NFL Injury Impact: Iowa S Cooper DeJean

04/20/2024
DB+

A need not discussed as often as wide receiver or defensive end is safety for the Buffalo Bills heading into 2024. After the significant turnover, losing both Jordan Poyer and potentially Micah Hyde, the Bills re-signed Taylor Rapp and brought in Mike Edwards to fill the void. Add in the turnover at cornerback as well and the secondary could be a point of weakness heading into next season.

One player the Bills could target in the draft is Iowa S Cooper DeJean. The four-year letterman enters the draft as one of the top prospects regardless of position. However, a late-season injury could cause several teams to look elsewhere or use the injury as a tiebreaker, causing DeJean to slide down the board.

Below is Cooper DeJean’s publicly reported injury history and concerns moving forward.

Injury History

2022 Iowa

Undisclosed injury, vs Nebraska, missed the remainder of the game.

DeJean suffered an undisclosed injury during the first series against the regular series finale against Nebraska. He received a brutal but legal hit, falling down to the turf. After lying there for several moments, he was able to walk off under his own power with training staff. He went to the locker room and later returned in street clothes.

Based on the video, it’s possible he suffered a concussion or upper-body injury. This injury did not appear to linger as he was able to play in the bowl game several weeks later.

2023 Iowa

Right fibula fracture, underwent surgery, missed final 4 games.

DeJean suffered the injury in practice in mid-November before the Illinois game. He was practicing on the offensive side of the ball and called it a freak thing. He allegedly planted his foot and twisted his leg during Wednesday’s practice, suffering the fracture.

Based on the picture on Instagram, confirms the right leg was injured due to the scar location.

Injury Analysis

DeJean’s medical history is incredibly clean other than the fibular fracture. He did have the undisclosed injury but not enough information is available and it did not appear to be re-occurring. He underwent surgery and was unable to participate in the NFL Combine as he was not ready from a training standpoint.

In terms of concerns, there are minimal issues. How he broke his fibula was a freak accident. He was on offense running a play, several reports stated he had performed jet sweeps prior. Considering he planted and twisted, he may have been running a jet sweep and the torque through the ankle may have just been too great when he pivoted, snapping the fibula. He may have also been hit or fallen on, but specific details of the injury are not available.

Understanding what he broke, the fibula is one of two bones in the lower leg with the proximal portion attaching to the outside of the tibia just below the knee. The distal portion makes up the lateral aspect of the ankle called the lateral malleolus. The fibula does not support any weight during walking but does act as an attachment point for many muscles and ligaments vital to function. Often, when the ankle is fractured, the lateral malleolus is the portion that is damaged.

Based on the mechanism of injury, it’s possible he had a Type A fracture which is caused by adduction and internal rotation of the ankle. This would have happened when he pivoted to turn upfield. Why his fibula broke near his ankle during practice isn’t clear, but he appears to have had an uncomplicated recovery.

Surgeons were able to repair the bone by inserting a plate and screws into the area to ensure proper healing as seen below.

Credit: edwardschangmd.com

Fortunately, when he was medically cleared, he excelled during Iowa’s pro day putting up a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash. He was also able to perform all the other drills demonstrating elite-level athleticism. Overall, his RAS was 9.85 which is incredible, especially coming off injury.

Outcomes

Overall, 89 percent of players who suffer an isolated distal fibular fracture return to play in between 72 to 145 days. While it was not explicitly stated, players appear to return to their prior level of function. Even players with combined fibular fractures who also suffer a distal tibial fracture in which the medial malleolus is also injured have excellent return-to-play rates. There does not appear to be any concern regarding reinjury to the area due to how the plate reinforces the bone.

Looking at Bills players who have suffered a similar injury include Matt Milano, Russell Bodine, and Jamison Crowder. All continued to play the next season after suffering their respective fractures. While Bodine and Crowder continued to play, Milano continued to elevate his level of play, garnering All-Pro honors in 2022.

Injury Comparison

DeJean is a strong comparable for Virginia CB Bryce Hall who suffered his ankle fracture in his senior season before being drafted by the New York Jets in 2020. His injury was more severe and cost him half of his rookie season starting the season on the non-football injury list.

Fortunately, Hall has managed to avoid injury since his original ankle fracture but has fallen out of favor in the Jets secondary. Due to Hall’s injury, he dropped from a first-round prospect down to the fifth round. Knowing that DeJean has been cleared medically and has performed exceptionally well, there does not appear to be the same concerns for such a precipitous fall.

Bills Draft Selection

Based on how DeJean has recovered, his overall injury history, and the fact he has had a Top-30 visit with the Bills, he appears to be very much in play.  Add in his elite RAS, this is exactly the type of player that the Bills covet in the first round. The fact that he is so versatile playing safety, cornerback, in the slot, and on special teams means he could be a top selection for the Bills.

He has been regarded as a first-round selection and should he fall far enough in the late first round or pick 28, the Bills should not hesitate to select him if they value safety as a top draft selection. If they pass on him, he won’t last far into the second round, the talent is simply too great.

Cooper DeJean could be an excellent player in the Bills secondary for years to come should he be drafted. He won’t ever be without injury but his prior history does not leave any cause for concern.

0 Comments