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Jon Gruden wanted to draft Derwin James, but passed

From this guy to that guy, viewers who watched Jon Gruden in the broadcast booth over the past decade know he won't hold back on compliments.

Gruden, now once again the head coach for the Oakland Raiders, often lavished on-air praise on football players and pointed out which impact players could play for him.

Gruden's penchant for heaping accolades has carried over to his return to the sidelines and he didn't hold back Wednesday on Los Angeles Chargers rookie safety Derwin James.

"We wanted to take Derwin James," Gruden said in a Wednesday teleconference with Chargers beat reporters. "Everybody wanted Derwin James."

The Raiders owned the 15th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and had the opportunity to take James, who eventually went to the Chargers two picks later.

Gruden, however, pointed out an obstacle entering the 2018 draft, as the Raiders previously used a first-round pick on safety Karl Joseph in 2016 and a second-round pick on safety Obi Melifonwu in 2017. The two selections in consecutive years made it difficult for Gruden to justify using a high pick on another safety and the Raiders ended up going with offensive tackle Kolton Miller.

Nevertheless, Gruden knows what kind of player the Chargers have and compared James' versatile skill set to Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and Rodney Harrison.

"He's an intimidating player, he is a physical presence," Gruden told reporters. "I think he's got range to play deep, he's got coverage ability. He can run through you, he can run around you, he can run right over you. He is a dynamite young player and he'll be one of the building blocks in L.A. for a long time for the Chargers."

The Raiders' loss is certainly the Chargers' gain, and it is easy to see why Gruden fell in love with the young safety.

James, whom some draft analysts and prognosticators pegged as the top safety of the 2018 draft class, has quickly asserted himself as one of the league's top defensive rookies.

Through four games, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound James leads the Chargers' defense in tackles (26), sacks (three) and passes defensed (six).

Gruden will see James up close twice a year given the AFC West roots, starting Sunday when the Raiders travel to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.

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