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2024 NFL Draft: Ranking 7 Best Press Coverage Cornerbacks

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry
Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) celebrates after a missed field goal by LSU at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Sauce Gardner's immediate success in his first two years showcases the impact a press-capable cornerback can have. A cornerback who can shut down receivers in man coverage is at the apex of defensive back play, whether done through physicality or athleticism.

Let’s examine the 2024 NFL Draft class and use our evaluations and metrics to rank the top seven press-man cornerbacks this year.

Best Press Coverage Corners

Missouri Tigers defensive back Ennis Rakestraw Jr.
Missouri Tigers defensive back Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (2) celebrates after an interception against the Abilene Christian Wildcats during the second half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. (Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

7. Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri

In one of the older draft classes in NFL history, Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (SIS’ No. 4 cornerback) is on the younger side at 22. His productivity didn’t stand out in 2023, but he was used in press more than a quarter of the time (eighth-most in the class). 

He’s a bit small for a bump-and-run player, so his press capabilities come from his reactive athleticism. 

Said Nathan Cooper in his scouting report: “Rakestraw is a sticky cover defender. He uses good athleticism, burst, speed and quickness to stay with receivers. In press, he will try to jam occasionally but doesn’t have the strength to truly reroute receivers, especially bigger ones.”

READ MORE: Rakestraw’s Scouting Report

Missouri Tigers defensive back Kris Abrams-Draine
Missouri Tigers defensive back Kris Abrams-Draine (7) celebrates during the third quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. (Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)

6. Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri

Rakestraw’s teammate at Missouri gets some bragging rights here, ranking lower on our overall board but better as a press player. Kris Abrams-Draine pressed less frequently but was dramatically more productive on those snaps, with a class-leading Total Points in press in 2023. They each received a 6 (good) grade in press.

Abrams-Draine’s physicality makes the difference on this list, as he is “willing to throw a hand in and jam or deny inside releases and keep the receiver toward the boundary,” per Chad Tedder’s report.

READ MORE: Abrams-Draine’s Scouting Report

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Terrion Arnold
Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Terrion Arnold (3) carries the ball after an interception against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half of a football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. (Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports)

5. Terrion Arnold, Alabama

SIS’ No. 5 cornerback (and the second-best Alabama corner in the class), Terrion Arnold, is just 21 and presents some exciting tools for a press corner, albeit with limited physicality. Nathan Cooper writes, “(Arnold) has the speed to stick with receivers down the field but fails to get much contact off the line.”

He lined up in the slot more than anyone else on this list (still less than 40 percent), but that allowed him to show off his ability to follow receivers through traffic, even if he “doesn’t have the strength to really reroute receivers and get them off their path.”

READ MORE: Arnold’s Scouting Report

Iowa State Cyclones' defensive back T.J. Tampa
Iowa State Cyclones' defensive back T.J. Tampa (2) warms up during the university's Spring Football game at Jack Trice Stadium. (Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK / USA TODAY NETWORK)

4. T.J. Tampa, Iowa State

Our scouting report on T.J. Tampa starts right off with his capabilities in press:

“Tampa does his best when in press coverage. He has the length to give a quick punch at the line of scrimmage and can even reroute receivers off the line if he wants to fully engage. However, he does tend to throw himself off balance with an inside-hand punch that gives up a free inside release if he misses. He turns and runs well with receivers, having enough speed to stay vertical with them. He can struggle some breaking down when at full speed but has the burst to close and at least make it a close play.”

Part of Tampa’s appeal as a press corner could be that he was much more successful in man than zone in 2023, ranking in the top five in the class in man-success-rate-allowed and in the bottom five in zone-success-rate-allowed.

READ MORE: Tampa’s Scouting Report

Oregon Ducks defensive back Khyree Jackson
Oregon Ducks defensive back Khyree Jackson (5) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Mountain America Stadium. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

3. Khyree Jackson, Oregon

Two of Khyree Jackson’s strengths are his length and his press-man ability, and he was given ample opportunity to show that off at Alabama and Oregon, pressing 30 percent of the time each of his final two years. From a Total Points perspective, he was much better in press this past season, ranking fifth in the class.

While many lower-ranked players on this list win with mirroring ability and speed, Jackson uses his size to his advantage. The biggest question for him will be if the size at the NFL level mitigates that.

From Nick Martini’s report: “With (Jackson's) length, if he is able to get his hands on the receiver quickly, he can disrupt the route easily, although he does not do this consistently. When he does not jam, he tends to get a little heavy on his feet and gets too much weight on his heels, becoming susceptible to getting beat.”

READ MORE: Jackson’s Scouting Report

Clemson Tigers cornerback Nate Wiggins
Clemson Tigers cornerback Nate Wiggins (2) smiles after breaking up a pass to South Carolina wide receiver Nyck Harbor (8) during the fourth quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. (Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)

2. Nate Wiggins, Clemson

We’ve reached our first player to be given a 7 (very good) grade in press man ability, Nate Wiggins, who also happens to be SIS’s No. 2 ranked corner overall. He played man coverage more than anyone else in the class in 2023, and perhaps as big of a compliment is that he pressed almost 20 percent of the time in his freshman season at Clemson (even if it was mostly in zone).

Wiggins wins with reactive athleticism, also receiving a 7 grade for that critical factor. 

From Wiggins' scouting report: “In press, his reactive athleticism allows him to read and react to the receiver quickly. His mechanics are incredibly quiet, and he doesn’t get sped up often by the receiver’s movements. His ability to move his feet quickly and keep the rest of his body still is uncanny, and it allows him to stay in phase at nearly all times.” 

READ MORE: Wiggins’ Scouting Report

Alabama defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry
Alabama defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) gestures in celebration after Tennessee failed to convert a 4th down in the fourth quarter of a football game between Tennessee and Alabama. (Brianna Paciorka / News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK)

1. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

Would you look at that, the top cornerback is also the best in press.

Like Wiggins, Kool-Aid McKinstry graded out as a 7 in press-man, but he received an 8 for his excellent reactive athleticism. He pressed more than anyone else on this list in 2023, and that was as low a rate as he had in his career at Alabama. His production wasn’t as outstanding this past year, but his 2022 season would have blown away the field in this regard.

McKinstry brings the athleticism, but he pairs it with physicality to disrupt receivers off the line. 
Per Ben Hrkach’s scouting report: “In bump and run, McKinstry wins with his physical tools. His clandestine hands always tug and shove where officials won’t see. His joysticklike movement skills keep him mirrored with the most sudden playmakers, and his strength and frame allow him to match big body receivers.”

READ MORE: McKinstry’s Scouting Report

This article was written by Alex Vidgerman.