How DeJean Started His Season?
In recent memory, Cooper DeJean is one of the most impressive DBs to come out of college. He is 6 ft 1 and 207 pounds, so he is nothing crazy when it comes to measurables, but something you love to see is his fast speed. While he is listed as a corner in this draft, he plays more like a safety. And what makes him so interesting is how Iowa used him in many different ways. To start the season, he had 17 total tackles in 2 games. He finished the season with 41 total tackles. That’s almost half his total tackles in 2 games. Many of those tackles are where he is lined up close to the defensive end or linebacker and flashing down around the offensive tackle to make a tackle for loss. Then, he could also read screens exceptionally well and maneuver around blockers to only allow a short gain or have a tackle for loss. So he finished his shortened season with 41 total tackles, 26 of them being solo tackles, two interceptions, and five pass deflections, according to ESPN. So what makes him so great?
How Did His Season Change?
As discussed in the opening paragraph, DeJean had 17 total tackles in the season’s first two games. From there on, in 8 games, he had the rest of them, but with that came 4 of his five pass deflections. Three of the five came in the last four games, and two back-to-back games with interceptions towards the middle of his season, one against Michigan State and 1 being for a 41-yard pick-six against Purdue. Iowa ran a lot of zone coverage, and you would see DeJean appear in many positions. He was sometimes lined up over a guy in the slot, sometimes playing left or proper boundaries. One of his best pass deflections came against Purdue in the slot, where he had a receiver running in route. And what made this impressive was a decent amount of room between him and the man. Iowa was playing pretty soft coverage and had almost every player in coverage at least 8 to 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. When the receiver broke his route and turned in, he had about four steps on DeJean, and the ball was pretty good. DeJean just was able to make up that difference in space with excellent closing speed. That is a big reason he is Iowa’s star punt returner. He has incredible speed and broke up a pass that should have been an 8 to 12-yard gain. Big deal, right? Can any corner do that? That’s not easy to do in the slot, and showing that he has excellent closing speed is a big reason he will get drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft.
Why NFL GMs Will Love Him?
Many offenses are now increasingly using their best receiver in the slot. Having a guy who can line up all over the field and guard any guy is significant for a defense. His tackling is excellent, and so is he in zone coverage. In man coverage, however, it’s hard to say; it did not look like Iowa ran man coverage nearly as much as zone, and the main reason was that they had a great pass rush and awful offense. They needed to keep as many points off the board as possible. They were happy letting teams get field goals. They did not want a team ever to score a touchdown. So, eliminating the big plays downfield was a way to take time off the clock and keep the game as close as possible. That hurt some guys on the back end when evaluated at man coverage. And it’s different than Iowa. It has good receivers to make a corner better in practice. But they do have excellent tight ends quite often, with the best one sense being Sam Laporta, who is already a top 5 tight end in the NFL as a rookie. So when you have a guy like DeJean playing a tight end like that in the slot at practice, GMs will love that. That’s part of the reason he will play safety in the NFL. He can tackle well, line up against tight ends, and have the closing speed to contest slants, Diggs, and routes.