Hey, Packers Nation. If you’ve spent even a few minutes looking at Packers mock drafts over the last few weeks, there is no doubt you have seen a lot of people mocking Cooper DeJean to Green Bay. After researching his life and career, I think there is no chance the Packers leave this draft without him. You’re going to love this story, lets dive in!

Cooper DeJean: Origins

Cooper DeJean was a track star.
DeJean as a high school track star.

Cooper hails from a small town called Odebolt, IA. A town with less than 1,000 residents in the northwest part of the state.

DeJean says “You can get from one end to another in probably five minutes. We’ve got no stoplights, we’ve got two bar and grills, two gas stations, probably seven total stop signs.”

Towns like this are not typically producing D1 athletes, but Cooper was so dominant that word of his skills began reaching the University of Iowa recruiting staff.

As noted in Adam Rittenberg’s great DeJean profile, during Cooper’s high school career he was a three-time all-state selection in football with two state titles. In basketball Cooper scored 1,832 career points, which is more than Harrison Barnes, current NBA player for the Sacramento Kings. As a senior Cooper was also state champion for long jump and 100-meter dash; won all-state honors in football, basketball and track as a senior; three letters in baseball, which is played in the summer. In 2021, DeJean was named Iowa High School Male Athlete of the Year.

Good. God. What a legacy…

College Production

The thing to understand about Cooper is that he possesses elite athletic skills. He made Bruce Feldman’s ‘Freaks List’ at number 14. Bruce wrote that, as impressive as DeJean’s high school career was, Cooper “has continued to get MORE explosive since he’s been in college”.

In his freshman year (2021), DeJean saw limited action but still managed 2 tackles over 11 snaps. His usage went way up his sophomore year. Cooper played in 12 games with 57 tackles, 11 assists, with 5 pass breakups, and 4 interceptions, including three pick-sixes that fall, setting Iowa’s single-season record. His QB rating when targeted was 55.6.

His junior year was even more productive. Cooper has 30 tackles, 7 assists, 3 pass breakups, 2 interceptions, and lowered his QB rating when targeted of 40.6 over 10 games. DeJean was a consensus All-American and a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Jim Thorpe Award, awards given to the top college defensive player and defensive back respectively.

“He’s the best athlete I’ve seen in person, pound for pound.”

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Head coach, has almost 40 years with the program, leading it for the last 25 years. As a result, he knows everything about the history of Iowa football. He can make comps going back generations, so when he speaks about a player from the state, you can take it as the gospel truth.

The most hallowed name in Iowa program history, whose legacy is celebrated at every Iowa home game, is Nile Kinnick. He’s one of the state’s sporting heroes.

“I don’t know how many players have been better than him, however long we’ve been playing football, since 1889,” Ferentz said of DeJean. “Nile Kinnick’s name is up on the stadium.” That’s the comp Ferentz selects for DeJean, the Thanos of Iowa Football. You better believe this is not a comparison made lightly. Cooper is on a legendary journey.

“It just seems like everything he does, he’s good and he wins,” Ferentz said.

The god-like comparisons aren’t just coming from his head coach. This offseason, Cooper spent a week with experienced NFL combine trainer Jordan Luallen. “His numbers were insane,” Luallen says. “He has the capability of breaking 4.3 (in the 40) at 210 pounds.”

Luallen has worked with a bunch of Freaky athletes who have gone on to the NFL. He says DeJean has a unique blend of a football freak with track skills. “His acceleration is incredibly fluid and super powerful. He’s the best athlete I’ve seen in person, pound for pound.”

DeJean has Ball Skills

Cooper DeJean tracks the ball expertly.
Cooper DeJean tracks the ball expertly.

There are two plays from Cooper’s tape that really stand out when it comes to displaying his incredible vision and ball-hawking ability. In this first one, you can’t overstate how hard it is to catch passes like this, especially when you are not anticipating getting the opportunity. The immediate recognition and adjustment to make this play is outstanding.

This second play is similar in showing off Cooper’s body control and awareness. You can only make this play if you have eyes on the QB, not the WR. Also, peep the fancy footwork!

Cooper the Returner

Cooper DeJean is an incredible player with the ball in his hands. He set Iowa’s pick-six record for a reason. It’s also why he won the Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year award. Beyond his considerable talents as a defender, this added skill makes him a no-brainer pick.

The best example of this ability is the play Coach Ferentz called “the greatest play in the history of Iowa football… had it counted.” The refs end up waiving off this TD saying Cooper called for a fair catch, which he clearly does not. But what can’t be denied is the sheer clutch play and incredible on display here.

DeJean’s Fit in Green Bay

Green Bay fans are all very excited to see how new Defensive Coordinator Jeff Hafley will change the team for the better. We’re all over-analyzing every word to try to glean his intentions and the types of players he’ll want to build his unit around. Coach Hafley has talked a lot about prioritizing “vision and break” in the zone coverages he’ll employ. He wants 2-3 players going to the ball every time it’s thrown, this is only possible if they’re watching the ball, not a specific man. Cooper’s skills shown above fit this model perfectly.

Similarly, at the NFL Combine, General Manager Brian Gutekunst stressed the need for versatility in the players he selects for the team. When talking about the secondary he expressed a desire for the two safety spots and the nickel cornerback to be “interchangeable.” Here are Cooper’s snap counts while at Iowa. What do you notice?

Outside CB: 1,192

Slot CB: 163

Box Safety: 116

Edge Defender on LOS: 58

Deep Safety: 1

Gutekunst later added “you’ve got to be very careful pigeonholing guys in positions that can only do certain skill sets.” Talking about linebackers later he said, “I want those guys as versatile as can be so that when [injuries] pop up we don’t have to change the way we play.” There is no better descriptor of Cooper DeJean than “versatile”.

Cooper DeJean: Packers Legend in Waiting

I firmly believe that, given the opportunity for a full, healthy career, Cooper DeJean will flirt with hall of fame status when he’s done in the NFL. Think of the dominant multi-sport athletes like him: Bo Jackson and Dion Sanders come to mind. Those types of talents are generational and extremely rare. You might accuse me of hyping up a player too much as he’s just getting started, but experienced evaluators are comparing him to the guys who’s names are on buildings. That is not smoke, that is a raging fire that one lucky NFL team will get to deploy on their defense for years to come. The Green Bay Packers coaches and GM say they want versatility. Well, Cooper eats every sport god ever created for breakfast. There is no challenge he can’t handle, no team he cannot help win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Green Bay trade up from 25 into the high teens to ensure they get DeJean on their team. He has all the makings of the next great Packers Legend.