Derwin James leaves Florida State as one of the most prolific college players in the nation. A five-star recruit out of high school, he immediately lived up to expectations with a third-team All ACC campaign his freshman year. He tallied 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. With hype growing around the former top recruit, James tore his meniscus during Week 2 of the 2016 season. He’d miss the full year. During 2017, James took some time to return to form but by the end of the season he had started 12 games and earned second-team All American honors. He skipped the Independence Bowl in the lead up to the draft.
James was a moveable chess piece for the Seminoles at safety, primarily playing as the strong safety but taking snaps in the slot and as dime linebacker. He was frequently deployed as a blitzer. He has a long and well-muscled, first-guy-off-the-bus frame with good athletic ability through very good explosion and acceleration, good balance and change of direction, and solid quickness and fluidity.
|Prospect (Last, First)
|Scout Name (Last, First)
|Height||Weight||40 YD||10 YD||Arm||Hand||Vert||3Cone||SS||Broad||Bench|
|6016||215 lbs.||4.47s||1.55s||33”||9 4/8”||40”||n/a||n/a||1100”||21 reps|
Although his reputation centers around his athletic gifts and punishing nature, James is a high IQ football player that gets his teammates set before the snap, diagnoses where the play is going quickly – rarely biting on misdirection, and breaks with no hesitation. The Seminoles asked him to play hook, flat, and deep zone. He’s able to get depth quickly with solid cadence and pad level in his pedal and plus hip fluidity while playing with his eyes to the quarterback. He’s aware of route conflicts in his area and splits the difference between them with explosive closing speed to bust up underneath routes. He comes in like a missile to jar out potential receptions. James takes good angles to his assignments in man and has the quickness, foot speed, and route anticipation to mirror backs, tight ends, and slot receivers across the field.
James is an elite run defender as a primary and support player. He gets downhill quickly with good angles and is eager to enter the fray. He shows good hand quickness and strength to stack and hold ground at the point of attack against tight ends and possesses the agility to sidestep and stay clean against players with a bigger body type than he has. James unloads through his hips and shoulders and runs through tackles when he’s coming downhill.
As a blitzer, James plays like he’s shot out of a cannon downhill and can occupy or evade blocks with the agility and relentless fire to get to the quarterback. When he can’t make the sack, he shows impressive timing and explosion to elevate and bat down passes.
James is slightly stiff both breaking out of his pedal and transitioning to a run. From centerfield, he can come in at too sharp of an angle towards the ball against both the run and pass, although this is hard to get a read on without All-22 film. When he’s working laterally, the safety can come into tackles too tall. When he does this, he catches rather than delivers the blow and can miss more elusive ball carriers. At the top of routes, James can get grabby and draw interference flags. There weren’t enough opportunities in the games viewed to properly assess his ball skills or ability in press.
In all likelihood, James will be long gone by the time the Lions are on the clock but they should be prepared in the event that he falls as the safety position has been devalued this past year. James can be an immediate impact player and become a defensive centerpiece for Detroit. He has the demeanor to set the intensity for the defense and become a captain down the road. He’s best suited as a strong safety that can slide down and play some dime linebacker, cover tight ends, and wreak havoc off the edge. He’s one of the premier players in this draft and should earn Pro Bowl honors early in his career.
Grade: 7.20(Pro Bowl player)