Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and the NFL for WARR; Each week leading up to the NFL Draft (April 26-28), Ryan and Ken Davis from “The D & Davis Show” will offer a scouting report on possible targets for the Bears at No. 8 in the first round; read their previous reports — Denzel Ward, Quenton Nelson, Tremaine Edmunds
Florida State’s Derwin James is one of the top defensive back prospects in this year’s NFL draft, with ability both in coverage and coming up to play the run.
Because of his skillset, James could potentially play at corner or safety or even a combination of both. Coming into the 2017 college season James was being compared to fellow former Seminole Jalen Ramsey as well as a host of rangy athletic safeties. James is extremely athletic with great size and he looked poised for a monster season.
The monster year did not go the way the Seminoles had wanted in general for the team and particularly for James, who did not put up the monster stats that many expected, but his skills and abilities have allowed him to remain a potential top-ten pick. It is certainly a gamble to take a player with off the charts physical attributes if the player doesn’t quite have the game tape and stats to match his measurable but it will be difficult for any general manager to pass him up.
With that said, here is the scouting report on Derwin James.
- 40 yard dash – 4.47 (Tied thirteenth out of all defensive backs)
- Bench press – 21 (Tied third out of all defensive backs)
- Vert Jump – 40” (Fourth out of all defensive backs)
- Broad Jump – 11’ (Third out of all defensive backs)
- 3 cone drill – Did not participate
- 20 yard shuttle – Did not participate
- 60 yard shuttle – Did not participate
- Leader in the locker room
- Good open field tackler and uses leverage well
- Athletically gifted, rangy with speed in pass coverage
- Looks to make plays on the ball
- Can be used all over the field either in the box, outside or high safety
- Doesn’t have much experience, played a limited amount of games partly due to an ACL injury
- Would like him to be more aggressive and initiate in run defense
- Needs to work on anticipation in pass coverage, can be late or slow
- Reading keys will have to be better at the next level
Derwin James is listed as a safety but really he can play any defensive back spot, he has shown abilities in pass coverage and the run game so there is no real doubt he could grow into a corner or safety.
The thing with James is that he’s missed a host of games due to some injuries, an ACL tear among them. In the limited amount of games he played, James showed a lot of potential and flashed the reasons why he is considered a top ten pick. James does not come as polished as say Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, and he will have to get better at technique and fundamentals in all aspects of defense in order to live up to his monster potential.
If James can live up to his high ceiling then the team that selects him is getting an impact player that can change a defense like the Jaguars with Jalen Ramsey. Mock drafts list him as high as fifth overall with his most common spots being in the No. 7-10 range.
Fit with the Bears:
Last week we featured Tremaine Edmunds, who seems to be a quintessential Ryan Pace draftee. Pace loves his athletes with high ceilings and a lot of potential. To go by that description, Derwin James is a quintessential Pace guy as well.
James is an athletic freak and he impressed at the combine. James also combos his athleticism with size, he was listed at 6’2” and 215 pounds during the combine. Where the Bears are selecting, the pick of James would be good value.
Some will argue James’s rank as a defensive back in this draft but many see him as a top ten pick, he would be a big weapon for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and DB coach Ed Donatell. Fangio used three safety looks during his time in San Francisco and the combo of Adrian Amos as a tackler, Eddie Jackson as the free safety and James doing a mix of both could sure be special.
James has shown the ability to match up with quick speedy receivers or big tight ends, Fangio could move him all over. The question with drafting James is that the Bears seem to have a good safety core already. The Bears have redrafted this position so many times over the years, which is never good for building a team.
In some ways it feels like it would be a mistake by the Bears to try James, but don’t overvalue last season. Eddie Jackson made some impactful plays but he didn’t make many plays on the ball in the air. The Bears still need to bring in more guys to help take the ball away. James has a lot of potential and ability as a playmaker and he doesn’t have to be a pure safety in a creative defense. The draft is getting close and we’ll finally know soon just who is Ryan Pace’s guy — don’t be surprised if it’s Derwin James.
Ken’s Second Opinion
I was hesitant to contribute to this scouting report because while I think Derwin James is a fantastic player, he’s not a player I’d draft in the top ten of a good draft such as this year’s.
At about 6’1”, weighing 215, able to run a sub-five 40” dash and with a physical playing style, any team would love a player who brings what James does to the table. My concern however is the hype surrounding this prospect.
We all know James missed most of his sophomore season due to a torn meniscus. So, take this last season of his with a grain of salt, especially the beginning while he was getting his legs back under him. I think scouts who have compared him to former another Florida State defensive back, now Jacksonville All-Pro Jalen Ramsey, have done a disservice to James.
Ramsey coming out of FSU was viewed as a dynamic player who could thrive as a cornerback or safety. What we found out in the league was that Ramsey was a top tier cornerback all along. Ramsey could probably do the same things he does now at safety but there is more value in a shutdown corner than a single high safety. Earlier on some scouts believed James could excel at both roles but we now know he is a best suited as a close to the line of scrimmage (box) safety.
James’ pros rely on his length and tackling ability close to the line and play verses tight ends, he’s very active and tries to separate the opposing player from the ball instead of just tackling them. A heady guy. James’ cons lie in the way he’s a hybrid safety/linebacker. You need a coach to really get the most out of his versatility and that is the main reason I’d steer clear if I was the Bears.
I’m not saying Vic Fangio would not make great use out of James, its just that you don’t want a tweener type at No. 8 overall in the draft. The Bears need a sure thing, they should want this to be the last time they’re in the top 10 for a long time.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanbski and Ken @ThatsDavis; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio