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Draft Central | 2024

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Caelen Carson to Cowboys as 5th-Round Pick


FRISCO, Texas — It took quite awhile, but the Dallas Cowboys finally went on the clock for the first time on Day 3 of the 2024 NFL Draft. Due to their 2023 trade to acquire quarterback Trey Lance from the San Francisco 49ers that cost them this year's fourth-round pick, their first selection wasn't set to occur until the 174th-overall pick in the fifth round.

And with that pick, they decided to grab cornerback Caelen Carson out of Wake Forest to help the defensive secondary, particularly considering the fact Stephon Gilmore is still a free agent.

Round 5, No. 174: Caelen Carson, CB, Wake Forest

Three things to know:

  • Two-way player in high school (CB + WR)
  • 2024 Reese's Senior Bowl invite
  • 2024 NFL Combine invite

Carson might be a sneaky good pick here for the Cowboys.

Though he's not the speediest corner in the class, he's also not exactly pulling a trailer — delivering a 4.48 second 40-yard dash in pre-draft tests (57th percentile). For reference, All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs ran a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

What Carson brings is not only experience, having taken the field in 36 starts for the Demon Deacons, but he also has the frame and ability needed to operate on the boundary as a true press corner, and that isn't not by coincidence because, again, Gilmore remains a free agent and that is the role the veteran occupied in 2023.

This is also great value for the Cowboys if you consider there are some boards that had Carson graded as a late third-rounder, with Dallas acquiring him two rounds later.

Also a two-way player in high school, there's the added athleticism that comes with the demands of both, and also gives him at least a glimmer of what helps make Diggs so special: a former wide receiver converted in college to defensive back.

This is not to say Carson is Diggs, but the similarities aren't things you can ignore, either.

As far as what he'll need to improve goes, it'll be to clean up the penalties. He is known to get handsy in his press coverage, which can be a gift and a curse in the NFL, and simply needs to refine how he uses his hands at the professional level. Carson also needs to glue himself to assistant head coach Al Harris to polish his technique and reaction in zone coverage.

As an overall package, Carson provides physicality, quality route-reading (again, former WR), a dynamic catch radius and enough speed to rarely get beat on straight line releases.

There's a lot of potential here that could be molded into a contributor under Harris and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who himself is also a former defensive backs coach.

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