Seahawks could have two starting mid-round 2024 NFL draft selections

Nehemiah Pritchett and DJ James impressed the Seahawks at Auburn, and they have bright futures in Mike Macdonald's defense.
Nehemiah Pritchett and DJ James impressed the Seahawks at Auburn, and they have bright futures in Mike Macdonald's defense. / Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

NFL teams may be realizing the advantages of drafting players who have already worked together in a defense.

The Rams selected Florida State edge-rusher Jared Verse in the first round of the 2024 draft, and turned right around to take Braden Fiske, Verse's linemate, in the second round. As Verse and Fiske have already run stunts and games together, that ability to communicate can only help them at the next level.

Similarly, the Seahawks went deep at cornerback on the third day of their draft, and they did it from the same school. They took Auburn cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett with the first pick in the fifth round (136th overall), and then took DJ James 192nd overall in the sixth round.

How did these guys last as long as they did? Well, Pritchett allowed 12 catches on 26 targets last season (per Pro Football Focus) for 134 yards, 25 yards after the catch, one touchdown, one interception, three pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating, and an opponent passer rating of 58.8. James gave up 32 catches on 52 targets for 385 yards, 109 yards after the catch, three touchdowns, two interceptions, 10 pass breakups, and an opponent passer rating of 84.4.

And the two did their thing quite well against some of the NCAA's better receivers.

The Seahawks already have two top cornerbacks in Riq Woollen and 2023 first-round pick Devon Witherspoon, but the two new guys could easily find ways to contribute. As we saw last season when he was the Ravens' defensive coordinator, Macdonald prefers coverage schemes that confuse quarterbacks by coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

“Come in and compete, that’s the theme for the whole draft class,” Macdonald said after the draft of the plan for the new cornerbacks. “Nehemiah is probably more of an outside guy. Definitely early both guys on special teams we anticipate to come in, make a huge impact for us. DJ probably both inside and outside, but, come in, compete, we’ll figure it out. Kind of like the offensive line, defensive line. We've got a lot of reps to be had out there, so it’ll hash itself out.”

Pritchett and James are certainly happy to work together again.

“I was super excited," Pritchett said in early May. "Me and DJ have been friends for a really long time, since high school. We grew up about 45 minutes away from each other. We played in an All-Star game together in high school. I tried to get him to come to Auburn when he was coming out of high school, but he decided to go to Oregon. Me and him have been having a good time.”

As the two players had already communicated well to the point of calling sides in coverage, James is also eager to see how this partnership can provide additional dividends.

“Right after, we talked to each other. We both were excited. Both felt more comfortable about coming far away from home but with each other. And being former teammates. It's great.”

Doug Farrar