With his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report, can Michigan CB DJ Turner sustain the Wolverines’ production of defensive talent in the NFL draft? It’s early, but the tape shows that Turner has the tools to potentially keep the early-round streak going.
DJ Turner NFL draft profile
Just two years ago, Michigan had a cornerback selected at the tail end of the third round in Ambry Thomas. There’s talk that Turner could potentially go higher than he did — if everything breaks his way in 2022.
If you watched Daxton Hill on tape in the 2022 NFL Draft cycle, it was impossible to miss Turner. His natural coverage skills pop off the screen, and when he has an opportunity to make a play at the catch point, he doesn’t often whiff. That natural ability led Turner to pick up two interceptions and seven pass deflections in 2021, and it could help him solidify early-round billing in 2022.
Turner doesn’t have the elite size that some highly-touted CB prospects have possessed in the past. But there’s no replacement for steady, sticky coverage ability on the boundary. And that is something Turner could very well provide.
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Michigan
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’0″, 181 pounds
DJ Turner scouting report
As you might expect from a Feldman Freak with a documented 4.28 40-yard dash and an absurd reported 6.29 three-cone, athleticism is a strong point on Turner’s scouting report. At 6’0″, 181 pounds, with above-average proportional length, Turner brings a very appealing brand of mobility to the fold.
On the boundary, Turner is visibly explosive. He can easily turn and run with receivers, accelerating upfield quickly, and shows excellent accelerative capacity when flipping upfield in press bail. The Michigan CB gears up very quickly out of transitions, and quickly reaches his top speed. Additionally, Turner flashes superb initial burst when closing downhill on screens, and he accelerates very quickly when he’s able to open up his strides.
Turner doesn’t always play to his reported 4.28 40-yard dash, but speed is a definite strength on tape. He has more than enough long speed to carry receivers upfield and avoid being stacked. His recovery speed also shows up when clamping down on in-breaking routes and comebacks, or when he loses a step off the line.
Past his speed and explosiveness, Turner’s short-area athleticism is what truly completes his physical profile. The Michigan CB has the hip fluidity to stack direction changes and doesn’t get tied up after initial transitions. He plays fairly low in his stance and can pivot around effortlessly. Going further, he has a smooth backpedal and can easily turn outside without losing speed. Most notably, Turner has shown to sink his hips and swivel around on 90-degree transitions with ease, carrying acceleration through transitions.
Perhaps the most appealing trait of Turner’s — even more than his speed — is his twitch and energy as a mover. He’s an amped-up short-area athlete who throttles up and down at will in press coverage to stick to WRs. With his short-area athleticism and tenacity, the Michigan CB sticks to receivers at stems upfield. He’s also able to quickly adjust pursuit angles and carry acceleration through transitions.
Turner’s phenomenal corrective foot speed allows him to match off the line with ease. He’s a spry, light-footed lateral mover who covers lots of ground with lateral bursts.
It’s one thing to have the tools, but another to supplement them with proper technique. Turner is on his way here as well. While he’s lighter, Turner has shown he can use targeted physicality. He frequently uses quick hand jabs to disrupt and delay receivers. But he’s also not over-eager in using his hands before his feet. Turner can wait to jam until WRs enter his wheelhouse, displaying patience and discipline.
Expanding on Turner’s technique, the Michigan CB has fast feet at the line and matches WRs with his fleet-footed style. He can flip outside and then snap back quickly to suffocate breaks back to the ball. Moreover, Turner can play catch technique and quickly flip his hips upfield to sustain acceleration. He smoothly transitions from backpedal to carry while keeping speed, displaying malleability in off-man.
Moving on, Turner also shows great zone awareness and consistently keeps things in front of him. The Michigan CB can both match patterns and keep his eyes on the QB, to decipher intent and position himself accordingly. He’s shown to process quickly in press, and he stays well-leveraged and flips his hips as soon as he sees WRs commit.
Turner’s processing is prevalent both in man and zone. In man coverage, he keys in on WRs hips downfield to respond quickly to breaks. On scramble drills, Turner keeps his eyes toward the QB, staying ready to strike at the catch point. He has the awareness to process route concepts and identify underneath routes in zone. Turner can peel off receivers when QBs throw short amidst pressure, and he can break back and attack the ball in coverage.
Overall, Turner has an urgent, alert playstyle that serves as a superb complement to his natural athleticism in coverage. That competitive energy also extends to playmaking situations, where Turner actively fights at the catch point, plays through the catch process, and shows good ball-tracking ability.
Finally, in run support, Turner displays utility as well. The Michigan CB can recognize screen formations and engage quickly with closing speed, and he has an urgent energy in run support. Turner actively fights blocks, can swipe down anchors and clear contact with his lateral and straight-line burst, and he’s shown he can wrap up as a tackler coming downhill.
Turner’s areas for improvement
Turner’s overall frame is decent with his above-average length, but he’s also noticeably light and can sometimes be outmuscled in contact situations. In a similar vein, Turner also has room to improve his play strength as a run support defender, both when engaging blocks and when attempting solo tackles.
Aside from his lighter weight, Turner doesn’t have many concentrated weaknesses. Instead, minor notes are peppered across his report. While the Michigan CB is fluid, he sometimes struggles to shrink himself and sink his hips effectively on in-breaking routes. Additionally, he can get too grabby when attempting to stick to WRs out of transitions. He sometimes relies too much on two-hand jams, which can lock out his hips.
Going further, Turner occasionally turns his back to wide receivers on transitions, allowing them opportunities to manipulate blind spots. His reaction time can be inconsistent, especially when reading QBs in zone, and he’s occasionally caught off-guard when WRs break inside. The Michigan CB does have some wasted motion with his feet at times when responding to stems, and those extra steps can delay his response. Additionally, Turner’s pads occasionally drift too high in his stance.
In run support, Turner sometimes fails to wrap up at the tackle point, enabling runners to stay on their feet. His margin for error from a technical standpoint is smaller with his lighter frame. Furthermore, Turner can at times be drawn off screens by nearby routes, and he sometimes gravitates to deeper routes when help is available deep, leaving screens uncovered.
Similarly, Turner could afford to take better angles downhill. He sometimes has to correct his angle mid-response, stalling his momentum and giving runners extra time.
Current draft projection for Michigan CB DJ Turner
In a strong 2023 NFL Draft CB class, Turner grades out as a Day 2 pick. Without elite size, it’s difficult to project an astronomical rise in 2022, but Turner does have the tools to be a solid NFL starter on the boundary. His tape deems him worthy of a top-75 selection, and if his Combine performance is anything close to his Feldman’s Freaks numbers, he could rise into the top 50.
With Turner, you have a lot of the necessary building blocks for effective island coverage. In man coverage, Turner has incredibly fast feet, fluid hips, and impressive discipline for his technique. He frequently uses feet first and has the twitchy, high-speed athleticism in close quarters to keep wide receivers in front of him at all times.
Meanwhile, in zone coverage, Turner manages space, processes routes, and passes off and carries receivers as well. He can still strive for more consistency in this phase, but the foundation is there for Turner to be a scheme-versatile starter on the boundary. Additionally, Turner’s high-end explosiveness and recovery speed widen his margin of error, and his competitive mentality only strengthens his appeal.
Turner will need to keep adding weight to his frame, or else he may struggle to hold up, both at the catch point and in run support. But if he can get into the 190s as an NFL player, that should be a healthy weight for him to compete against professional opponents. At that point, Turner has the athleticism and playmaking ability to be a productive, prolific CB.