The Michigan Wolverines have not had a corner drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft since Leon Hall went in the first round —pick 18— in 2007. With his play-making tendencies, game-breaking speed, and pure aggression, DJ Turner is looking to break this drought.
Turner was a two-year —more like 1.5 in all fairness— starter for Michigan and racked up 69 tackles, three interceptions, 17 pass breakups, and a pair of defensive touchdowns. Once Turner became a starter in 2021, his talent was undeniable.
With elite speed (Turner ran the fastest 40 at the 2023 NFL Combine- 4.26) and fluid hips, DJ displayed an ability to play press-man and off-coverage, while operating in the slot or on the boundary.
A sure-tackler, Turner explodes to the ball in run-support and shows not only a willingness to tackle but an excitement despite his slender frame (5’11, 178 pounds). With the ball in his hands, Turner flashed electric decisiveness and a nose for the end zone.
Turner does struggle at the catch point against bigger receivers and can become over-reliant on his speed while forgoing technique. At the next level, Turner will need to place a premium on technique in order to avoid the costly inconsistency he displayed in 2022.
Despite these shortcomings, Turner’s well-rounded game and speed have draft experts struggling to project him in a deep cornerback class. Some have Turner as a first-rounder, while others see him falling into the third.
The safe bet is the second round, but I think Turner’s speed will entice a team to maneuver and scoop up Turner late in the first. Here are three likely landing spots for DJ Turner in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Round 1, Pick 22, Baltimore Ravens
Even if corner Marcus Peters resigns with the Ravens, Baltimore needs to add cornerback depth to this team. ESPN’s Mel Kiper projects the Ravens taking Deonte Banks —the cornerback from Maryland— and the Giants selecting Turner at pick 25 in the first round.
However, if the Ravens do go corner in the first, I would bet on Turner because of his relationship with Baltimore defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. Macdonald was Michigan’s DC in 2021 and helped groom Turner into the player he is today.
Turner is already familiar with Macdonald’s scheme and the Harbaugh-to-Harbaugh connection seems as strong as it has ever been.
Round 2, Pick 46, New England Patriots
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has drafted a Michigan Wolverine in four consecutive drafts and could make it five by adding the versatile DJ Turner.
New England’s secondary features the oft-injured Jalen Mills and oft-disciplined Jack Jones. After resigning Jonathan Jones, Turner could help add depth, durability, and play-making to a Patriots secondary that needs to fill holes.
The Patriots could very well trade down from their No. 14 first-round position and select Turner in the late first, or earlier in the second round. Not much is known about Bill Belichick’s draft plans, but we do know very few coaches value cornerbacks more than him.
Round 2, Pick 49, Pittsburgh Steelers
Another Wolverine mocked to the Steelers. According to the NFL Mock Draft Database, the Steelers are the consensus landing spot for the speedy Turner. Pittsburgh replaced the departing Cam Sutton with 32-year-old Patrick Peterson, and Levi Wallace remains a solid boundary player after finishing No. 13 in the NFL last season in passes defended.
But after those two known commodities, the Steelers possess a serious depth issue, especially in the slot. If the Steelers don’t select Turner at pick 32, Pittsburgh could very well trade up to jump several other suitors in the middle of the second round.
Other teams to watch
Detroit Lions, Washington Commanders, Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts