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2024 Draft Preview: With Two Young Pro-Bowl Cornerbacks, Are The Seahawks Set At That Position?

A look at where the Seahawks stand at cornerback heading into the 2024 NFL Draft, as well as draft analyst Rob Rang’s top-ranked prospects at that position.

Draft Preview Top 5 CBs

The NFL Draft kicks off next week in Detroit, and while it will be the 15th in Seattle for general manager and president of football operations John Schneider, it will be his first with new head coach Mike Macdonald.

But while there are some adjustments to be made for Schneider and the player personnel department in terms of learning what Macdonald and his coaching staff look for in players, Schneider doesn't see this draft process playing out a whole lot differently than the previous 14 did with Pete Carroll as the head coach.

"There's so much preparation that goes into it, it's going to be the same," Schneider said last month at the NFL Annual Meeting. "The preparation is—really, think of it like a game; you're putting together a game-plan sheet. That's basically what your board looks like. So you're like, 'OK, well that happened, now we're going here. That happened. Now we're going here.' So that's really your preparation, and I don't see it being any different.

"Pete, he was a blast to work with throughout the preparation, and Mike and his staff are the same. It's going to be fun."

Unlike the past two drafts in which Seattle had multiple first and second-round picks thanks to the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks have a little less draft capital in 2024, though the 16thoverall pick is still a valuable asset, either to be used on an elite player or perhaps to be traded for a pick later in the first round along with additional picks. The Seahawks have seven total picks heading into the draft, but do not have a second-rounder having sent that to the Giants in last year's trade for Leonard Williams.

So with the draft coming up soon, is taking a position-by-position look at where things currently stand for the Seahawks, as well as the top draft prospects at each position. We'll also look at Seattle's draft history at each position over the past 14 drafts under Schneider.

So far we've covered quarterback, linebacker, offensive line, defensive line, outside linebacker, running back, safety and receiver, and today we turn our attention to cornerback. Check back tomorrow when we wrap things up with tight end.

Seattle's 2024 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 16 overall; Round 3, No. 81 overall (from New Orleans via Denver); Round 4, No. 102 overall (from Washington); Round 4, No. 118 overall; Round 6, No. 179 overall (from Washington); Round 6, No. 192 overall; Round 7, No. 235 overall.

Cornerback Draft History Under John Schneider: Walter Thurmond (No. 111 overall, 2010); Richard Sherman (No. 154, 2011); Byron Maxwell (No. 173, 2011); Jeremy Lane (No. 172, 2012); Tharold Simon (No. 138, 2013); Eric Pinkins (No. 208, 2014: Pinkins later switched to LB); Tye Smith (No. 170, 2015); Shaquill Griffin (No. 90, 2017); Mike Tyson (No. 187, 2017); Tre Flowers (No. 146, 2018); Marquise Blair (No. 47, 2019; played safety & nickel corner) Ugo Amadi, (No. 132, 2019; played safety & nickel corner); Tre Brown (No. 137, 2021); Coby Bryant (No. 109, 2022); Riq Woolen (No. 153, 2022); Devon Witherspoon (No. 5, 2023)

Where the Seahawks Stand

It would seem unlikely that the Seahawks would use an early pick on a cornerback given their youth, talent and depth at that spot, but then again, few people expected them to take a cornerback with the fifth overall pick last year, and that's exactly what Seattle did, selecting Devon Witherspoon.

With Witherspoon emerging as one of the NFL's top young defensive players and earning Pro-Bowl honors as a rookie, it served as a good reminder that it's often better to draft top talent, regardless of position, than to pick for need, so with that in mind, you can never rule anything out. That being said, the presence of Witherspoon, 2022 Pro-Bowler Riq Woolen, Tre Brown, Michael Jackson, Artie Burns and others, it would appear that the Seahawks are pretty well set at that spot. It remains to be seen how Macdonald will choose to deploy his defensive backs—Witherspoon played both nickel and left cornerback last year, Brown and Jackson have the flexibility to play on both sides, Burns showed he can play nickel last season, and Coby Bryant can play corner and safety—but again, regardless of how Macdonald wants to use those cornerbacks, it's a position of strength for the Seahawks heading into the draft.

Like every other position, the Seahawks could always look to add further depth and special teams help in the later rounds, but as far as need goes, Seattle is in pretty darn good shape at cornerback.

Rob Rang's Top 5 Cornerbacks

Overview: With Devon Witherspoon and Riq Woolen forming arguably the most dynamic pair of under-25-year-old corners in all of the NFL, it seems unlikely that the Seahawks would invest an early pick in one of the top prospects at the position in this month's draft. Depth behind Seattle's stars is another strength of the roster, so no one should be surprised if the Seahawks opt not to draft a single cornerback this year. That, in itself, would be notable as John Schneider has invested at least one pick at the position in 11 of the 14 draft's he's captained since taking over as general manager of the Seahawks in 2010. Much of the media focus this year has understandably landed on the quarterbacks and receivers these cornerbacks were asked to cover, but don't let that fact convince you that this isn't a quality class. Some of my favorite fits for the Seahawks actually are projected as middle and later round picks, where Schneider and his scouts have enjoyed some of their greatest success in the past, including nabbing the aforementioned Woolen in the fifth round (No. 153 overall) two years ago. Those prospects this year include Oregon's Khyree Jackson, Arkansas' Dwight McGlothern, Michigan's Mike Sainristil and Rutgers' Max Melton, the younger brother of 2022 Seahawks' seventh-round draft pick Bo Melton, a receiver, now playing in Green Bay.

1. Nate Wiggins, Clemson, 6-1, 173, First Round

A relatively slight frame has some scouts concerned but needless to say a cornerback's No. 1 priority is coverage and no one is faster or more fluid that Clemson's Wiggins, who was clocked at a blistering 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. Even amongst all of the highly regarded athletes at Clemson, Wiggins stood out, earning playing time as a true freshman and leading the team in passes defensed each of the past two seasons, returning two of his three interceptions during that time into touchdowns. Seahawks fans who appreciated the speed and competitiveness shown by DK Metcalf in his chase down of Arizona Cardinals' safety Budda Baker two years ago will like Wiggins, who made two improbable tackles in pursuit to save scores this past season (North Carolina and Miami) for Clemson.

2. Terrion Arnold, Alabama, 6-0, 189, First Round

No former five-star recruit from Alabama can truly be described as underrated but Arnold was overshadowed for much of his career by his teammate Kool-Aid McKinstry (more on him soon) and others in a gifted Tuscaloosa secondary. It was Arnold who emerged as arguably the most well-rounded corner in the country this past season, however, leaping from one interception in 2022 to five in a breakout 2023 campaign that also saw him emerge as a highly physical run supporter, as well. Arnold signed with Alabama as a safety and still plays with that level of physicality, generating some comparisons to the Seahawks' Witherspoon.

3. Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo, 6-0, 195, First Round

The easy choice this year to be the first player selected from a non-Power 5 team, Mitchell entered the season as a trendy first round projection and only solidified his stock in 2023, despite statistics that went in the exact opposite direction as the aforementioned Arnold's. Mitchell captured the attention of scouts in 2022 by intercepting five passes, returning two of them for scores. Quarterbacks in the MAC wisely ignored his side of the field in 2023 and he dropped to just one pick but a stellar week of practice at the Senior Bowl and Combine performance has this Rocket firmly in the conversation to be the first defensive back off the board.

4. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama, 6-0, 199, First-Second Round

McKinstry lives up to his flashy nickname, smoothly tracking receivers downfield as one of the "sweeter" cover-corners of this class. He signed with Alabama as the top-rated prep corner in the country and has been a fixture in the Crimson Tide secondary ever since, recording 23 passes broken up and earning All-American honors each of the past two seasons. His awareness is good enough that some scouts see McKinstry as capable of sliding over to play safety, if needed. Switching flavors is nothing new for Kool-Aid, as he starred at punt returner for the Tide, as well.

5. Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri, 5-11, 183, Second Round

The Seahawks aren't expected to invest an early pick at cornerback but one that plays with the physicality that Schneider and Macdonald have always prioritized is Rakestraw, a tenacious tackler who actually recorded more forced fumbles (three) over his career than interceptions (one). What Rakestraw may lack in size and interceptions, he makes up with instincts, physicality and underrated athleticism, simply choosing to "rake" at the ball it arrives rather than risk receptions by going all-out for the ball, himself, collecting 24 pass breakups over his college career.

NFL Draft analyst Rob Rang ranked his top cornerbacks for the 2024 NFL Draft.

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