D.J. James’ Draft Profile | Auburn, CB Scouting Report

As his 2024 NFL Draft scouting report details, D.J. James has the speed and playmaking ability to quiet concerns surrounding his weight in the NFL.

Everywhere you look, there are more cornerback prospects to know in the 2024 NFL Draft. One of the more underrated players in the class may be Auburn’s D.J. James, whose scouting report supports an NFL starter trajectory — if he can answer a few pressing questions.

D.J. James Draft Profile and Measurements

  • Height: 5’11 5/8″
  • Weight: 170 pounds
  • Length: 31″
  • Wingspan: 72″
  • Hand: 8 1/8″
  • Position: Cornerback
  • School: Auburn
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior

The promise of playmaking is one that James’ scouting report delivers on. Not only that, but James has delivered on it since his high school days when he was a three-star recruit out of Spanish Fort, Alabama.

As a high school senior, James racked up six interceptions and 16 pass breakups, getting himself on the radar of several large Power Five schools. He signed with Oregon out of high school and played sparingly until 2021, when he emerged as a productive starter.

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Across two seasons as a consistent defensive contributor with the Ducks, James put up 83 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, and 12 pass deflections. Then, in 2023, he transferred to Auburn, putting up high-quality tape against SEC competition and playing alongside other 2024 NFL Draft prospects like Jaylin Simpson and Nehemiah Pritchett.

In his lone season at Auburn, James logged career-high numbers, racking up 3.5 TFLs in support, with two interceptions and 10 pass breakups in the air. He earned a trip to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, where his playmaking ability remained distinct.

D.J. James Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Easy accelerator with stellar explosive capacity and urgency heading downhill.
  • Has the bristling closing speed to erase gaps and drastically widen his disruption radius.
  • Twitched-up, fleet-footed, short-area athlete with great reactive and corrective freedom.
  • Shows glimpses of instant stop-and-start ability when halting to clamp down on stems.
  • Can use brisk shuffle steps to regain hip alignment ahead of stems and vertical moves.
  • Has the necessary hinge fluidity to rotate out of his pedal and track WRs up the field.
  • Has shown he can swivel out of vertical carries to pivot overtop out and corner routes.
  • Flashes a near-instant trigger on route breaks and can click-and-close in a blink.
  • Has a smooth pedal in zone and off-man and uses kick-steps to maintain hip leverage.
  • Technically variable CB who can pedal, slide, and sink overtop stems in rapid succession.
  • Can use precise, forceful jams to dictate releases in press-man while keeping synergy.
  • Patient and disciplined with his depth in off-man, using fast feet to match and gather.
  • Fearless, competitive support player who plays beyond his frame and stays square.
  • Plays with a physical edge, attacking WRs who open their frame and setting the line.
  • Natural disruptor at the point, who uses his reach to play the ball through the catch.

Weaknesses

  • Has average proportional length and is extremely light for his position.
  • Doesn’t have elite sinking capacity or swivel freedom at the top of comeback stems.
  • Non-elite fluidity can cause occasional slight hitches and delays on sharp redirections.
  • Sometimes incorrectly passes off receivers when he should carry vertically.
  • At times, plays a bit too tall on his pedal, which can impact the efficiency of transitions.
  • Stronger WRs can exploit his lighter frame to compound separation at route stems.
  • Lighter frame visibly limits his play strength and obstruction ability as a solo tackler.
  • Lacking play strength can make it difficult to deconstruct blocks against moving TEs.
  • At times, crumples against larger blockers and isn’t a consistent boundary presence.
  • Can be a bit more consistent converting interception opportunities into turnovers.
  • Technique could lend itself to slot versatility, but play strength could be an issue there.

Current Draft Projection and Summary

James grades out as a fringe top-100 prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft on my board. James carries the most appeal for teams that play an excess of off-man coverage and some press-man looks, but he has the coverage variability and two-phase foundation to be coveted across the board.

James’ weight will be the largest complicating factor for his stock and NFL projection. At 5’11 5/8″, with 31″ arms, he has a decent frame for a CB, but at 170 pounds, he’s a major size outlier. And lighter cornerbacks haven’t had as much success translating in recent years.

All this being said, it’s hard to poke too many holes in James’ profile beyond his weight and lacking play strength.

As an athlete, he has a near-elite mix of explosiveness, short-area twitch, fluidity, and speed. And as a CB, he’s an adept processor with an instant trigger, reliable disruptive tendencies both before and at the catch, and a full bag of technique implements based on WR leverage.

Zone coverage is where James can gain more consistency, as knowing when to pass off and carry WRs is still an issue at times. But in coverage, he’s a dynamic and versatile defender.

And in support, he’s surprisingly and refreshingly competitive despite his frame. He attacks blocks, fights to earn leverage, and obstructs boundary plays with voracity.

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There’s no getting around it — James will need to add at least a little mass in the NFL. But if he can get closer to 180 pounds and retain his athleticism, he cannot only survive but thrive as a quality boundary starter in a man-oriented scheme.

All the 2024 NFL Draft resources you need — the draft order, the top QBs, the Top 100 prospects, and the full 2024 Big Board — right at your fingertips at Pro Football Network!

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