Why the Slide?: Caelen Carson, CB, Wake Forest

This series was created a number of years ago in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Entering the 2023 season, Wake Forest’s Caelen Carson was viewed as a potential early-round prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft. While Carson did not impress as a senior, he did not have a horrible season earlier. Carson’s standing slid, but he was generally regarded as a potential third- or fourth-round prospect. Thus, it was viewed as a surprise when Carson slid to Round 5.

The big issue for Carson according to sources was concern about his speed. Teams were worried that he was going to struggle to run with NFL wide receivers and that they will be able to generate too much separation from him. As a result, many teams gave Carson a backup grade. Backup grades lead to a player being a third-day prospect.

The Dallas Cowboys ended Carson’s fall in the fifth round, and that was a good landing spot. Carson is a legit contender to be a backup cornerback because they do not have much at the position behind their starting trio. Along with Carson being a favorite to be a backup, starter DaRon Bland is nearing the end of his contract and Dallas could have a tough time affording Bland after giving Trevon Diggs a massive contract. The Cowboys also have to account for expensive extensions for Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons. It would not be surprising if Bland is the odd man out. If Carson can impress as a backup and show that he is a good fit for Mike Zimmer’s defense, he could end up being a third-day steal for Dallas.


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