Is Derwin James the Steal of the Draft?

(USA Today Sports)

With the 17th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers selected safety Derwin James out of Florida State. James was rated as one of the top defensive players in this year’s draft and was considered a lock to be drafted in the top 10 by many NFL scouts and analysts. Ryan McCrystal of Bleacher Report and former NFL quarterback Danny Kanell believe that Derwin James was a steal at 17 for the Chargers.

James showcased his athletic ability at the NFL Combine: a 4.47 40-yard dash, 21 bench reps and a 40-inch vertical. He received a 6.44 prospect grade from, which means he should become an instant starter for the Chargers. After being unable to resign safety Tre Boston and with James falling in the draft, James was a perfect fit for the Chargers.

In his first year at Florida State, James recorded 91 tackles, including 4.5 sacks, with four passes defended. After suffering a knee injury during his sophomore season, James returned to the field the following fall. In his final year at FSU, James recorded 84 tackles with one sack. James also picked off two passes, one returned for a touchdown, and recorded 11 passes defended last season. James was dominant during his time at Florida State and has proven himself as a game-changer. James comes from a long line of first round defensive backs from Florida State, which includes Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, Antonio Cromartie, Xavier Rhodes and Jalen Ramsey.

According to Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, James was rated as their top safety in the two of his three seasons spent at Florida State, the one year he did not he missed with a knee injury. They go on to say that James can play tight ends very well. With his size, athleticism and physicality, this is the type of player a team wants to cover a tight end like Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce. Palazzolo says that James is also a great edge defender as Florida State used him as an edge defender often. He went up against tackles one on one and this experience could help his transition into the NFL.   ames was also tied for the lowest catch rate among safeties in power five conferences, with a 43.6% catch rate.

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(Football Outsiders)

However, James did suffer a torn meniscus in week two of the 2016 season, which could be seen as a red flag for some NFL teams who passed on him. Although James does have great size and athleticism, he could struggle against the fast and shifty receivers in the NFL. For example, someone like the Chief’s Tyreek Hill  could cause some problems for the rookie safety. Palazzolo says that James has been lost in deep coverage or in short zones a few times throughout his collegiate career, so putting him strictly at a position like free safety would not be an ideal fit for a player like James. However, with his versatility and athleticism, James could play anywhere on the field and is one of the top players in this year’s draft. Pro Football Focus had James ranked as having the fifth highest overall grade according to their research.

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(SB Nation)

James joins a defense led by one of the league’s best pass rushing duos, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and Pro-Bowl cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett. Many people never thought that James would be available for the Chargers with the 17th pick. Chargers general Manager  Tom Telesco said, “We got lucky with Derwin.” Added Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn: “It’s a good fit for our defense. This guy, he has the skill set where he can do multiple things. There’s a lot of versatility.”

James has drawn some comparisons to Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who played for Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley from 2010-2012. Bradley says he is excited that the team landed James. Bradley and the defens, tends to move players around a lot, which means they will use James anywhere that they need him. Bradley says, “he gives us a lot of versatility to utilize his skill set. With his speed and size, he has a great presence about him.  He’s a big-bodied guy, and both those things show up with the way he plays. We’ll utilize him however is best for our defense.”

According to an interview by Ricky Henne of, when asked to describe his game, James said, “I’m a very versatile safety.  I can play deep in the middle of the field.  I can play in the box.  I can cover the tight ends.  I can blitz the quarterback. You name it, I can do it.  I’m not one of those guys who just says I can do it; I can really do it.  The tape speaks for itself.  I’m really excited, and I’m coming in with an alpha dog mentality.  I’m a leader on a team, so I’m going to be good for the Chargers.”

James also says he is excited to join the Chargers defense. Although they finished in the bottom half in the league in yards per game, including giving up the second most rushing yards per game, they have some elite talent and with his ability to stop the run, both of those stats should improve this year. The team was also fifth in the league in sacks and sixth in interceptions last season, both of which could see an increase with the addition of James.Image result for derwin james interception gif

The Chargers are coming off a 9-7 season, after barely missing the playoffs and will open their season at home against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Derwin James Highlights


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