Prospect Profile: Cooper DeJean

The University of Iowa has been a bit of a surprise team of late with a number of former Hawkeyes going pro and making a big impact in the NFL. Joining the ranks of Lukas Van Ness, Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, Tyler Linderbaum, and Tristan Wirfs, junior cornerback Cooper DeJean is expected to be the next Iowa alum selected early in an NFL draft.

DeJean grew up in Iowa as a multi-sport athlete, excelling in baseball, basketball, track, and football. At OABCIG HS in Ida Grove, Iowa, DeJean was a star athlete on the gridiron, playing wide receiver, quarterback, and defensive back while also returning punts. He earned All-State honors as a receiver his sophomore year and then led his team to undefeated, state championship seasons at quarterback the following two years.

Despite ranking as a consensus four-star recruit and a top-ten safety in the nation, according to, DeJean only garnered one FBS offer. His first offer came from Iowa Western CC before he earned offers from FCS programs like Illinois State, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, and Northern Iowa. He earned his first and only FBS offer from the Hawkeyes following a Junior Day visit and committed two months later.

At Iowa, DeJean played sparingly as a freshman, appearing in seven games and making one start but staying mostly off the stat sheet. His sophomore season was a different story as he exploded onto the scene. Starting all 13 games in his second season with the Hawkeyes, DeJean finished the season with second-team All-Big Ten honors after leading the team with five interceptions and 13 passes defensed while playing across from Broncos cornerback Riley Moss. DeJean demonstrated his return abilities on those interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns. He also demonstrated his return abilities on returns, averaging 16.5 yards per return on ten punts fielded.

DeJean’s junior year at Iowa was similarly impressive. He received first-team All-Big Ten honors as both a defensive back and punt returner while also being named Big Ten DB of the Year and Big Ten PR of the Year. On 21 punt returns, DeJean had 241 return yards and a touchdown. Seeing far fewer targets, DeJean continued to produce as a cornerback with two interceptions and seven passes defensed, but a broken fibula in his right leg in November would require season-ending surgery that sidelined him for the remainder of the year and for the pre-draft process until very recently.

This past week, DeJean was able to host a private workout for scouts. He demonstrated an impressive explosiveness on his vertical and broad jump and clocked in at 4.42 seconds (unofficial) for his 40-yard dash, per Jeff Risdon of USA Today. The mini-pro day did much to prove that his recovery was progressing well and that the injury likely won’t be a factor in his rookie season.

DeJean is slightly shorter than the prototypical cornerback size (just over six feet tall), but as an athlete who was moved around to safety and hybrid roles in Iowa City, he has decent size to go along with his above average speed. His reaction time can be a hindrance at times, but he often masks it with great anticipation. His playing experience as a quarterback, receiver, and cornerback gives him a unique insight that allows him to anticipate better than most other defenders. He’s one of the better tackling cornerbacks in this draft and plays physical even when the opponent is not carrying the ball. His combination of speed and physicality allow him to use a variety of man coverage techniques with success. His lack of solid reaction time leads to the occasional overrunning of a route, and he can get grabby to avoid losing coverage, but these are rare occasions in what is usually stellar coverage.

ESPN’s Matt Miller ranks DeJean as the fourth-best cornerback and the 26th-best prospect overall. Dane Brugler of The Athletic seems to agree, slotting DeJean as the fourth-best corner and the 25th-best prospect overall. DeJean seems like a no-brainer in the mid- to late- first round. He shows versatility with experience playing all over the secondary and becomes an immediate special teams asset as a rookie. DeJean will hope to land with a team who can utilize him early and often as he attempts to join LaPorta, Linderbaum, and George Kittle as the most recent Pro Bowl Hawkeyes in 2024.

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