

Iowa’s Cooper DeJean looks to be one of the most sought after cornerbacks in this year’s NFL draft.

The NFL draft kicks off tomorrow in Detroit. Teams will be looking for a player to not only help them in the long run, but for the upcoming 2024 season. Here are five must-have players teams should have on their radar. These guys aren’t gonna be the first ones gone, but they have the best value in the late first round. 

Terrion Arnold, Cornerback, Alabama

Arnold is considered one of the best corners in this draft class. His ability to play press coverage on receivers made him skyrocket up teams’ draft boards. Arnold also offers great speed and does a good job tracking the ball when in coverage. He deflected 12 passes and intercepted opposing quarterbacks five times during his senior season at Alabama. At the NFL combine he ran a speedy 4.50 40-yard dash time with a 1.54 10-yard split. Arnold is everything NFL teams should be looking for in a cornerback, and has a great chance of becoming a future Pro Bowl player in the league. 

Cooper DeJean, Cornerback, Iowa

DeJean is a true Swiss army knife when it comes to playing in the secondary. His ability to play both cornerback and safety while also being able to return punts is very attractive to general managers and scouts. DeJean is a ballhawk on defense, producing seven interceptions in two seasons as a starter for the Hawkeyes. He’s aggressive to the football and overall a very quick player. The consensus feeling among many draft analysts is that DeJean will be a late first round pick. Whoever picks him will be getting a great player for years to come. 

Michael Penix Jr., Quarterback, Washington

Penix had a phenomenal ending to his college career, leading the Washington Huskies to the National title game. He ended the season with 4,903 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions while finishing as a Heisman Trophy finalist. The twenty-four year old prospect has a rocket for an arm and is a great pocket passer. He can send the football 50-yards down the field with not much effort. Penix offers a lot of starting college experience dating all the way back to 2019 with the Indiana Hoosiers.  The one knock on Penix is if he can stay healthy or not, as he suffered multiple season ending injuries in cCollege. However with the amount of teams in need of a quarterback, Penix could very well go in the top twenty picks tomorrow. Look out for the Broncos and the Raiders as potential landing spots. 

Ladd McConkey, Wide receiver, Georgia

McConkey is a very quick receiver who does a good job creating separation from cornerbacks. He shows poised hands when receiving the ball and possesses great run after the catch ability. During his career with the Bulldogs, McConkey had 1,687 yards and caught 14 fourteen touchdowns. He’s got a similar play style to current Rams Pro Bowl wide receiver Cooper Kupp. While that’s a big name to live up to, McConkey without a doubt has the potential to do it. Bottom line teams will be getting a shifty receiver whose main focus is making plays. Look out for a team like the Bills or Chiefs for some potential landing spots. 

Graham Barton, Tackle, Duke

While Barton played the tackle position for most of his career at Duke, it’s very likely he’ll find a new home at either guard or center in the NFL. Barton is a reliable player on the offensive line and is phenomenal at both pass protection and run blocking. He excels at finishing blocks and bullying opposing defensive tackles at the line of scrimmage. He also possesses great posture when being attacked and stays poised.  Barton has Pro Bowl level potential and is a plug in play player right away on the interior offensive line. Look for a team like the Steelers or Ravens as a good fit for Barton late into the first round. A phenomenal player at Duke and one of the best lineman in the entire draft. 

When thinking about the draft, it’s easy to get caught up in the high- level players that will go in the top ten picks. However, many late first rounders turn out to be phenomenal players and future Pro Bowlers. Remember these five players when watching the NFL draft tomorrow night. 

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MICHAEL SPAHN, Sports Writer

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