Derwin James (S, Florida State) – 98

Derwin James is a simply outstanding prospect.  The thing that stands out most for me is his versatility as a safety; whether he’s blitzing, filling in against the run, covering TEs close to the line of scrimmage or playing the deep ball, he does it with remarkable aplomb.  He appears to be playing, at times, at a different speed to everyone else on the field and I can only imagine how intimidating it must be for a RB or TE to see #3 roaming the defensive backfield, like a lion with its eye on a gazelle.  He is one of those players for whom an offensive co-ordinator has to account on every play and there are really very few flaws in his game.  I particularly enjoy watching him blitz – he has great size for a safety (6-3, 210) but, even so, there is no way he should be able to run through Power 5 offensive linemen the way that he can; as an example, look at how ,as a true freshman, he split the LG and LT of North Carolina State in 2015 (6:37, 3rd Quarter).  When he gets home, he wreaks absolute havoc; see, again in 2015, his sack of Lamar Jackson and forced fumble ( 4:59, 3rd Quarter).  Just occasionally, he is overly reliant on his physicality to make a tackle and will not wrap up effectively; this is, however, a minor quibble as, for the most part, his tackling is both powerful and dependable.  He also had to redshirt the 2016 season, having torn his meniscus in Week 2 of 2016, and it will be important for him to show that he has lost none of his explosiveness.  These are my only two caveats – otherwise, I would have considered giving him 100/100.  Needless to say, therefore, James is, for me, one of the very top players in the 2018 draft.

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