Updated cornerback prospect rankings for the 49ers after NFL Combine

The 49ers could add a cornerback early in the 2024 NFL Draft, but who's under consideration for the team?

Alabama v Auburn
Alabama v Auburn / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Cornerback is high on the list of possibilities for the 49ers in the first round of the NFL Draft, but how is the class looking when it comes to the top prospects?

With the NFL Draft fast approaching, it seems appropriate to take a look at how deep the positions of need are for the 49ers in this class. With offensive tackle being the consensus biggest need, it made sense to open with that.

Read More: Updated tackle prospect rankings for the 49ers after NFL Combine

But what about what most would consider to be the biggest need on the defensive side of the ball? While Charvarius Ward is proving to be a lockdown corner on one side of the field and Deommodore Lenoir has developed into quite a handy slot corner, the team would like to see an upgrade on the other hand of the field.

With 10 picks and no need to have 10 rookies on the roster, a trade-up could very well be imminent. With no cornerback a standout to the point they'd be taken in the top 10, San Francisco could in theory trade up for any of these players if need be.

But who is the top 10? My order might surprise you.




Draft Range


Terrion Arnold


Top 15


Quinyon Mitchell


Top 20


Nate Wiggins


Top 25


Cooper DeJean


Top 25


Kool-Aid McKinstry


1st-2nd Round


Kamari Lassiter


1st-2nd Round


Max Melton


2nd-3rd Round


Ennis Rakestraw


2nd-3rd Round


Cam Hart

Notre Dame

2nd-3rd Round


Chau Smith-Wade

Washington State

2nd-4th Round

1. Terrion Arnold, Alabama

Terrion Arnold wasn't the most physically impressive corner at the NFL Combine, but he did enough to demonstrate why he's a safe pick to develop into a No. 1 corner at the NFL level. Arnold didn't post the best 40-yard time (4.50 seconds), but was impressive in the athletic tests and was excellent in the skills.

The 6-foot-0, 190 pound corner had five interceptions and 12 passes defended for Alabama this season. A scheme-versatile cornerback that can play either man or zone, Arnold is a physical corner with excellent burst who's also a willing run defender.

2. Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

No cornerback has done more to put a rocket (pun intended) than the Toledo Rocket himself in Quinyon Mitchell. An athletic marvel, Mitchell coupled an excellent season for Toledo with an excellent Combine to give himself a strong chance of being the first cornerback off the board. His 4.33 40-yard time was exceptional, and he's a good size at 6-foot-0 and 195 pounds.

Quinyon Mitchell had an interception and 18 passes defended in 2023, backing up a breakout 2022 where he had five interceptions and 19 passes defended. While quality of opponent is a question mark and he's a raw prospect who needs some development, there's no doubting the athleticism which explodes on the screen as well as ball hawking instincts.

3. Nate Wiggins, Clemson

When it comes to pure coverage, Nate Wiggins might be the best corner in this class. When it comes to speed, Wiggins is definitely the best corner in this class. However, some minor character concerns, a light frame and poor run defense might keep Wiggins from being drafted as highly as some think.

The pros are clear however. He ran an incredible 4.28 40-yard time, and he had a strong season at Clemson. However Wiggins is also only 173 pounds despite being 6-foot-1 and he's a liability in run support. While his character concerns are very minor, they also play a role in bumping him down this far with Arnold and Mitchell having strong Combines.

4. Cooper DeJean, Iowa

Cooper DeJean is one of the more versatile prospects in the NFL Draft, with teams differing if DeJean is a better fit as an outside cornerback, a nickel corner or a safety. DeJean had 41 tackles, two interceptions and five passes broken up in 2023 for the Iowa Hawkeyes before injury ended his season. He didn't work out in the Combine, but will be working out for teams before the Draft.

DeJean is a good size at 6-foot-0 and 203 pounds, but is a bit limited scheme-wise as a zone defender for the NFL. He's an excellent force against the run and demonstrates good instincts when in zone, but he's struggled vs fast receivers when in man coverage. Whike DeJean might not start in Week 1, he will project to be a special teams contributor right away at the very least.

5. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama

Kool-Aid McKinstry was considered a potential top-10 selection a year ago, but his stock has fallen dramatically after his senior season didn't live up to expectations and then being unable to participate at the NFL Combine when a Jones fracture was found in his foot which required surgery. While he plans to work out for teams before the draft, Jones fractures can be tricky to heal from quickly. With these factors plus a reputation for not being a good worker in the weight room, McKinstry is no longer a first-round lock.

The 5-foot-11, 199 pound corner looks more suited to be a press-man corner for the NFL. He had some ugly games such as agaisnt Texas, but looked better elsewhere as he ended up with seven passes defended for the year with no interceptions. McKinstry is a big prospect to the average fan who knows his hype, but he has a lot of work to do for the pros. However it shouldn't mean he's a lost cause either, as he has good speed, is a smart player and has good press coverage ability along with some underrated return specialist skills.

6. Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

While lacking top-end speed and not finding many interceptions in his collegiate career at Georgia, the talented and versatile Kamari Lassiter has played his way into potential first-round contention after a strong season where he proved to be a dependable hand for the Bulldogs.

Lassiter didn't ace the Combine and does need to fill out his 5-foot-11, 186 pound frame, but dependable corners are gold in the pass-driven era of the NFL. Lassiter might not necessarily be a highend No. 1 corner for the next level, but he has the skills to be at least a good No. 2 corner with his scheme versatility and his skillset.

7. Max Melton, Rutgers

We certainly love Max Melton here at Niner Noise, and he's fast becoming a favorite with others too as he absolutely aced the Combine and went from being on the Day 2/Day 3 bubble to perhaps move in Round 2 contention. The 5-foot-11, 187 pound corner wowed during the athletic drills including a 4.39 40-yard time.

Melton had three interceptions and six passes broken up, performing well all season but being buried on a bad Rutgers team. Melton has excellent versatility and his speed lets him cover all parts of the field well. One of my favorite value picks in this draft.

8. Ennis Rakestraw, Missouri

Some in the media and on social media project Ennis Rakestraw to be a first-round pick, but that'll almost definitely be proven to be a bit of an overreaction for him as this is a tough corner class and he didn't impress in the Combine. Still, Rakestraw will be picked on Day 2 and has starter potential for the NFL.

Rakestraw will be disappointed in his 40-yard time of 4.51 seconds despite being only 5-foot-11 and 183 pounds, but he plays faster than that on the field. Rakestraw had five passes defended and a forced fumble in 2023 for Missouri, and is a very tough and physical corner who specializes in man coverage.

9. Cam Hart, Notre Dame

A much lengthier corner than others on this list at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds, Cam Hart had four passes broken up and three forced fumbles in 2023. The biggest tick on his resume however was a strong performances against Marvin Harrison Jr. against Ohio State, where he matched up well against a receiver certain to be taken in the top five picks of the draft this year.

Hart backed this up at the Combine. His 4.5 40-yard time was perfect acceptable for his size and he aced the athletic drills and the skills tests too. He possesses excellent scheme versatility too, and could an excellent value pick on Day 2.

10. Chau Smith-Wade, Washington State

A touch undersized at 5-foot-10 and 187 poiunds, Chau Smith-Wade nonetheless impressed people with a strong season at Washington State. He had a strong Senior Bowl week with two interceptions in the actual game to cap it off, and he could be a good value pick somewhere in the No. 60 to No. 100 range.

A tough player who has scheme versatility and can play outside corner despite his small size, Smith-Wade's technique makes him an intriguing choice for someone that could be on the Day 2/Day 3 bubble.

Next. Is 49ers' defensive line stronger or weaker after 1st wave of free agency?. Is 49ers' defensive line stronger or weaker after 1st wave of free agency?. dark