top of page

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Mike Sainristil

Going into this month's NFL Draft, I challenge you to find someone with a more fascinating path to the league than Michigan's Mike Sainristil. Born in Haiti in 2000, his family left in the wake of the country's presidential elections, which happened when Mike was just shy of two months old. His father, a newsroom director at a radio station, had threats made against him, leading the Sainristil family to move to Everett, Massachusetts, about 15 minutes north of Boston. There, Sainristil became one of the most prolific high school football players the state has had in the last decade, winning Gatorade Player of the Year honors in 2018. Then, it was off to Ann Arbor as a three-star recruit that next spring.

Despite having real two-way potential, Michigan made Sainristil a primary wide receiver, a role he was in throughout his first three years in college, putting him behind guys like Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. It wasn't until 2022 when Jim Harbaugh's staff flipped him to the other side of the ball and, in turn, added a player who became one of the nation's top nickel/STAR/slot defenders to what was already one of college football's best defenses.

Sainristil isn't the kind of corner that will wow you in terms of his size profile, but he was an undeniable impact guy on a defense that won back-to-back Big10 titles and took home a National Championship just months ago, in which he got the dagger interception. Every team looking for an impact slot defender should be interested in a guy like Sainristril. Still, in what's by no means a bad class with guys like Max Melton from Rutgers, Kris Abrams-Draine from Mizzou, and Jarrian Jones from Florida State, is he the certified best slot defender this draft has to offer?

Player Bio

Name: Mike Sainristil

Jersey: No. 0 (Previously No. 19 and No. 5 before 2022)

Position: Cornerback (Slot)

School: Michigan

Class: Senior

Height: 5'9 1/2"

Weight: 182 lbs 

Games Watched: vs. Ohio State and TCU (2022), vs. Ohio State, Alabama, and Washington (2023)

RAS Score Comp:

Mike Sainristil RAS Comp

Player Breakdown

Man Coverage (11/15)

The biggest thing Sainristril needs to improve on is his technique in man-to-man situations. On more than a few occasions, you saw him telegraph how he would go about things with his body positioning, or if he were an off man, he would get caught flat-footed and beaten over the top. His size also naturally limited some of his effectiveness in the few contested catch situations he found himself in, but I thought he competed as hard as he possibly could on each of those reps. There's just only so much he can do at 5'9", but for whatever it's worth, I think he irons most of his technique deficiencies out sooner or later. For now, here's an excellent example of him telegraphing things with his body in the National Championship game.

Here (operating under the assumption that he wasn't expecting any inside help), Sainristril opens up his inside hip, and his man Jalen McMillan gives him a slight outside stutter step. You could've put six on the board before he even breaks on this slant. You can also see Sainristil flat on his feet, which can't happen, especially in this situation, being a 4th&3.

However, one thing that certainly helped Sainristil was his closing speed ability, which one would hope will follow him to the league.


Zone Coverage (14.5/15)

Zone coverage is more of Sainristil's bread and butter and is where he'll shine as an NFL defender. He always had a great understanding of not just what he was doing but also what his fellow defensive backs were doing, and he positioned himself accordingly to prevent plays or outright make them. Also worth mentioning is that Michigan flirted with Sainristil the boundary in cover-three looks and would even put him at outright safety in 2023 on occasion.

On a final note, and you could put this under either coverage category, Michigan tasked Sainristil to cover Marvin Harrison Jr., who has a five-inch height advantage and a significantly bigger frame in their last two matchups. Jim Harbaugh is not allowing that unless they have the utmost trust in Sainristil, and by all accounts, he did an excellent job.


Instincts (9.25/10)

On the whole, Sainristil possesses elite instincts (he wouldn't be as prominent a nickel/slot guy otherwise), but what brings this score closer to 9 than 10 were a few plays where he was hesitant to pull the trigger, leading to some big plays. One was an off-man snap in the slot where he got caught napping and beaten over the top by Ohio State's Emeka Egbuka. The other more notable one was this play, which was Alabama's opening touchdown of this year's Rose Bowl.

It's not the initial backpedal that's the issue, but rather the hesitation Sainristil shows right as he turns it back downhill. There's no guarantee he makes the tackle, but that's a situation where I'd like to see someone trust what's happening in front of him. He had no help to his inside or out, and that's just a scenario where Sainristil needed to commit to what he saw. Outside those two examples, Sainristil consistently displayed great instincts in coverage and as a run defender.

Ball Skills (10/10)

Color me shocked that Sainristil's natural ball skills didn't magically disappear once he switched to defense. He consistently demonstrated excellent hand usage, trying to either break up passes or outright turn the ball over, and he was a machine at doing just that. In just two seasons, Sainristil racked up seven INTs (six of which came in 2023) and a whopping 13 PBUs out of the slot. His natural ability to create plays near the ball will instantly translate, and he also did just that in big moments. Even more than the game-sealing pick-six against Washington, this PBU against Ohio State in 2022 wowed me. Look at the difference in arm length/wingspan here and tell me you aren't impressed.

Press/Physicality (6.75/10)

Regardless of where he lines up, Sainristil isn't the kind of DB to stay up on the line all game and jam receivers at the line. His frame is just too small and that's just how his game is. With that in mind, he's physical and competitive throughout the route and the catch point for a guy his size, and that's all you can ask for.


Long Speed (8.5/10)

Sainristil's speed didn't wow me at any point per se. Still, I believe he has adequate ability to keep up with receivers in footraces, and he also demonstrated plus closing speed if he allowed a grab or was in the general vicinity. Ultimately, though, this Rose Bowl rep demonstrates things pretty well, I'd say.

Tackling/Run Support (9.75/10)

The only thing keeping this score from being perfect was a couple of consequential misses that should've been made plays (one of which you saw in the Rose Bowl), but Sainristil is everything you want in a tackling corner otherwise. He plays above his weight class, which helps him as a wrap-up guy, and he also demonstrated the ability to lay the lumber both in the box and out in space. Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson can tell you all about that.

Athleticism (9/10)

Sainristil is a natural athlete with high-end explosiveness, great short-area agility and change of direction ability, and the range to move around the defensive formation in multiple spots (slot corner, deep safety, and boundary corner).


Change of Direction (5/5)

This is just one of those cases where the athletic testing scores (the 20-yard shuttle) hold up on the field. Sainristil's ability to change direction on a dime is as good as any corner in this entire class.


Length (3/5)

This is an interesting category for a guy like Sainristil, given that his arm size is under the 30th percentile, as is his wingspan among all defensive backs. With that said, you saw that PBU on Cade Stover moments ago, and he can do stuff like that with his small frame.

Player Summary 

I already had a relatively high opinion of Sainristil, but after watching the film, he's even a little better than advertised. Especially in today's NFL, you can't put a price tag on having a Swiss army knife out of the slot who is a fearless tackler and has good coverage ability to match up with an ever-growing list of elite pass catchers out of the slot. And in this draft, Sainristil is the perfect guy for that job. He may not go on day one based on positional value, which is fair, but I feel more than comfortable saying that the Michigan product is a first-round caliber talent who'll be an instant impact guy, much like Brian Branch was for the Lions last season.

Rookie Projections: Starting Slot Defender

Third-Year Projection: Pro-Bowl/All-Pro Caliber Slot Defender

Final Grade (86.75/100): Late-1st Round Talent

Main Image via


bottom of page