Data Scout Notes: 2017: 12-05-17 - Announced Early Entry into 2018 NFL Draft/Skipping Bowl Game/1stC...PBednarik/PMaxwell...2016: (+) Sept 2016 Knee INJ, Out for 2016/NAC...PWalterCamp/PThorpe/PNagurski/PBednarik/PLott...2015: 3rdM
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Derwin James, Jr. Florida State Seminoles Strong Safety 6-2, 211, 4.52, #3 Haines City, Florida Haines City High School August 3, 1996
12/12/17 - 2017 ALL-ACC FOOTBALL FIRST TEAM (COACHES/MEDIA): S Derwin James, So., Florida State, 109 Votes,...James is FSU's 124th first-team All-ACC honoree and 37th under head coach Jimbo Fisher. James has been a factor on every level of the Seminoles' defense this season, recording 72 tackles, including 5.0 for loss with 1.0 sack, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and one blocked field goal. The Haines City, Florida, native also has returned six kickoffs for 170 yards for an average of 28.3 yards per return. -
12/05/17 - Derwin James announced that he is leaving Florida State and will enter the NFL draft. The redshirt sophomore safety made his announcement via Instagram on Tuesday and also said that he will not play in the Seminoles' Dec. 27 Independence Bowl game against Southern Mississippi.
James said last week that he planned on playing in the bowl game, but that was before coach Jimbo Fisher resigned to take the Texas A&M coaching job. James was the only FSU player to earn a first-team, All-ACC selection. He had 84 tackles, which was second on Florida State, two interceptions (which included a Pick Six) and one sack after missing most of 2016 with a knee injury. He is projected to be among the first defensive backs taken in next April's draft and would likely be among the top 15 overall players selected.
Given the explosive offenses in today's NFL, safeties with size, speed and instincts have never been more valuable. This is especially true for safeties with the versatility and big game chops that James has demonstrated since standing out as a true freshman on a 2015 Florida State defense teeming with pro prospects, including future All-Americans Jalen Ramsey and DeMarcus Walker.
A consensus five star recruit, James lived up to the recruiting hype and proved to be one of the best freshmen in the country that season, finishing with 91 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, two fumbles forced and two fumble recoveries to earn Honorable Mention All-ACC honors from the league media.
James looked well on his way towards even bigger accolades in 2016, collecting a team-high eight tackles and recording an interception of future Denver Broncos' draft pick Chad Kelly in FSU's season-opening comeback win over Mississippi, earning ACC Defensive Back of the Week praise. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury which required season-ending surgery to his left knee the next week, abruptly ending his sophomore season.
At least initially, James struggled to live up to the hype in 2017 after an offseason in which some characterized him as "the next Sean Taylor" and a possible Heisman Trophy candidate. As the season wore on and James became more comfortable with his surgically-repaired knee, however, he re-emerged as one of the nation's top defenders, ultimately finishing second on the team with 84 tackles, including 5.5 for loss and a sack while splitting time between safety, linebacker, nickel cornerback and kick returner. James also set career highs with 11 passes broken, two interceptions (including a pick-six) and a blocked kick.
With only two full seasons of play at Florida State, James lacks the experience of most top prospects and few enjoyed a more athletic supporting. His size, awareness and exceptional closing speed, however, project very well to the next level where he projects as a traditional strong safety with Pro Bowl upside.
BACKGROUND Signed with Florida State as the consensus top-rated safety and a five-star recruit, fielding offers from virtually every program in the country. Had 94 tackles and four interceptions in eight games for Haines City High School in 2014 with 11 receptions for 181 yards and two scores on offense... Sustained a tear of the lateral meniscus in his left knee in the second game of the 2016 season (Charleston Southern) ending his season and taking a medical redshirt.
STRENGTHS James boasts a prototypical build for a modern day safety with broad shoulders, long arms, a tapered middle and an athletic, well-distributed musculature. He is a slippery and sudden athlete, with impressive stop-start quickness and very good closing speed, traits which show up not only on defense but when he has the ball in his hands as a kick returner or after turnovers, including a pick-six in 2017. James possesses excellent spatial awareness, deftly avoiding would-be blockers and taking sharp, aggressive angles to cut the field for runners and passers, alike. He flashes explosive collision power to be an intimidating force across the middle and is a generally reliable open-field tackler, using his long arms and excellent hand strength to latch onto and drag ball-carriers to the ground, ripping at the ball as other defenders arrive on the scene. James is an instinctive defender who anticipates route combinations and is willing to take risks to undercut receivers and attack the line of scrimmage on quick screens or runs to the perimeter, while maintaining his gap and last-line-of-the-defense responsibilities. He explodes off the ball as a blitzer, showing excellent initial quickness, agility to avoid blockers and the closing speed to get home. Excellent timing on his leaps, showing explosiveness and body control to contort in space and compete for 50-50 balls. - Rob Rang 12/9/2017
WEAKNESSES At times James played tentatively in 2017, appearing the shake the rust off after missing much of the 2016 season with a knee injury. He is more athletic than technically sound as an open-field tackler with some notable misses (North Carolina State-2017, Houston-2015) on games viewed, too often resorting to grab and drag down 'rassling rather than the textbook hit-lift-drive. He will occasionally make the mistake of hesitating and getting flat-footed, allowing patient ball-carriers to set him up and forcing James to lunge. Though he possesses good enough ball skills to earn snaps as a kick returner, James intercepted just three passes among his 17 career pass breakups with a couple of drops. James could do a better job of hustling downfield, too often banking on his teammates making tackles rather than always pursuing with passion. -- Rob Rang 12/9/2017
COMPARES TO: Hall of Famer Mel Renfro, Cowboys. Scouts are enamored with James' upside in large part due to his prototypical size, sheer athleticism and playmaking instincts. Renfro used a similar blend of traits to earn 10 Pro Bowl trips, showing the kind of position versatility (safety, cornerback, kick returner and punt returner) James demonstrated with the Seminoles.
IN OUR VIEW: A moveable chess piece with experience at safety, linebacker and cornerback, James might just be the most versatile defender in the 2018 NFL draft. He offers a combination of instincts, athleticism and prototypical size that scouts will find alluring, earning an early first round grade - perhaps even a spot in the top 10.
Scouts will also have to weigh in the fact that James' best season - at least from a statistical standpoint - came three years ago and that he does come with some durability concerns after missing virtually the entire 2016 season with a torn meniscus and opting to sit out the 2017 Independence Bowl to avoid the risk of injury after announcing his decision to enter the draft with two years of eligibility remaining. -- Rob Rang.
James becames FSU's 124th first-team All-ACC honoree and 37th under head coach Jimbo Fisher. James has been a factor on every level of the Seminoles' defense this season, recording 72 tackles, including 5.0 for loss with 1.0 sack, two interceptions, 11 pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and one blocked field goal. The Haines City, Florida, native also has returned six kickoffs for 170 yards for an average of 28.3 yards per return.l l
Arguably the nation’s top defensive player when he suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee against Charleston Southern in Week 2…missed the rest of the season following the injury and received a redshirt…collected ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors after totaling a team-best eight tackles and his first career interception against No. 11 Ole Miss in the season-opening comeback win…interception came on Rebels’ quarterback Chad Kelly – one of the nation’s top signal-callers…named a preseason All-American by nearly every publication…remained a team leader and traveled on every road trip despite the injury.
Lived up to the recruiting hype and proved to be one of the best freshmen in the country, finishing with 91 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, two fumbles forced and two fumble recoveries...earned All-ACC third team honors from the media and All-America Honorable Mention accolades from CBSSports.com…named a Freshman All-American by Sporting News, USA Today and CampusInsider.com…nation’s only returning player with 90+ tackles and 9+ TFLs...appeared in all 13 games, making eight consecutive starts to end the year…finished his freshman campaign ranked second on the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and fumbles recovered, tied for second in forced fumbles and tied for third in QBH and pass break-ups…his 91 tackles tied for the 14th most in the ACC and second highest tally among freshmen in the league…it also marked the third highest tackle output all-time by a freshman at Florida State (behind only Marvin Jones and Ron Simmons) - the next-best total by a freshman under Jimbo Fisher was 58 stops by Xavier Rhodes in 2010…led the team in tackles a team-best five times including a season-high 14 tackles against Houston in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl…also led the team with 12 tackles vs. Syracuse, 10 vs. NC State & Chattanooga and nine at Florida...made his collegiate debut in the season opener against Texas State and finished with a tackle and fumble recovery…opened the season with just two tackles in his first three games before exploding for 89 over the next 10 games…first career start came at home against Louisville…earned ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors after the NC State game where he tallied 10 tackles, one TFL, a sack and a fumble recovery…closed out the season with a monster game that featured 14 stops including two TFLs and a sack against the Cougars…tallied a season-high two TFLs twice – against Syracuse and Houston…in his eight starts tallied 76 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 9.0 TFL, and four sacks…was recognized as one of FSU’s Top Newcomers of the Year on defense at the end of the year banquet...named Defensive MVP and Hinesman Team MVP along with fellow defensive teammate DeMarcus Walker following the 2016 spring season.
Consensus top defensive back in the nation and a five-star recruit in the 2015 class…committed to the Seminoles in 2012…rated the nation’s No. 1 safety by ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports and Scout…ranked the No. 5 player in the country and Florida’s top safety prospect by Rivals…rated the nation’s No. 4 overall player and the second-best prospect in Florida by 247Sports…ranked the sixth-best player in the country by Scout and No. 8 in the ESPN300…starred at safety in the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game where he led Team Highlight to a 46-6 victory…had 94 tackles and four interceptions in eight games for Haines City High School in 2014…added 11 receptions for 181 yards and two scores on offense…captured 2014 American Family Insurance All-USA Football Second Team honors and All-Florida First Team accolades…2014 Florida All-State Class 7A First Team selection…selected Florida State over offers from Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Miami.
Born August 3, 1996...majoring in sport management.
Draft Scout Player News
03/21/18 - Florida State Pro Day: James looked fluid changing directions and accelerating smoothly through the drills. He opted to stand on his otherwise impressive workout from Indianapolis, which included a 40-inch vertical jump, an 11-foot broad jump, a 4.47 electronically timed 40-yard dash and 21 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. James expressed plenty of confidence following Tuesday's Pro Day. "I just feel like I'm the best player in the draft, no question," James told reporters. "I've shown everything I can show and proven everything I can prove. And like I said, if (teams) want to see a private workout, I can do that." There is no question that James will be the first Seminole selected in the 2018 draft. - Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com
03/21/18 - Florida State Pro Day: Several former Florida State players appeared to help their causes at the school's Pro Day on Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla. Consensus top safety Derwin James looked smooth in the shuttles, edge rusher Josh Sweat excelled in position drills, and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden shaved some time off his disappointing Combine 40-yard dash. Among some of the top NFL decision-makers attending Florida State's Pro Day were Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale, Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and Indianapolis Colts scouting director Morocco Brown. Licht, whose Buccaneers own the No. 7 overall selection, appeared to pay especially close attention to James, positioning himself nearby where the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder tested in the three-cone and short shuttle drills, events the FSU defender skipped at the Combine last month. - Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com
02/27/18 - 2018 NFL Combine: Key Medical Evaluations: Derwin James, S, Florida State...James missed almost all of the 2016 season with a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee, showing rust upon his return in 2017. If scouts aren't worried about that knee, James might land in the top 10 picks of this draft. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
02/27/18 - 2018 NFL Combine: Athleticism Key for these Prospects: Derwin James, S, Florida State...They might rename the Combine after James once he's done. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com
02/26/18 - S Derwin James is a better athlete than football player right now, but he has a bright future ahead of him as a do-it-all defender able to play single-high or in the box. If Tampa Bay picked him at No. 7, the combination of James and Justin Evans would give the Bucs a talented safety duo for the foreseeable future. -- Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com