Derwin James is an athletic freak. His physical prowess he demonstrated on the field shows up in his athletic testing at the Combine. Click here to read the graph that depicts his impressive athletic scores compared to other Combine participants at the safety position.
His elite athletic ability isn’t the only trait that defines him. He optimizes his skills all over the field, literally. He is a swiss army knife as he logged snaps at strong safety, free safety, nickel corner, outside linebacker and savvy blitzer. In FSU’s scheme, he was utilized all over the field surrounded by NFL talent up and down the roster. Poking holes in his game is borderline nit-picky. He certainly needs refining in coverage and is stiff in the hips, but the comparisons to former FSU defensive star, Jalen Ramsey aren’t far-fetched.
Breaking down his tape, the closer James was to the line of scrimmage, the more impactful he was. From his bend off the edge influencing QB hurries to his versatility in the box sifting through bodies to find tackling angles, that is what stood out. His instinct is elite. The tape is littered with examples of him lining up in the box or against the slot receiver where he tracked the QB-RB exchange as he dropped into coverage and was able to flip hips and change direction to ball carrier immediately. His instinct shows off his unbelievable range. Some of the best I’ve seen. He is a force from sideline to sideline as exhibited in this play.
Derwin James is special. His range is unbelievable. pic.twitter.com/Eq4XqWK7je
— J.R. (@JReidDraftScout) February 21, 2018
He isn’t an ideal outside corner and doesn’t excel there. However, there are plenty of examples where he was serviceable as slot defender. This play demonstrates his quick hips out of the receivers break to stay on the back of the receiver, burst to close gap and long arms to break up the pass.
One of my favorite plays from Derwin James all season.
Covering one of the most productive slot receivers in the ACC, sticks with him on the short route and breaks up the pass pic.twitter.com/NBNrfR2kNp
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) February 6, 2018
He’s also diligent in his preparation as I’ve seen many reports detailing his film study, putting in extra time to understand offensive schemes. Regarded as an astute student among coaching staff in film study and vocal leader among teammates in the locker room demonstrates his passion to excel. Just another feather in James’ pre-draft stock. I expect him to impress front offices after individual meetings and don’t expect him to fall outside the top 15 picks.
The hype has been there his whole collegiate career. He has a strong foundation with untapped potential. If he can improve his technique and fluidity in coverage he can be a mixture of Jalen Ramsey and Kam Chancellor given his size and speed. The hype is about to get a whole lot louder.