(Editor’s Note: While the start of the 2018 NFL Draft isn’t until April 26, it’s never too early to profile some of the key participants. The staff of DallasCowboys.com intends to preview the landscape of the draft’s top prospect, with an emphasis on possible Cowboys draft picks – from the first round to the last. Today’s featured player is Florida State’s Derwin James.)
- Name: Derwin James
- Position: Safety
- *College: *Florida State
- *Height/Weight: *6-1 / 215
- Honors: Consensus first-team All-American by nearly all media outlets. A two-time All-ACC first-team standout.
- *Key Stat: *James had 15.0 career tackles for loss, showing his ability to time the snaps and dart into the backfield. He really helped his cause at the combine, not only running 4.47 but had a 40-inch vertical jump.
Where He’s Projected:
James will likely go high in the first round, being projected in the Top 10 in the latest mock drafts. While it’s unlikely the Cowboys will have much of a chance for him at No. 19, he could slip a few spots to get into a possible trading scenario for the Cowboys. But he’s one of the top two safeties in this draft along with Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, who some teams view as a cornerback.
How He Helps The Cowboys:
If Byron Jones ends up moving to cornerback, the Cowboys have a starting job open at safety alongside Jeff Heath. The Cowboys haven’t shown interest in free agent safeties due to scheme fit, but James is a versatile safety prospect who can handle the slot, cover, or play closer to the line of scrimmage. Even if the Cowboys had interest, the issue, of course, is most mock drafts believe the Florida State star won’t fall to No. 19. The Cowboys value their draft picks. They haven’t traded up for a player in the first round since cornerback Morris Claiborne in 2012.
- Had a chance to talk with his former coach Jimbo Fisher while at Texas A&M Pro Day. Fisher couldn’t have been more complimentary when talking about James and his contributions to the Florida State program.
- Fisher went as far to say that James was one of the best players that he had ever coached – and that includes national championship teams at both Florida State and LSU.
- James shows a ton of ability when you study his game. He lines up all over the field. He’ll cover from the slot or play as a linebacker in sub-packages.
- Shows a burst when he sees the play develop. Can cover some ground. Click and close with his pedal.
- Can create turnovers. Likes to knock the ball loose.
- Wrap-up tackler. Can high point the ball in the air. Nice leaping ability. Can track it.
- Physical on the blitz. Has a feel for how to get to the quarterback.
- Will contest the ball. Can change directions. Plays with start-stop quickness.
- Best safety prospect in the draft.