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FSU's Derwin James leads 45 on Thorpe watch list

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Missing nearly all of last season with a knee injury didn't prevent Florida State DB Derwin James from making the watch list for the 2017 Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive back.

James, a top draft prospect who called himself the best player in college football Thursday at the ACC Kickoff media event, leads a group of 45 players named to the initial watchlist. James will be a junior this fall, and NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah has compared his skill set to that of Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. James missed all but two games as a sophomore last year, but was among the top defensive backs in the nation as a freshman in 2015.

Other top defensive backs on the list include James' teammate, CB Tarvarus McFadden, Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Louisville CB Jaire Alexander, Virginia safety Quin Blanding, Florida CB Duke Dawson, Indiana CB Rashard Fant, LSU CB Donte Jackson and Texas A&M safety Armani Watts.

Adoree' Jackson, the No. 18 overall pick of the Tennessee Titans in this year's draft, was last year's Thorpe Award winner. Other notable past winners include Deion Sanders, Charles Woodson and Patrick Peterson.

The SEC and ACC led all conferences in Thorpe Award watch list players with seven each. This year's winner will be announced at The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 7 from a group of three finalists.

The complete 2017 Thorpe Award watch list:

Note: Click through tabs above to see other watch lists.

Brandon Addison, Old Dominion

Jaire Alexander, Louisville

Marcus Allen, Penn State

Dravon Askew-Henry, West Virginia

Quin Blanding, Virginia

Joe Brown, WKU

Andre Chachere, San Jose State

Sean Chandler, Temple

Justin Clifton, Arkansas State

Amari Coleman, Central Michigan

Kamari Cotton-Moya, Iowa State

Duke Dawson, Florida

Clifton Duck, Appalachian State

Mike Edwards, Kentucky

Rashard Fant, Indiana

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Tre Flowers, Oklahoma State

Chase Hansen, Utah

Heath Harding, Miami

Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern

Donte Jackson, LSU

Derwin James, Florida State

Chris Jones, Nebraska

Shawun Lurry, NIU

Iman Marshall, USC

Kishawn McClain, North Texas

Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State

Quenton Meeks, Stanford

Deatrick Nichols, USF

Parry Nickerson, Tulane

Nick Orr, TCU

Taylor Rapp, Washington

Jeremy Reaves, South Alabama

D.J. Reed, Kansas State

Justin Reid, Stanford

Dominick Sanders, Georgia

M.J. Stewart, North Carolina

Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech

Jaleel Wadood, UCLA

Denzel Ward, Ohio State

Armani Watts, Texas A&M

Jordan Whitehead, Pitt

Andrew Wingard, Wyoming

Jalen Young, FAU

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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