IDP Rookies | The Top-12 Defensive Prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft

by Aaron St. Denis · NFL Draft
IDP Rookies

PlayerProfiler is home to award winning dynasty rankings and tools. Our Dynasty Deluxe package includes complete Dynasty Rankings, Rookie Rankings, Trade Analyzer, Draft Planner, Mock Drafts, and more. Check it out. Below are Aaron St. Denis’s top 12 NFL Draft prospects in the 2024 Draft – rookies likely to be valuable IDP assets. 

With the East/West Shrine Bowl, Reese’s Senior Bowl, and 2024 NFL Scouting Combine behind us, it’s time for the 2024 NFL Draft.

This year’s defensive class boasts one of the deepest defensive linemen groups in recent memory in addition to sporting some high-end talent at linebacker and defensive back. As far as standard IDP scoring leagues are concerned, DL is king! As a result of the positional value and deep talent pool, most IDP rookie drafts will be linemen-heavy in the first round before seeing runs on the other positions later in the draft.

Despite the 2024 NFL Draft looking like it will be full of high-end offensive picks, the first round should still see more than its share of defenders. Once the potentially elite quarterbacks and wide receivers are off the board, we are sure to see a huge run of defensive linemen. The defensive back class is also shallow, but with several teams in desperate need of cornerbacks and safeties, a handful of elite options are also sure to go in the first round.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the 2024 NFL Draft Top 12 Defensive Prospects with a focus on IDP leagues.

NFL Draft Top-12 Defensive Prospects

12. Quinyon Mitchell, CB (Toledo)

Quinyon Mitchell is an excellent mix of size, strength, and speed. He has the physicality of a safety and the ball-hawking abilities of a cornerback. Mitchell was easily the most outstanding cornerback at the Senior Bowl and dominated against every opponent he faced. He figures to be the first DB off the board at the 2024 NFL Draft. Standing 6-0 and 195-pounds, he is built far sturdier than most cornerbacks, and his 4.33 40-yard dash speed allows him to go stride for stride with even the fastest of receivers.

Mitchell possesses elite burst and phenomenal closing speed, and is likely to find himself as a top-15 pick. In addition, he also boasts an impressive skillset on special teams, which could be an intriguing bonus for NFL teams looking to exploit the new kickoff rules. The Toledo star is an excellent open-field tackler and plays with a fundamental soundness that should make him as the first cornerback selected.

11. Tyler Nubin, S (Minnesota)

Tyler Nubin checks in as the only safety from this class in the top-12, displaying how paper-thin the position is this year. There are a handful of others with potential, but as far as IDP leagues go, it’s best to only key in on the elite defensive backs. Nubin is 6-1 and 199-pounds, and possesses the size and strength you would expect from a prototypical safety. He has elite instincts and tracks the ball well. His speed and closing abilities make him an elite ball hawk in the secondary and that is where he will make his money.

Again, standard IDP leagues don’t typically favor defensive backs, and Nubin will see the majority of his production coming from interceptions rather than tackles, but he has the upside to be a turnover machine at the next level. He is likely to see himself selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, and is a solid bet to be the first safety taken off the board.

10. Braden Fiske, DL (Florida State)

Braden Fiske may be slightly below average for defensive lineman size, coming in at only 6-4 and 292-pounds, but his elite speed and agility were on full display at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine. Fiske ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash and a 1.68 second 10-yard split, while also posting a 33.5-inch vertical jump and 9-9 broad jump. He was the star of NFL Combine week as far as defensive players go and should see his stock rise significantly as a result.

Fiske may not sneak into the first round of the draft, but even as a Day 2 pick, he possesses significant upside. He will make an impact on defense the second he steps onto the field and, if he can add some mass to his frame, he is a potential Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Fiske is a high-motor player who is solid as both a pass rusher and a run stopper and has the versatility to be an every-down player for years to come. His excellent ability to shed blocks and get to the quarterback should give him a safe floor for IDP leagues.

9. Byron Murphy II, DL (Texas)

Byron Murphy II is an agile and explosive three-down lineman who can produce at a high level if he goes to the right fit. His power gives him an excellent ability to shed blocks and shoot the gap, allowing him to be a disruptive force on the line of scrimmage constantly. He is only 6-0 and 297-pounds, so he will have to make a living with speed and finesse rather than brute force, but he possesses a well-rounded skill set and a wide array of pass-rushing moves that allow him to be effective despite his size limitations.

Murphy is a monster out of the 3-technique and should be an elite nose tackle at the NFL level. Despite his size, his agility and burst allow him to consistently find his way through double teams.  He may be undersized, but his frame is that of a lean, yet beefy defender. He is as fluid a lineman as there is in this class and with the right scheme, his talents could be maximized and his production optimized.

8. Terrion Arnold, CB (Alabama)

Terrion Arnold is an excellent cover corner whose elite burst allows him to thrive in man coverage. He has average size at 6-0 and 189-pounds, but plays with the physicality of a much larger player. He has a knack for aggressively attacking the ball and does not shy away from contact. Arnold excels at high-pointing the ball and coming down with contested catches, and his ball skills should allow him to be an excellent playmaker at the NFL level. He possesses 4.50 second 40  speed and between his speed and technique, he proves to be a tough defender to lose in any area of the field.

Arnold has a great ability to read a play and even when he makes an incorrect read or gets beat off in a route, his closing speed is more than enough to keep him in the play. He was the likely CB1 off the board had it not been for Mitchell’s amazing NFL Scouting Combine. Having said that, he has the superior college production and pedigree to Mitchell and could find himself as a top-10 selection. He is an excellent tackler in the open field and doesn’t shy away from physical play at any level of the field. Arnold has the physical skills and desire to make him a consistent producer for years to come.

7. Payton Wilson, LB (NC State)

Payton Wilson‘s size and athletic profile were certain to send him shooting up draft boards, but a world-class showing at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine has cemented him as the surefire LB1 in this class. He is a likely first round pick and his versatility will allow him to succeed in almost any defensive scheme. Wilson is 6-4 and 233-pounds. and, when you add in a 4.33 second 40-yard dash time, he is the best combination of size and speed you could ask for in a linebacker.

Wilson has a nose for getting to the football and attacks the ball carrier with aggression. He has the elite burst and aggression to frequently shoot his way through the gaps on the line and is a disruptive force on the field. Wilson projects to walk into a starter’s role from Day 1 and is the kind of defender that teams build around for the future. He possesses the skill set of a wide receiver with the skills of a linebacker and will make for an elite producer at the NFL level.

6. Jer’Zhan Newton, DL (Illinois)

Jer’Zhan Newton was the Big-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2023 and the 6-2, 304-pounds. earned that accolade. Projected to be a high-end 3-technique interior lineman, Newton is going to be a first round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. He is exceptionally explosive for a lineman of his size and possesses an elite burst that allows him to beat much smaller defenders off the line of scrimmage. It’s incredible to see a 300-pound lineman play with such speed and agility. His true calling is as a pass rusher where he will become one of the most disruptive forces in the NFL from the moment he steps on the field. He is not a developmental draft pick and will step into an NFL starting lineup from Week 1.

Newton has yet to turn 22 years old and is still finding his full form, it’s truly scary to imagine what kind of player he could become if he finds his way onto a competent NFL defense. He could easily find himself as a three-down player for many years to come as his ability to play the run is every bit as good as his talent as a pass rusher. This monster defender isn’t likely to see himself selected in the top-10, but he will hear his name called before we get to the 30s. Not only does he possess an elite skillset, but he reads the play better than most linemen and will excel at the next level.

5. Chop Robinson, DE (Penn State)

Chop Robinson is an elite athlete. He possesses a rare blend of speed, size, and explosiveness. Robinson pursues the ball carrier with elite physicality and power. He profiles to be a high-end edge rusher at the NFL level, and is as big and fast as any of the elite players at his position. His elite skillset will allow him to be a starter from Day One and will see him selected in the mid-to-late first round. The 6-3, 254-pounder ran an exceptional 4.48 second 40-yard dash at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine as well as a 1.54 second 10-yard split, showcasing his top-end speed.

The only flaw in his game seems to be his handwork and techniques when taking on blocks. He tends to get his hands and feet out of sync at times which causes him to occasionally look disjointed in his pass rush. If he can develop into a well-rounded and technical pass rusher, he could quickly become one of the best in the game.

4. Edgerrin Cooper, LB (Texas A&M)

Edgerrin Cooper is a strong, physical and versatile linebacker who possesses elite speed and athleticism. He is a high-motor, high-energy linebacker who plays, at times, with reckless abandon. Cooper’s 4.51 second 40-yard dash speed allows him to keep pace with any player on the field, whether pressing a tight end at the line or dropping back in coverage to follow a wide receiver. His speed and ability to read a play allow him to be around the ball constantly.

Cooper is a physical and viscous tackler who uses excellent technique but sometimes plays so physically and aggressively that he over-pursues the ball carrier. He projects to be an early- to mid-second round pick, and will be the first or second linebacker off the board at the 2024 NFL Draft. His elite athleticism and physicality will allow him to be a consistent producer for IDP fantasy leagues and should allow him to be a three-down player in any defensive scheme.

3. Laiatu Latu, DE (UCLA)

Laiatu Latu plays with the vision and anticipation of a seasoned NFL player and will be a great addition from the second he hears his name called out in the first round, possibly as early as 10th overall. He is both instinctive and intuitive as a pass rusher and does it with an almost effortless feel. Latu has one of the most impressive arsenals of pass rush moves you will see of any edge rusher, let alone a rookie, and further aided by an almost unheard-of level of intelligence on the field.

His intelligence, paired with speed and excellent timing makes him an almost impossible defender to stop once he gets going. In addition to being an excellent pass rusher, his limitless athletic ability also allows him to shed blocks with ease and get ahold of the running back in the backfield. Latu struggled with injuries in college and the only thing that has a chance of stopping him at the NFL level is an injury. If he went into the NFL draft with a healthy medical record, he would be as close to a flawless defense prospect as you will see. Latu will be a stud for as long as his health allows him to dominate. He comes with more risk than the top two players on this list but has every bit as much ceiling as both.

2. Jared Verse, DE (Florida State)

Jared Verse is going to be the first or second defensive player off the board at the 2024 NFL Draft. You can take that to the bank. He was a dominant force in college and his ability as an edge rusher is elite, and can play in the up position or down. He is also versatile enough to play anywhere on the line and will fit into any defensive scheme. The 6-4 and 254-pound defender ran a 4.58 second 40-yard dash at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, and was easily the most impressive defensive player at the event, finishing first or second in each event.

Verse’s ability to manhandle and bull rush even the biggest of blockers is a remarkable sight to see and will give him a tough ceiling to match. In addition to elite size and speed, he possesses elite instincts and resembles a heat-seeking missile when breaking through the line of scrimmage. Verse and the No. 1 player on the list are sure to be the top two picks in all IDP rookie drafts, it will come down to personal preference deciding between the two. In my latest IDP rookie mock draft, Steve Hungarter of Fantasy Six Pack opted to go with Verse as his 1.01, when the 1.01 pick belongs to me, the pick will be Dallas Turner.

NFL Draft Top 12 Defensive Prospects

NFL Draft Top 12 Defensive Prospects via The Fantasy Football Universe Podcast

1. Dallas Turner, DE (Alabama)

Dallas Turner is my choice for the IDP rookie 1.01 and has been there since the beginning of the offseason. For everything that Latu and Verse do well, Turner does it just a little bit better. He is the smallest of the top three, checking in at 6-3 and 247-pounds, but he plays much bigger than he looks. Add in a 40-yard dash time of 4.46 seconds at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, and you have the foundation of a future star. Many experts have compared Turner to former Carolina Panthers star Brian Burns and it’s easy to see why. He possesses elite burst and quickness and spectacular lateral agility on all levels of the field.

Realistically, Turner is the most likely defensive player to go off the board in the top-10 at the 2024 NFL Draft, as is my bet to be the first defender taken. He has a proven track record of playing at an elite and competitive level and is a proven winner. Turner is going to be a disruptive machine on the line of scrimmage and will dominate in any scheme. Whether it be as a dominant rusher upfront or as a physical player dropped back in coverage, Turner has the skillset and athleticism to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year front-runner before even being selected.

NFL Draft Top-12 Defensive Prospects Final Thought

As I stated originally, defensive line is king in IDP, especially in the most stacked DL class in some time. Hammer the early rounds of this year’s IDP rookie draft with DL picks and fill out the rest of your roster in the later rounds. One thing has remained a constant in all of my IDP rookie mock drafts this season and that is late value at defensive back. The front-loaded DL class is going to leave you solid options at DB on the back end. Draft accordingly.

Read Aaron’s tips for owning IDP leagues here: Rules to Dominate IDP Leagues