Derwin James, DB, FSU
State of the (Raider) Nation, 2018
Mark Davis, in his everlasting pursuit of more money to acquire worse haircuts, is preparing to leave the crumbling halls of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in favor of the greener pastures sandier deserts of Sin City, no doubt disappointing legions of the NFL’s scariest fans. They still fill the arena, however, and are desperate for one more Lombardi before the team leaves or the stadium collapses. The state of the team is up for debate; after a 6-10 season they will look to get back to the playoffs under Jon Gruden. Expectations are high for the first coach to sign a nine-figure contract, especially with pro-bowl quarterback Derek Carr in place. Despite a significantly down year for Carr in the since-departed Todd Downing’s system, the Raiders still finished 13th in offensive DVOA, while ranking a dismal 29th in defensive DVOA, finishing dead last in defending deep passes (it should be noted they were also poor at defending short passes, just not nearly as bad. They were average against the run). For a team looking to contend, a pass defender is the biggest need.
The Pick, The Fit
With Tremaine Edmunds off the board at 8, Derwin James remained my top-rated defender, and just so happens to coincide with a glaring weakness. Other considerations included Denzel Ward, Vita Vea, and especially Roquan Smith, but I like James’ physical profile and leadership potential. Stacked up next to Smith, James is taller, faster, and plays, for my money, a more valuable position. In many schemes, a box safety is essentially playing a linebacker role, responsible for a shallow zone or man coverage against running backs or tight ends, a position James played in college. With offenses across the league passing more than ever, especially out of 11 personnel sets, countering with a Big Nickel (2 corners, 3 safeties) formation has become popular; you may recall the Super Bowl 52 champions running quite a bit of it after Jordan Hicks went down. This formation would allow the Raiders to play Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph, and James simultaneously, getting their three most talented defensive backs in the game simultaneously to support their corners.
It remains to be seen what defensive scheme the Raiders will utilize in 2018. If the Raider’s use Gruden’s Super Bowl winning Tampa 2, James works well either as a deep safety or linebacker in a Nickel, with his blazing speed closing gaps between zones.
James is a freak athlete, one of his top physical comps is Eric Berry. A taller, stronger, faster Eric Berry (at least in underwear). Berry is an incredibly cerebral player, though, how can we know that James will match this? Of course, in drafting, there are no guarantees, but there is also a ton to love about his mental makeup. Described as an “absolute alpha,” he would have a chance to step up and be a vocal leader, contrasting with, say, Khalil Mack’s more quiet personality. While tearing his ACL cost James most of his 2016 season, he was tenacious in his rehab and came back at full strength for this past season. With that in mind, he has only played 26 games against NCAA competition, which is a bit of a negative for some, but leads me to believe he is far from a finished and product. Good coaching and this young man living up to his impressive potential could refine a very good prospect into an all-pro.
On the field, he can play a variety of positions, as mentioned, and can do so playing near the line of scrimmage or off, or in man or zone, and he was a top rated blizting safety (per PFF, #2 in 2015 and 2017), even if he didn’t do it often. He would be a swiss army knife, lining up all over the formation. I couldn’t find tape of him defending RPOs (which, for some reason, I think we’ll see a lot of in 2018, copycat league and all), but he showed himself a solid defender against read options. With the NFL lit ablaze by college style concepts last year, disciplined box defenders that can close quickly and tackle in space will be needed to counter them. A fast safety can quickly shift downhill should a quarterback decide to hand off, and elite closing speed will help him get to the catch point to contest slants and turn screens into negative plays.
Hype videos are stupid, but if you have 5 minutes:
I love the interception on the wheel route against Syracuse at the 2:08 mark in the video. 1-on-1 man coverage with no help over the top is the defense the quarterback wants to see, but James reads it perfectly and uses his top flight athleticism to beat the running back to the ball. That play never had a chance.
I like the kid. He should be a day one starter, and if his mental makeup is as good as promised, he should be an all pro. With all of the QBs going early, I am stoked a talent like James fell to me.
Do you approve of this pick?
This poll is closed
2018 BGN Community Mock Draft Order
1) Browns (GMinTraining): Saquon Barkley
2) Giants (ablesser88): Quenton Nelson
3) Jets (20Safety_Hazards): Sam Darnold
4) Browns (MJ1893): Josh Rosen
5) Broncos (drc242): Baker Mayfield
6) Colts (I Need a Username): Bradley Chubb
7) Buccaneers (dunc123): Minkah Fitzpatrick
8) Bears (NVEagleShark): Tremaine Edmunds
9) 49ers (Doug Pederson’s Pair of Balls): Calvin Ridley
10) Raiders (Milehighbirds): Derwin James
11) Dolphins (danishdynamite_):
12) Bills (LAOJoe)
13) Washington (Eagle1987):
14) Packers (89Tremaine):
15) Cardinals (TJ “Ben Simmons” Mcconnell):
17) Chargers (LBCeaglesFan!):
18) Seahawks (KEZHOG):
19) Cowboys (Brawnybalboa):
20) Lions (dshelton5):
21) Bengals (Palaniappan K M):
22) Bills (BeamerWentzorBentley):
23) Patriots (jy1187):
24) Panthers (dceagles):
25) Titans (ei78):
26) Falcons (SakPrescott):
27) Saints (MidMajorMatt):
28) Steelers (SummersInVA):
29) Jaguars (RecarTabmok):
30) Vikings (AnthroEagle):
31) Patriots (PhilaWolverine):
32) Eagles (JALupowitz):
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think the Raiders should pick in the 2018 BGN Consensus Mock Draft.
Who should the Raiders draft at No. 10 overall?
This poll is closed
1) Browns: Saquon Barkley
2) Giants: Sam Darnold
3) Jets: Josh Rosen
4) Browns: Josh Allen
5) Broncos: Baker Mayfield
6) Colts: Bradley Chubb
7) Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick
8) Bears: Quenton Nelson
9) 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds