2024 NFL Draft

New Eagles DB Cooper DeJean leaning into unique versatility

The Eagles traded up to draft Cooper DeJean and they're already leaning into his unique versatility.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Eagles aren’t calling Cooper DeJean a corner. They’re not calling him a nickel. They’re not calling him a safety.

They’re calling him a defensive back.

And that’s pretty telling.

From the moment the Eagles traded up to pick No. 40 in the second round to snag DeJean out of Iowa, they were already leaning into his versatility. And DeJean isn’t shying away from it either.

“They talked to me about all three positions,” DeJean said in a Zoom call with Eagles reporters on Friday evening. “I don’t have a preference. I’m a football player. So you put me on the field, I’m going to go play football. Whether it’s inside, outside, at safety, wherever it is. 

“This is a game I love to play. As long as I’m on the field, out there, I’ll be happy and I’m going to give it my all every time I step on the field.”

DeJean, 21, was expected by many folks to be drafted in the first round on Thursday night but he never heard his named called. He was a popular mock draft option for the Eagles at 22 but instead they ended up with their pick of the cornerbacks in this year’s class and took Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell.

But as the second round began and DeJean began to fall even more, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman jumped in front of the Green Bay Packers at 41 to take DeJean, who intercepted 7 passes and knocked down 20 over 23 games in his two years as a starter for the Hawkeyes.

During the pre-draft process, several analysts questioned DeJean’s ability to play boundary corner at the NFL level but most agreed that DeJean has unique versatility to play all three positions in the secondary.

Some players might have heard pundits question their ability play outside cornerback as a slight but DeJean doesn’t mind the versatile label.

“I think it’s a great thing, being able to play multiple positions, being able to impact the game from different spots, outside, inside, in the deep middle, wherever it is,” DeJean said. “I think it’s a good thing for any team to have a guy that’s versatile, that can play multiple positions, be able to move around a little bit, wherever’s needed. Be able to plug in wherever if there’s an injury, whatever happens. Just being that guy to plug in and play. 

“Obviously, there’s a lot to learn. I gotta get the defense down first just to be able to play all three positions but I’m excited to get in there, learn from the coaches and learn from the vets there. I couldn’t be more excited to be here in Philadelphia.”

Of course, drafting a player with a plan to utilize his ability to play in multiple spots takes some foresight. While the Eagles consult with their coaches for all their picks, this is one that clearly had to be signed off on by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and defensive backs coach Christian Parker.

On Thursday night, the Eagles talked about the importance of Mitchell’s focusing on one position — outside corner — at first as a rookie. But with DeJean, his versatility is seemingly more important.

So how do the Eagles harness that versatility without overwhelming a rookie?

“Yeah, that all depends on the player, all depends on the different positions we're asking him to learn,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “Not every guy that has versatility, not every position on defense is obviously the same thing, [in terms of] the way to learn it.

“You figure that out as you go. We also know that this guy has high football IQ and we'll see what he can handle, you know, see where he falls.”

At Iowa, defensive coordinator Phil Parker moved DeJean around in his defense quite a bit. That versatility isn’t a projection; DeJean actually played at all those spots in his two years as a starter.

That meant a lot to the Iowa defense.

"He's a very rare athlete, could probably play all five positions on the back end, at least for us," Parker said to Greg Auman of Fox Sports in a story that ran last month. "I think he could be a very productive player at safety, and if they play single-high, I think he could cover a lot of ground, but that's not to say he can't play on a slot receiver or can't play a guy on the edge, either ... It's very rare to have a kid who can do all those things, and his skill set as far as his hands — to me, they're almost like Spider-Man, how he can catch the ball."

DeJean suffered a fractured fibula in November and missed the end of the Iowa season as well as most of the pre-draft process. Because of all that, he’s pretty eager just to get back on the field again.

He doesn’t care where the Eagles line him up.

“Position isn’t really too much of a factor,” DeJean said. “I feel like I’m a versatile guy, can be moved around multiple spots. I’m just exited to get back out on the football field and play some football.”

Subscribe to Eagle Eye anywhere you get your podcasts: 
Apple Podcasts | YouTube Music | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | RSSWatch on YouTube

Contact Us