The 2024 NFL Draft is still far in the distance, but as we mull through these dog days of the football calendar, what better time than now to look ahead at next year’s NFL Draft landscape?
Coming off a historically weak draft class from top to bottom, the 2024 class is sure to provide much better depth, while also boasting multiple elite prospects at the top. The quarterback class this past year was strong overall, but the 2024 class could potentially beat it. Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are the consensus QB1 and QB2, with Michael Penix, Jr., J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, and several others in the first-round conversation as well.
Receiver is another position expected to be stronger next year, with a potentially generational talent, Marvin Harrison, Jr., leading the pack. Interior defensive line looks surprisingly juicy on paper, while the safety class should also be set for a bounce-back year. No safeties were selected in Round 1 of the 2023 draft.
Today, we are going to break down a position the Steelers double-dipped at in the 2023 class: cornerback. I do not expect the team to look this direction early on, but the team still lacks great options in the slot. Could they add someone in next year’s class? We will take a look at the top prospects in the class and determine which ones, if any, make sense for the Steelers.
Potential first-round prospects
Kool-Aid McKinstry | Alabama
Corner is one of only a couple positions that may be weaker this year than in 2023, but if any cornerback goes inside the top ten next year, it is likely McKinstry. At 6’1”, 195 pounds, McKinstry has every tool necessary to become a lockdown corner at the next level. He gets good position against receivers off the line, and he possesses the speed needed to run with any receiver stride for stride. Unfortunately, he is likely long gone by the time the Steelers are on the clock.
Denzel Burke | Ohio State
Burke may not be quite as athletically gifted as McKinstry, but he provides schematic versatility and solid instincts. Burke is not a small corner at 6’1”, 190 pounds, but adding a little more weight may allow him to become a more consistent tackler. I do worry about his tendency to give receivers too much space to work with underneath, but his great awareness allows him to break on balls quickly to break up passes. He’ll need to create more splash plays in 2023 to boost his stock, but Ohio State needs him to be a lockdown corner if they want to improve as a defensive unit.
Kalen King | Penn State
King is a solid linear athlete with the versatility to play inside or out. Starting 9 games in 2022, King broke up a total of 18 passes and picked off 3 more, displaying fantastic awareness and ball skills. He struggles to get good positioning against bigger receivers off the line, but he knows how to adjust as the route unfolds, as he displays a great understanding of route concepts. In a zone-heavy scheme, King could carve out a lengthy NFL career, whether it be on the boundary or in the slot.
Fringe first-round prospects
Options for the Steelers
Cam Hart and Tony Grimes are two interesting names to watch if they happen to be available on Day 2. Grimes is a North Carolina transfer in great position to rise with a strong season for the Aggies, but the Steelers are more likely to be looking for someone to man the slot. If that is indeed the case, keep an eye on Fentrell Cypress II of Florida State. Formerly of Virginia, Cypress had a strong sophomore season for the Cavaliers, recording 14 passes defended in 9 games. Likely to slide inside at the NFL level, Cypress has the chance to rise to Day 2 status if he can create more splash plays.
Which cornerbacks are you eyeing in the 2024 NFL Draft? Be sure to light up the comment section below with your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers!