6.44 ?

Draft Analysis:

  • 6'3" Height
  • 215LBS. Weight


Already considered one of the most impactful defenders in college football after his freshman year because of his tall, chiseled frame, long arms for sure tackling, and relentless nature, much was expected of James heading into 2016. He delivered in the opener against Ole Miss (eight tackles, interception), but unfortunately, a left lateral meniscus tear suffered in the second week of the season put him on the sideline for the rest of the year. Expectations were already through the roof for James as an All-Florida pick from Haines City High (94 tackles, four INT in eight games), where he was the top DB recruit in the country. But then he racked up Freshman All-American and third-team All-ACC (league media) honors after an outstanding freshman season where he played in all 13 games, starting the final eight (91 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks, five pass break-ups, two forced fumbles). James had 14 stops, two for loss, and a sack against Houston in the 2015 Peach Bowl. James' junior season went about as expected, as he earned second-team AP All-American and first-team All-ACC honors with 84 tackles, 5.5 for loss, two interceptions, 11 pass break-ups, and a blocked kick. He started 12 games on the year, skipping the Independence Bowl to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft. James' mother nicknamed him "Pooh Bear" after he was born because he was "so hairy" and "plump."



Absolute alpha in the locker room. Comes up to handle film sessions on weekends. When he talks, players listen. Hits all the height, weight, speed marks you want for an early-round safety. Extremely versatile weapon. Can be deployed anywhere on the field on any given snap. Rangy with ability to chase throws from deep middle. Quick to squeeze routes approaching his area of influence. Doesn't just look to hit, he looks for the football once he ranges to the spot. Used in hybrid role near the line of scrimmage. Reliable in his fits and standing up to the run or peeling off and covering tight ends. Savvy blitzer with speed and athleticism to get home. Smooth, loose movement allows for coverage potential against big slots. Careful to leverage ball carriers to the sideline and won't give away an inside cutback. Pursuit strides are fluid and powerful. Solid open-field tackler with reactive athleticism to handle late elusiveness.


Tends to play through a straw in high safety role. Needs balanced eyes. Gets locked in on receiver routes and loses sight of quarterback's developing intentions. Slow reads lead to slow reactions. Waits a step too late to support over the top and can miss his window for help. Needs better anticipation in coverage. Can be too cautious in run support allowing runners to get up to him rather than taking it to them. Often absorbs contact flat-footed rather than initiating contact. Can improve pursuit angles. Despite his intensity, will still coast on some snaps. Has limited experience. Has played in just 26 college games. Has a torn ACL in his medical history.

Draft Projection

Round 1

Sources Tell Us

"He is going to be the dude in any locker room he ends up in. That's his makeup. Physically, he's probably more talented than Jamal Adams but Adams was more consistent as a player. Derwin is still learning so he has a sky-high projection if his play can catch up to the talent." -- NFC Scouting Director

NFL Comparison

Eric Berry

Bottom Line

Possesses the desired physical traits and mental makeup of an All-Pro safety who has the ability to not only set a tone but change the course of games. Although James is extremely athletic and talented, he still has room for improvement as a run defender and in coverage. James' talent is best utilized in an active, attacking capacity in a robber role or near the line of scrimmage where he can support the run, blitz and handle physical coverage responsibilities.
-Lance Zierlein
Grade Title
9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-9.00 Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl to All-Pro Ability
6.50-6.99 Good NFL Starter with Pro Bowl Potential
6.00-6.49 Chance to become good NFL starter
5.70-5.99 Could become early NFL starter
5.30-5.69 Backup or eventual starter
5.15-5.29 Developmental prospect or special teams potential
5.01-5.14 Back end of the roster
5.00 50/50 Chance of making the roster