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Derwin James: the second coming of #21?

Alabama v Florida State Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Derwin James, S
School: Florida State | Conference: ACC
College Experience: Senior | Age: 21
Height / Weight: 6-3 / 215lbs
Projected Draft Status: 1st Round
NFL Comparison: Kam Chancellor

College Statistics

Player Overview

Started as a true freshman in 2015 and was already one of the best safeties in the country after logging 94 tackles (9.5 for loss), 5 PDs, 4.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, which earned him Freshman All-American honors. Unfortunately he tore his meniscus in Week 2 of his sophomore campaign, ending his season. As a true junior he returned as one of the best safeties in the country, but meniscus tears are tricky and many believe he was still not fully healthy. James still had 84 tackles (5.5 for loss), 2 interceptions (1 returned for a TD), 11 PDs and a blocked kick. He was named to second-team All-American.


  • Prototypical height, weight and explosiveness for the position at 6’3, 215lbs running a 4.47 40-yard dash, 40” vertical and 11’ broad jump
  • Known as an alpha dog in the locker room and on the field; can be the quarterback of the defense and make the players around him better
  • Verstaility and football IQ to play both safety positions, sub package linebacker, and blitzer off the edge, although best suited for strong safety role close to LOS
  • Has the ability to cover tight ends one-on-one in the NFL like Kelce, Gronk and Ertz
  • Instinctual, reliable tackler
  • Can definitely lay a big hit and be enforcer across the middle of the field


  • Needs to get better in man coverage by understanding route concepts and trusting his instincts
  • Sometimes too cautious in run support which gets him bulldozed by linemen and bigger backs
  • Zone coverage reaction time is often a step too slow
  • Can improve pursuit angles and tackling mechanics
  • Only played in 2 seasons’ worth of college games


How He’d Fit on the Redskins

Derwin James would be an excellent pick at #13 overall just based on his raw potential, football character and leadership abilities. However for a couple reasons the pick does not make much sense for the Redskins.

For starters, it’s very possible James is picked before the Redskins select 13th — the Bucs, Niners, Raiders and Dolphins could all very well draft the Florida State safety.

The Redskins also currently have 3 safeties with starting potential under contract for several more years: Montae Nicholson, D.J. Swearinger, and Su’a Cravens. The Redskins’ coaching staff loves the safety combo of Nicholson and Swearinger, so even with a Cravens trade, that leaves you with Derwin James splitting playing time with two other players — not the scenario you want when drafting a first rounder on a very valuable cheap rookie contract

The second issue I have with Derwin James is that safety simply isn’t a premium position. While I absolutely love the football player and person (he’s my highest-graded safety by far), in my humble opinion a linebacker or defensive lineman of equal caliber has a bigger impact on the game than a safety. If all of them are available at #13, I would prefer taking a defensive tackle like Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne; a linebacker like Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds, or even an edge rusher like Marcus Davenport.

While I would be excited for a great player like James to join the Redskins, I don’t think we would be able get the best return on investment based on our current roster construction.