Derwin James, S, Florida State
6’2”, 215 lbs
40-yd Dash: 4.47 seconds
Vertical Jump: 40-inches
2017: 84 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, 11 Passes Defended, 1 Sack
2016: Missed all but two games to a left knee injury
2015: 94 Tackles, 0 Interceptions, 9.5 Passes Defended, 4.5 Sacks
2017 First-Team All-American
2017 First-Team All-ACC
2015 Freshman All-American
2015 Honorable All-American
2015 Third Team All-ACC
Derwin James has one of the best combinations of size, speed, and athleticism in the 2018 NFL Draft. Florida State moved him around in the secondary, but he is at his best in the box and near the line of scrimmage. He is a physical safety that loves to lower the boom on opponents.
James is an effective blitzer and has surprising bend when pass rushing considering he’s a defensive back. If you play the former Seminole near the line of scrimmage, he will be a terror for opposing offenses. He also plays man coverage at a high level although he didn’t spend a lot of time in zone.
The First-Team All-American is an athletic freak, but lacks the instincts and zone coverage skills necessary to be a Pro Bowl caliber free safety. This can be masked if he is deployed as a box safety or cornerback in the NFL. Other than the time it takes for him to read plays, James is a talented prospect that should be drafted in the top-15.
Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James are often compared as the top safety prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, but they are very different players. Fitzpatrick excels in zone and makes plays with his great instincts which is why he should be used as a single-high free safety.
James on the other hand lacks this anticipation, but is a terror near the line of scrimmage. He has the potential to become one of the best strong safeties in the NFL. James also has the athleticism and man coverage skills to play outside cornerback at the next level.
Fit with Raiders
The Silver and Black have long needed a player that can effectively cover tight ends. While Obi Melifonwu was drafted by the Raiders in the second round last year for that very reason, he is an unproven product. James on the other hand made a living covering tight ends at Florida State.
He would instantly become Oakland’s strong safety, with the ability to play cornerback if asked to do so. This would allow Karl Joseph to move back to free safety which is his natural position. While James might not be a great free safety in the NFL, he is a top talent if you use him correctly as a box safety.