April 5, 2024   4 MIN READ

Cornering The Market

Options For Birds If They Go Cornerback Shopping Early In NFL Draft


The Eagles have worked hard to fill out a roster in transition, seemingly strategic in draft-proofing it to guard against any urge to reach for a player at a position of need.

The one position that has yet to be altered, however, is outside cornerback. They did re-sign nickel corner Avonte Maddox to a one-year deal.

Right now, though, the Eagles are leaning on a pair of aging veterans to man the outside spots along with a host of developmental prospects.

While I’m of the belief that the embattled James Bradberry – eyeing a bounce-back season following a steep drop-off – can be salvaged under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, I view his role as more situational-based at this stage of his career.

Fortunately for the Eagles, who currently hold three of the first 53 picks in the NFL Draft, there will be opportunities to reinvigorate that unit in a few weeks.

Taking into account the Eagles’ first three picks (22, 50, 53), I’ve listed five realistic options who could bolster the unit:

Kool-Aid McKinstry

GETTY IMAGES: Iowa product Cooper DeJean is one of the draft’s most versatile defensive backs.

Cooper DeJean, Iowa

There might not be a better secondary fit for Vic Fangio’s defense in this class than DeJean, an astute defensive back who offers the flexibility, frame and skill set to play virtually any position on the back end. An instinctive defender known for his anticipation and reading the eyes of opposing quarterbacks, DeJean accumulated seven interceptions and 13 pass breakups over the past two seasons.

DeJean plays like a safety – perhaps his most natural fit as the pro level – and tracks the football like a wide receiver. The 6-foot, 203-pounder, who fractured his fibula in November, made it known to every team he’s healthy and will hold a private workout on Monday.

Nate Wiggins, Clemson

Some will immediately downplay the long-term viability due to his wiry frame, but Wiggins showcases supreme athleticism with exceptional change of direction and short-area quickness and plenty of recovery speed.

A technically sound and instinctive defender who adds appeal due to scheme versatility – and the frame to support additional bulk – Wiggins has all the translatable traits to become an early impact corner at the pro level. Wiggins would be a logical target for the Eagles if he’s there at 22.

Kool-Aid McKinstry

Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

The pre-draft Jones fracture in his right foot likely relegates McKinstry to the back end of the first/early-second round, but the former Alabama standout offers an intriguing batch of traits and intangibles. A three-year starter for the Tide, McKinstry fits the bill of a physical perimeter player – his arm-length measured in at a healthy 32 inches – who sets himself apart in terms of intelligence and savvy.

His scheme versatility is also sure to entice teams. McKinstry wasn’t thrown at a ton last season but was occasionally a tick slow in locating the football downfield and hasty in abandoning his technique as a result of panic. While I do like McKinstry, I believe there are better options within a similar range.

Ennis Rakestraw, Jr., Missouri

Rakestraw has been projected everywhere from right around where the Eagles pick at No. 22 to early into the second round. Sporting a smaller frame than most others on this list at 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, Rakestraw more than makes up for it with physicality, toughness and battling through the catch.

Shows advanced eyes and anticipatory traits breaking on passes. His long speed or change-of-direction won’t exactly jump off the screen – and his hand usage and grabbiness might not play well at the pro level – but Rakestraw is a smart, tough cornerback who isn’t averse to mixing it up with whomever lines up over him. Fun study throughout the process.

Max Melton

GETTY IMAGES: Former Rutgers CB Max Melton can play outside or nickel.

Max Melton, Rutgers

Aside from Quinyon Mitchell, perhaps no other cornerback in this class has helped themselves more during the pre-draft cycle than Melton, who recorded a 4.39 40-yard dash, 11-foot, 7-inch broad jump and 40.5-inch vertical at the NFL Scouting Combine. He offers a tantalizing blend of fluidity, grittiness, teach-tape level footwork and plus-ball skills.

The uber-athletic Melton (5-11, 187) also boasts 32 1/8-inch arms, aiding his ability to narrow throwing windows and contest the catch-point. The self-proclaimed “most versatile cornerback in the draft” provides inside-outside versatility and would be an instant starter inside at nickel.

He’s widely viewed as an early-to-mid second-round selection. It’s worth noting that new Eagles defensive backs coach Christian Parker was on hand for Melton’s pro day, and along with Vikings defensive backs coach Daronte Jones, and put Melton and participating secondary members through the on-field workout.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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