The Auburn defense was well represented at the Senior Bowl in Mobile Alabama last weekend. It was the first step of the several months-long job interview called the NFL Draft process. So, we can check in on the draft stock of Marcus Harris, Jaylin Simpson, D.J. James, and Nehemiah Pritchett along with Justin Rogers who was in Frisco Texas for the East-West Shrine Bowl.
Based on current draft projections and the performances of each of these players who attended postseason college all-star games, I’ll predict where they will land in the NFL draft in April.
There won’t be any former Auburn players in the first round of this draft. The most recent first-rounders were Derrick Brown and Noah Igbinoghene in 2020 but with his most recent freshman recruiting class, Hugh Freeze has begun to raise the talent level within his program.
In three short years, players like Cam Coleman and Perry Thompson could hear their names called in the top 10, but now Auburn fans will need to hold their breath to see if they have a player picked in the top 100.
DJ James was excellent in coverage this season. He was targeted 52 times and allowed just 32 receptions with two interceptions and 10 pass breakups. Athletically, James can keep up with any receiver, but the question is his size.
At 5-foot-11 James doesn’t quite have elite length, but where he’s lacking is his weight. James weighed in at just 170 pounds in Mobile, but he likely plays lighter. The Eagles desperately need help in the secondary and were willing to take a chance on DeVonta Smith in the first round a few years ago, so James’s slight frame may not scare off Howie Roseman.
If teams are too scared to draft a 170-pound cornerback, then Pritchett will be Auburn’s highest-drafted player. Pritchett was targeted just 26 times and allowed only 12 catches, but he wasn’t as effective as James playing the ball with only 3 pass breakups.
Pritchett doesn’t have the upside of James, but at 6-foot 188 pounds, he’s a safer pick in the late third round for the Commanders. Washington needs everything, but the secondary especially bad.
Same as James and Pritchett, Harris had an unremarkable Senior Bowl. None of the Auburn attendees did much to affect their draft stock during the week, so for now I see Harris as a fourth rounder.
Cincinnati’s defense finished 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt. Harris will help the run defense, but he won’t provide much pass rush from the interior defensive line. He finished last season with a 5.6% pass rush win rate.
Instead of the Senior Bowl, Rogers accepted an invite to the East-West Shrine Bowl in Frisco Texas. As a run-stopping defensive lineman, he didn’t stand out much, but as a 6-foot-2 338-pound defensive lineman, he’ll still have a fit in the NFL.
The Cardinals finished 32nd in run defense and Jonathan Gannon’s defenses in Philly were at their best with a bevy of defensive line talent. He may build the same way in Arizona.
Like DJ James, Simpson is undersized to play in an NFL secondary. He was excellent in coverage as a deep free safety which is his best fit at the next level, but Simpson doesn’t provide much in the run game.
The Patriots were fourth in run defense last year but were 22nd against the pass and 23rd in interceptions.