Why the Slide?: D.J. James, CB, Auburn

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.

During the 2023 college football season and over the leadup to the 2024 NFL Draft, there was some media hype about Auburn cornerback D.J. James being a potential second-day pick. James had been a starter at Oregon before landing at Auburn, and in 2023, he totaled 10 passes broken up, two interceptions and 38 tackles. At 6-foot, 175 pounds, James had quality size for the NFL and showed speed at the NFL Scouting Combine, putting up a fast 40 time of 4.42 seconds. Thus, some were surprised when James slid to the sixth round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Team sources shared with WalterFootball.com that they did not see a real slide with James, who they had projected as a late-round pick. Some of them even had him as an undrafted free agent. Sources said James had issues with blown assignments, giving up too many plays, and having a makeup that was less than intriguing. All of those issues combined for James to slide to the late rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft.

The Seattle Seahawks ended James slide, and they are a mixed landing spot for him. On the negative side, Seattle has two long-term starters already at cornerback with Riq Woolen and Devon Witherspoon. The team also drafted James’ teammate Nehemiah Pritchett in the fifth round, and Pritchett is a better player as well as a higher draft-capital investment. James is going to have to battle for a roster spot with some veterans like Tre Brown and Artie Burns. To make the Seattle roster, James is also going to have to be a star on special teams. His best hope to carve out a career could be to earn a spot on the practice squad and then hopefully grow from there to the 53-man roster. James has an opportunity with Seattle, but will not have a big margin for error in order to stick in the NFL.


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