4 CBs Jets should target in 2024 NFL draft

The Jets currently have 10 defensive backs on their roster, but only two are under contract past the 2024 season.

Sauce Gardner has proven to be a stud and isn’t going anywhere soon as he still has two years left on his rookie deal. The Jets also have a fifth-year option they could apply to control his rights through the 2026 NFL season. Safety Jarrick Bernard-Converse is the only other defensive back for the Jets who’s under contract past the 2024 season. He was a sixth-round pick in the 2023 draft who served mostly as a special teamer in his rookie season while only seeing 4 defensive snaps. 

The Jets have front-line talent in their secondary with Gardner, D.J. Reed, Michael Carter II, Tony Adams and Chuck Clark. Ashtyn Davis also recently re-signed. However, Clark missed all of 2023 after he tore his ACL during OTAs. Reed, Carter II and Adams are impending 2024 free agents. Their top depth is cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who played 46% of the defensive snaps for the 49ers in 2023. Cornerback Brandin Echols saw the second-most action on an NFL defense this past year among the backups at 15% of defensive snaps in the 14 games he saw action. Lastly, safety Tae Hayes only saw 13 defensive plays last season. 

The Jets have to add talent and depth at the position. They’ll need someone talented enough to step up and play at a high level if called upon, while also becoming the future at the position to maximize the value of their selection.

Here are four defensive backs the Jets could look to add in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft.

Full draft target breakdowns: RB | TE | WR | OL | DL | LB | EDGE

Jets 2024 NFL draft targets

Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo, CB

Measurables: 6-foot-0 | 195 pounds | 31-inch arms | 6-foot-4 wingspan

Combine numbers: 4.33 40-yard dash | 1.51 10-yard split | 38-inch vertical | 10-foot-0 broad | 20 reps

Mitchell is the top cornerback available in the draft with the expectation that he’ll go somewhere between the top 10-15 picks. The Jets may have other needs that are more pressing in the short-term but over the long haul, the value of adding a cornerback with Mitchell’s speed and skill set as a press man corner could add the highest return on investment among the prospects they could select with the pick at No. 10. 

Mitchell covers the drag route better than any other cornerback in this class, sticks with receivers stride for stride down the field and drives to the ball from off-coverage with the ability to separate receivers from receptions.

Even though Mitchell played a lot of off-man coverage, his strength is in press coverage. In off-man he’ll open his hips early and wrong and ride it out, leaving massive windows for the quarterback to target Mitchell’s man. 

Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama, CB

Measurables: 6-foot-0 | 199 pounds | 32-inch arms | 6-foot-4 wingspan

McKinstry’s stock is all over the place with some having him above his former Alabama teammate Terrion Arnold and others having him lasting into the second round of this draft. It would be surprising if the latter were right due to the film he produced in college.

Although he wasn’t fully healed from a Jones fracture in his right foot that prevented him from competing in drills at the combine, he powered through the injury to run a faster time at his pro day than his 10-pound lighter teammate, Arnold.

McKinstry is the best press jam man cornerback in this draft class. He stymies receivers and tight ends alike. McKinstry plays well in zone coverage but his superpower is getting up on the line and punching receivers, knocking the timing off on their routes. In off-coverage he’ll get caught staying in his backpedal for too long while playing too high, leading to a sloppy flip and separation. 

Terrion Arnold, Alabama, CB

Measurables: 6-foot-0 | 189 pounds | 31.5-inch arms | 6-foot-4 wingspan

Combine numbers: 4.50 40-yard dash | 1.54 10-yard split | 37-inch vertical | 10-foot-9 broad

Arnold has received buzz as a top-10 pick with some analysts listing him above Mitchell. If the consensus on his stock, as opposed to McKinstry, is right, the Jets would need to select Arnold with their pick at No. 10 but could drop back several spots and possibly as far back as the 20s to receive extra draft capital and select McKinstry. 

Arnold plays through the ball on pass breakups, he’s comfortable with his hips as he doesn’t open early in coverage and off-coverage he recognizes screens quickly. He carries his man in zone coverage while seeing the flat and drives down for the tackle. 

Arnold will get caught with his eyes in the backfield at times and react a tick late in zone coverage. In off coverage he gets caught flat-footed and becomes grabby at the top of the route. Against the speed of Texas’ receivers Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy, he struggled mightily routinely holding, trailing or on the ground. 

Cooper DeJean, Iowa, CB/FS

Measurables: 6-foot-1 | 203 pounds | 31-inch arms | 6-foot-3 wingspan

DeJean may be the perfect fit for the Jets. He can play cornerback or safety which are both needs concerning depth and talent. The Jets’ needs in these areas maximize DeJean’s potential and skill set.

New York may not need to stay at pick No. 10 to select him. So as is the case with McKinstry the Jets could move back from their pick, gain draft capital and find immense value with DeJean’s addition later in the first. He has the potential to best the upside of the rest of the cornerbacks and safeties in this class. If he struggles at cornerback, the Jets could easily move to safety. That’s a safety net that they wouldn’t get with any other defensive back in the first round.

DeJean has a good press jam on the line of scrimmage but tends to tip his hand, leaning pre-snap. His man-ball coverage is smooth and easy. He plays with a toughness and demeanor suited for New York and primetime. As a cornerback, he can get bested routinely when asked to stop his momentum and stay tight in coverage versus comebacks, stops and out routes.

Who should the the Jets draft?

If the Jets stay at pick No. 10 the case could be made to use the pick on the best corner in the class in Mitchell. However, the value would be to trade back and acquire more picks to still get one of these top corners — if that’s the direction the team wants to go in the first round.. Arnold and McKinstry could be the target for the Jets if they trade down depending on whether they are graded as high or similar to Mitchell.

The Jets will trade back from pick No. 10 if they want a cornerback and add extra draft capital to fill the void between their first pick and their second pick at No. 72. In doing so, they maximize the value of their first-round pick by acquiring another Day 2 selection and drafting DeJean to provide talent and depth to their entire secondary with the addition of only one player.


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