One of college football’s best cornerbacks over the past two years has decided to forgo his remaining eligibility and declare for the 2024 NFL Draft. Clemson’s Nate Wiggins told ESPN’s Pete Thamel of his intentions during a phone interview today.
“I just feel like it was that time. All the hard work I’ve put in, I feel like it was time for me to declare,” Wiggins explained. “This was a dream that I always wanted, and it came fast.”
Wiggins became a full-time starter for the Tigers as a sophomore last season. In eleven starts, Wiggins led the team with 14 passes defended and added on a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown. While Pro Football Focus (subscription required) didn’t tout his 2022 season as elite, Wiggins was still credited as a first-team All-ACC selection by some publications, though not by the Conference itself.
That honor would have to wait until this year, in which Wiggins was named by the Conference as a first-team All-ACC cornerback. That status was reflected in Wiggins’ PFF ranking which saw him elevate all the way up to the 25th highest ranked cornerback in the nation. With a bowl game still to go, Wiggins once again leads his defense with nine passes defensed and two interceptions, one of which he returned 46 yards for another touchdown. He also showed off other playmaking abilities in 2023 with a sack and two forced fumbles.
Wiggins has prototypical size at the cornerback position with a long, 6-foot-2 frame and arm length and body control that grant him an easy advantage on contested balls. He’s not too thin at 185 pounds, and while he may not have strong initial quickness, he is considered the team’s fastest player and possesses great recovery speed to stay with receivers downfield.
He’ll need to get stronger at the next level in order to compete against physical NFL wideouts, but that hasn’t stopped corners from getting drafted early in the past, as long as they have other promising attributes. He also missed two games this year with a knee injury, which might have teams looking a little closer at his medicals come time for evaluations.
Wiggins projects as a clear first-round pick, even in a strong cornerbacks class. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has Wiggins ranked as college football’s 20th best draft prospect while Dane Brugler at The Athletic has Wiggins all the way up at 12. Brugler slots Wiggins in as CB3 behind Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry and Kalen King from Penn State. Kiper also ranks McKinstry ahead of Wiggins, but he puts Georgia cornerback Kamari Lassiter in between them and even ranks Cooper DeJean from Iowa as his CB1 in front of the other three.
Regardless, after last year saw five corners selected in the first 32 picks (Pittsburgh’s Joey Porter Jr. was technically a second-rounder), placing Wiggins as a Day 1 pick seems like a safe bet. Wiggins is expected to measure and test very well, so barring anything injury-related, his stock is likely only going to rise.