Weight: 213 pounds
School: Florida State Seminoles
Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds
Bench press: 21 reps (tied for fourth among defensive backs)
Vertical jump: 40 inches
Broad jump: 11 feet (tied for fifth best at 2018 NFL Combine)
Derwin James 2018 NFL Draft Profile
There’s an ever-increasing tendency for safeties at the next level to exude versatility in order to combat the varied looks NFL offenses bring nowadays. They must be aggressive downhill in run support while also able to lock down opposing pass-catchers in both man and zone coverage. The more wide-ranging a given prospect’s skill set is, the greater chance they have of making an immediate impact in the pros. And Derwin James is as good as it gets in that regard when it comes to this year’s draft class.
James certainly lived up to all the hype in college. He came to Tallahassee as the top safety prospect in the nation and fifth among all players according to Rivals. There wasn’t much competition for his services though as he committed to the Seminoles in February 2012, three years before he was due to arrive on campus. He didn’t waste time making an impact once he got there. James earned Freshman All-American honors after leading all ACC freshmen with 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. His sack total actually led all defensive backs in the conference that year.
Though his sophomore season was cut short due to a meniscus injury, James came back with a vengeance a year later. That’s particularly true of his impact as a playmaker in pass defense. He intercepted two passes, taking one back all the way for a touchdown and added 11 pass breakups. The latter total put him in a tie for seventh in the ACC. James ended up making AP All-American second team and All-ACC First Team. He later declared for the draft on December 5 and decided to skip Florida State’s bowl game.
- quintessential body type for an NFL safety;
- exhibits all the characteristics of a box safety at the next level;
- extremely versatile in terms of where he’s capable of lining up on the field;
- has the physicality and play strength to operate as a dime linebacker;
- fluid and explosive acceleration from 0 to full-speed;
- sheds blockers with ease both in run support and pass rush;
- able to hang with big-bodied tight ends in man coverage;
- tracks to the ball extremely well;
- could be a blocking menace on punts and field goals;
- relentless competitor and vocal presence on-field and in the locker room.
- could flare to the boundary a bit quicker as a high safety;
- puts himself on an island in zone coverage at times;
- slow to react to change of direction on the part of receivers;
- needs to improve his ability to anticipate offensive tendencies pre-snap;
- sometimes resorts to arm tackles;
- dropped quite a few surefire interceptions in college;
- not a lot of experience, having appeared in just 26 games for FSU;
- some issues with durability due to season-ending knee injury suffered in 2016.
NFL Comparison: Landon Collins
Teams With Need at Position: Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Washington Redskins
Projection: early first round with potential to go top 10
James is the prototypical countermeasure to athletic yet physical tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce. His combination of size and speed make such players less of a matchup nightmare in the secondary. As the game continues to evolve on offense, so must it do so on the other side of the ball. And in James, scouts see an embodiment of that evolution. He undoubtedly has the potential to be the kind of do-everything safety that’s in high demand nowadays. Though he’s far from a finished product, James has one of the highest ceilings of any player at this position in the draft.