Top CBs in the 2024 NFL Draft: Ranking Kool-Aid McKinstry, Kalen King, and Others

At a position like cornerback, physical upside is a must. The 2024 NFL Draft has plenty of it, with Terrion Arnold heading up our top 10 CB rankings.

In the modern NFL, having high-level playmakers at cornerback is becoming a non-negotiable proposition to combat the new wave of offensive innovation.

Much like the class before it, the 2024 NFL Draft CB class should allow NFL defenses to stay ready, and our CB rankings detail the best options available to teams come April.

Ranking the Top Cornerbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft

The 2023 NFL Draft CB class will be hard to top. Not only was it talented at the front of the board with prospects like Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon, but it also had unmatched depth.

Deonte Banks, Joey Porter Jr., Kelee Ringo, Julius Brents, Darius Rush, Cory Trice, Clark Phillips III, Emmanuel Forbes, Cam Smith, Tyrique Stevenson, Carrington Valentine — the list goes on and on.

It’s bold to say the 2024 NFL Draft CB group will even come close to the 2023 group. But early on, we can at least say that the depth is here to stay.

There are over a dozen CBs in contention for early-round spots. And as our current top-10 list below exemplifies, playmaking ability is not in short supply by any means.

10) Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri

Man coverage might unequivocally be the most enjoyable coverage to watch. It’s one CB and one WR on an island, ruthlessly fighting to maintain leverage and positioning through a four-second rep. There are many good man coverage CBs in this class — Caelen Carson, Josh Newton, and Max Melton among them — but Ennis Rakestraw Jr. takes the 10th spot.

Rakestraw doesn’t have elite ball production, and some will ask if he’s an NFL-caliber playmaker right now. But ahead of the catch point, he’s one of the best CBs in the class, using fast feet, fluid hips, disciplined technique, and quick reaction speed to blanket WRs off the line.

9) Mike Sainristil, Michigan

If you want a plug-and-play impact starter at nickel cornerback, Mike Sainristil is your man in the 2024 NFL Draft class. A former WR, Sainristil broke out as a dominating force on the Wolverines’ defense with 44 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, six interceptions, six pass deflections, and two forced fumbles in 2023.

A comparison often made for Sainristil is former Steelers and current Bengals slot CB Mike Hilton, which holds a lot of weight. Sainristil is undersized, but he’s a demon as a blitzing threat and a support presence. He’s also a versatile coverage defender with a playmaking edge.

8) Kalen King, Penn State

When Joey Porter Jr. funneled targets to the other side of the field in 2022, Kalen King was often the beneficiary. He didn’t make it any easier on quarterbacks, racking up three interceptions and 15 pass deflections in a campaign that earned him national acclaim.

King’s 2023 campaign brought him back to Earth a bit, but there’s still plenty to like.

MORE: 2024 NFL Draft Big Board

At 5’11”, 188 pounds, King has around average size, but he makes up for what he lacks in mass with twitchy, fluid athleticism, superb ball skills, and relentless, unsuppressed anger in both coverage and support.

King doesn’t have elite size-adjusted athleticism — something Marvin Harrison Jr. exploited — but with his combined playmaking ability, versatility, coverage mechanics, and tenacity, he has starting value.

7) Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

The Georgia defense has long been a producer of top-flight CB talent, and the Bulldogs have another potential early-round CB prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft cycle with Kamari Lassiter.

Lassiter had 3.5 TFLs, a half-sack, and eight deflections this year, but his impact exceeded the stat sheet. At 6’0″ and 180 pounds, he’s lean but has exceptional proportional length and plays with a kind of wiry strength.

Lassiter is a smooth athlete who can glide upfield in side-saddle and zone, and he’s visibly improved his man technique efficiency in 2023 while also flashing his playmaking upside. In run support, he’s an absolute one-man wrecking crew.

6) Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

Two words: Ball hawk. You won’t find another like Quinyon Mitchell in the 2024 NFL Draft class.

The 6’0″, 200-pound Toledo product terrorized opposing passers with five interceptions and 19 pass deflections in a ground-breaking 2022 campaign. And in 2023, he was once again one of the nation’s leaders in PBUs with 18.

At his size, Mitchell brings absurd closing speed and range as a playmaker. He has a verified 4.3 pace but also has the short-area quickness and physicality to match and gather receivers at the line.

Mitchell brings plenty of appeal for an off-man and zone-heavy team intent on adding playmakers — he could legitimately break into Round 1 in April.

5) T.J. Tampa, Iowa State

T.J. Tampa is the popular Day 2 pick we need to start talking about as a legitimate first-round candidate in the 2024 NFL Draft CB class.

Of the 2024 cornerbacks, Tampa best embodies the physical profile of a CB1. He’s 6’2″, 200 pounds, with quantifiably elite length, bristling start-and-stop and attack explosiveness, and smooth swivel freedom.

MORE: Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

For his size, Tampa has impressive coverage versatility. He has the length, physicality, and corrective athleticism to dictate reps in press-man, but he’s also a fluid and adaptable defender when pedaling in zone coverage and managing depth in off-man against stems.

4) Cooper DeJean, Iowa

Iowa’s Cooper DeJean has been hearkened as a first-round prospect since before the 2024 NFL Draft cycle, and now that the dust has settled, nothing has changed on that front.

After a 2022 campaign that saw him put up five picks, eight PBUs, and three pick-sixes, DeJean only kept pace in 2023, adding two picks and five pass breakups to his totals.

He’s a cornerback, but at 6’1″ and 209 pounds, DeJean looks more like a safety. In support, he looks like a linebacker — not only slabbing DBs and deconstructing blocks but also maintaining gap discipline and surging inside for tackles.

Don’t let that support ability fool you, either. DeJean is a truly complete player. One of his best traits is his smooth, high-octane coverage athleticism for his size, but he also boasts rare football IQ and playmaking instincts. His overall role versatility will sweeten his appeal.

3) Nate Wiggins, Clemson

He missed some time due to injury early in 2023, but Nate Wiggins looked every bit like a Round 1 cornerback in 2023 whenever he was on the field. He logged a pick and 13 pass deflections in 2022, and in 2023, he sustained his ball-hawking ways while also giving general managers teach-tape to ogle over in coverage.

At 6’2″ and 185 pounds, Wiggins is a bit lean and could stand to add more mass to his frame. But at that size, he has all the necessary speed and fluidity to go with sharp coverage instincts in both man and zone.

Wiggins can key in on QB intent and close early on routes, he can suffocate WRs in man with his foot speed and length, and he’s resolute in pursuit.

2) Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

We can confirm: It’s safe to drink the Kool-Aid.

Kool-Aid McKinstry earned first-team All-SEC honors alongside Emmanuel Forbes, Christopher Smith, and Jordan Battle after putting up a pick and a whopping 15 deflections in 2022. In 2023, he reaffirmed his status as a potential CB1 candidate in the 2024 NFL Draft class.

It sounds simplistic, but McKinstry simply has it all.

MORE: Top Safeties in the 2024 NFL Draft

At 6’1″and 188 pounds, he has the length to jar receivers and block passes at the catch point. McKinstry’s already a footwork technician with the movement speed, agility, and fluidity to mirror receivers at every level of the route. And his physical foundation ultimately sets him apart as a future starter at the NFL level.

Beyond having all the requisite raw traits, there’s a certain precision in each layer of McKinstry’s game. Nearly every jam is precise and forceful. Every movement has a purpose, and his patience allows him to maximize each step and punch. And at the catch point, he’s as natural of a playmaker as they come, with effortless instincts and an authoritative mentality.

McKinstry looks tailor-made to be a CB1 at the NFL level, and even if he’s no longer the consensus CB1, he’s still a slam-dunk first-round pick.

Who Is the Best CB in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Some draft classes break the mold and have a CB1 from an under-the-radar school, but in all likelihood, the 2024 NFL Draft class won’t be one of them. That said, the order has shifted since the draft cycle started, and a new potential CB1 has emerged.

1) Terrion Arnold, Alabama

McKinstry was essentially the consensus CB1 heading into the 2023 campaign, and he played well enough to keep that mantle. But there’s another cornerback who put up an even better argument — and he played across from McKinstry on the field.

Heading into the year, Terrion Arnold was a young redshirt sophomore who needed more time to grow and gain trust in his abilities. The Texas game early on was an example of this. Arnold missed more than one coverage exchange, and his support angles were streaky.

But as the year went on, Arnold morphed into a lockdown two-phase CB and an elite all-encompassing playmaker before everyone’s eyes. He ended the season with 63 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, a sack, five interceptions, 12 pass deflections, and a forced fumble.

At 6’0″, 196 pounds, with good length, Arnold legitimately has all of the tools to be a blue-chip NFL cornerback and a scheme-versatile one at that. He’s an easy accelerator, an extremely fluid mover, and he showcases excellent discipline and reaction to stimulus in man coverage — as well as the timing and vertical athleticism to close the lid.

Beyond those traits in coverage, Arnold is also one of the best 2024 NFL Draft CBs in run support — tenacious attacking blocks and attacking the ball. This kind of cornerback is a defensive coordinator’s dream, and it’s a dream many will leap to make a reality this coming April.

Honorable Mentions

  • Caelen Carson, Wake Forest
  • Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri
  • Max Melton, Rutgers
  • Josh Newton, TCU
  • D.J. James, Auburn
  • Johnny Dixon, Penn State
  • Daequan Hardy, Penn State
  • Khyree Jackson, Oregon
  • Ro Torrence, Arizona State
  • Chau Smith-Wade, Washington State

All the 2024 NFL Draft resources you need — the draft order, the top QBs, the Top 100 prospects, and the full 2024 Big Board — right at your fingertips at Pro Football Network!

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