NFL draft: Alabama cornerbacks Arnold, McKinstry ready for next level

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive backs Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) and Terrion Arnold (3) block an attempted pass to Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Arian Smith (11) during the first half of the SEC Championship football game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, on Saturday, December 2, 2023. (Hyosub Shin /



Alabama Crimson Tide defensive backs Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) and Terrion Arnold (3) block an attempted pass to Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Arian Smith (11) during the first half of the SEC Championship football game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, on Saturday, December 2, 2023. (Hyosub Shin /

Here’s the eighth story of our position-by-position NFL draft series. Today, we’ll look at the top cornerbacks.

Defensive back coaches around the NFL were among the group shocked by the retirement of Alabama coach Nick Saban, who developed a bushel of defensive backs during his tenure in Tuscaloosa.

Saban left them two more cornerback prospects in Terrion Arnold and Kool-Aid McKinstry, who are projected to be selected in the first round of the draft, which is set for April 25-27 in Detroit.

“Kool-Aid ran a 4.47, 4.48 with that Jones fracture (in his foot). Everybody thought he would be a 4.55 guy,” ESPN’s draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “He was better than that even with the injury. He’s been a starter since Day 1. He was better than Terrion Arnold for most of his career, and then Terrion passed him.”

Arnold is projected to be the first cornerback selected in the draft.

My mindset, anytime I line up, or it doesn’t matter who I’m going against,” Arnold said. “I’m coming to dominate.”

Arnold and McKinstry used to compete in practice.

“It’s why you go to Alabama, so Kool-Aid and I, man we’re very close-knit, very tight,” Arnold said. “So, I mean when I’m looking at him, if he’s on the right side and he just made a play, I’m like all right man, if they throw this ball my way, I’ve got to make a play. So, it’s friendly competition. We challenge each other, and we make each other better.”

Arnold has met with the Texans, Steelers and Raiders. He had a top-30 visit with the Falcons.

Arnold enjoyed his practice battles with Jermaine Burton, who transferred to Alabama from Georgia.

“Our practice reps were crazy, (they were) like game reps,” Arnold said. “Jermaine can do a lot of different things that people haven’t even seen. He is very fast guy, so just know when he gets down to running this 40, you will see that he got gas. He can go.”

Arnold is rather confident in his skills.

“Playing corner, you have to have that, and it comes from my granddad,” Arnold said. “My grandad was a roofer, so that being said, I like to correlate roofing with football.

“My grandad always told me, on that roof no one is coming to save you. ... If you’re slipping on the fiberglass, you kind of get a little rocky, little shaky, and you know that if you lose confidence in yourself, you’re going to slip and fall.

“It’s the same way with corner, and being a human being. If you don’t have that confidence to come in and take over a room and have that presence, nobody is going to have that confidence in you.”

McKinstry was a much-hyped five-star recruit coming out of suburban Birmingham’s Pinson Valley High. He lived up to expectations.

McKinstry met with the Steelers, Raiders and Ravens.

“Well, whichever team drafts me, I’ll be blessed,” McKinstry said. “If the Ravens were to draft me, I’ll be ready to help the organization in the best way I could, and that’s any organization.”

McKinstry enjoyed his time with Arnold.

“He’s a fantastic athlete and a freak of nature,” McKinstry said. “Me, I’m more of a guy who has great IQ and a real football player. I understand the game.”

Playing in the SEC, McKinstry has seen quite a few top-flight wide receivers.

“It would have to be George Pickens, AD Mitchell, and Jermaine Burton,” McKinstry said about the top receivers he’s had to cover. “Pickens just (doesn’t) let (any) ball hit the ground. No matter how good you (have) him covered, he always going to find a way to come up with a grab.”

Arnold and McKinstry believe their relationship is genuine and wish each other the best at the next level.

“I would say just because like it’s real genuine love between me and Terrion,” McKinstry said. “I feel like if Terrion was to go first, I’d be able to ask him for anything. If I was to go last or vice versa, however it went, we’d still be brothers.”

Kiper is high on a couple of other cornerbacks from SEC schools.

“Andru Phillips is a physical corner,” Kiper said of the Kentucky product. “He’s got better and better. He ... tested very well. Very athletic with a 42-inch vertical. Ran well. Played well. You always like for the testing to (match) with the tape, and it did with Phillips. I have him in the late second.”

Kiper also is high on former Georgia standout Kamari Lassiter.


WIDE RECEIVERS -- Don’t sleep on Washington’s Rome Odunze among talented wide receivers | Top 10 WRs

RUNNING BACKS -- ‘Day two is going to be the running back day,’ an analyst says | Top 10 RBs

TIGHT ENDS -- Ex-Georgia standout Brock Bowers is the top tight end | Top 10 TEs

QUARTERBACKS -- After Caleb Williams, is Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye the next quarterback? | Top 10 QBs

OFFENSIVE LINE -- Mims, Van Pran-Granger could help NFL teams in the trenches | Top 5 C, OG, OTs

DEFENSIVE LINE -- T’Vondre Sweat’s recent arrest will impact his status | Top 5 DTs, DEs

LINEBACKERS -- Dallas Turner likes to hit quarterbacks | Top 10 LBs


SAFETIES -- Friday



WIDE RECEIVERS – Past few drafts have spoiled NFL teams looking for wide receivers | Top 10 WRs

RUNNING BACKS – Running backs Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs may have to wait to hear their names called | Top 10 RBs

TIGHT ENDS – Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer heads a dee TE class | Top 10 TEs

QUARTERBACKS – Bryce Young’s small stature no longer an issue in the NFL | Top 10 QBs

OFFENSIVE LINE – Skoronski’s short arm length being scrutinized for left tackle | Top 5 C,G, &OTs

DEFENSIVE LINE – Is Jalen Carter the real deal or a potential bust? | Top 5 DTs, DEs

LINEBACKERS – Dutchtown’s Will Anderson expected to go in the top 5 of NFL draft | Top LBs

CORNERBACKS – Former Georgia standout Kelee Ringo one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL draft | Top CBs

SAFETIES – Alabama’s Brian Branch, Jordan Battle are top safeties in the NFL draft | Top FS/SS

SPECIAL TEAMS – Michigan’s Jake Moody hopes to kick way to NFL draft | Top STs

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