One year after drafting Karl Joseph in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Raiders selected Obi Melifonwu with their 2017 second round pick. Melifonwu missed his entire rookie season with injury, but is expected to be healthy for training camp. Despite so many additions to the secondary, the Silver and Black struggled mightily last year as they didn’t record an interception until week 12.
Florida State safety Derwin James would help the Raiders defense, but should Oakland spend a high pick on a safety for the third consecutive year? The staff at Silver and Black Pride have the answers.
Tyler Green (@TylerGreenSB)
Derwin James is one of the most polarizing prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. He is a physical freak whose punishing style of play brings reminiscence of Kam Chancellor. While James lacks the instincts to excel as a free safety, he has the potential to become one of the best box safeties in the NFL and can also play outside cornerback if asked to do so.
There is no doubt that the Raiders have plenty of needs to address heading into the draft, but an NFL team can never have too many quality defensive backs. The First-Team All-American would immediately become the Raiders strong safety allowing Karl Joseph to move back to free safety which is his natural position. Melifonwu could be deployed as a nickel safety or as a hybrid linebacker giving the Raiders great depth in the secondary.
Derwin James is a physically imposing player, a ballhawk with serious hitting ability. He can punish ballcarriers in the box and on the edge, and is adept at blitzing as well. He is a complete safety with good instincts and elite physical skills.
My issues with James are twofold- first, that he’s basically just a larger version of Karl Joseph, and also that if we wanted a player of his ilk, Minkah Fitzpatrick might be an even better choice. There is little doubt that James would fit in well on Oakland’s back end and put some much-needed physicality into the defensive back corps, and I wouldn’t be upset if the Raiders took him if Fitzpatrick weren’t available. But in general, I think there are superior choices out there and bigger holes to fill.
BD Williams (@BDWilliams18)
The Hype surrounding James is amazing. James is said to be even more athletically gifted than Jalen Ramsey, both defensive backs earned All-American honors while leading the defense at Florida State. Ramsey also draws frequent comparisons to Kam Chancellor for his vicious hitting ability and for the way he plays in the box. In fact, some talking heads have created a new position for James; “Edge Safety” which is simply a reference to how deadly James is as a blitzer. James is the type of player that gives Coordinators a weapon to use against the offense all 3 downs and gives the personnel flexibility because he can wear so many hats from deep safety, to covering the slot, to playing in the box, to blitzing the QB....no seriously he does all that.
Whether to pick or pass can be summed up simply: He has the skill and production of Joseph with the size and athleticism of Obi. Perhaps James is the type of player that Reggie has been looking for all along.
Ryan Lipton (@Rytime98)
There seems to be a handful of must-have guys on the defense in this draft and Derwin James is one of those guys. At 6-foot-2 215 pounds, he could be the perfect complement to Joseph in the secondary. James is the bigger and more physically dominant player, like Kam Chancellor, while Joseph can be the Earl Thomas of the group.
James made his presence felt in every area of the game by tallying 84 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and 11 passes defensed in 2017.
Most importantly, James is a born-leader and could fill a major defensive leadership void left by the retirement of Charles Woodson a few seasons ago.
According to an NFC scouting director via NFL.com, “He is going to be the dude in any locker room he ends up in. That’s his makeup.”
Even after James’ ACL injury, I remember saying a year ago I hope the Raiders can get him in next year’s draft. If that opportunity presents itself, it’ll be a huge day for the Raider Nation.
Levi Damien (@LeviDamien)
I like Derwin James... as trade bait. At least for the Raiders anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I love him as a player. He’s outstanding. A 6-2, 215-pounder who can run a 4.47 40 who is going to be an outstanding strong safety at the NFL level for years to come. And there is going to be a team that wants him for those reasons and is willing to give up a nice package to get him. For the Raiders’ purposes, they have selected a safety in each of the past two years who have yet to take the field together at the positions they best fit. Give them a chance to succeed in those roles and look to another greater need position.
Should the Raiders draft Derwin James?
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