Derwin James is a name that has been talked about a lot throughout the 2018 NFL Draft process. He is a combo defensive back, possessing the ability to play safety or cornerback at the NFL level. Quite a few teams are going to be looking for a utility defensive piece, including the Green Bay Packers.
After missing the playoffs last season, the Packers have been busy this offseason under new general manager Brian Gutekunst. Jimmy Graham was signed to start the free agency period and was soon followed by defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Green Bay went on to sign Tramon Williams and re-sign Davon House.
Looking ahead at the NFL Draft, there are quite a few options that the Packers have. They could stand pat at No. 14 and take the best fit available, trade up for one of the top defensive backs, or trade back and accumulate more draft picks.
In a report shared by Packers Wire, more information became clear on how the Packers view James. It seems that Gutekunst is very high on the Florida State defensive back and would love to draft him if the opportunity presents itself. While the Packers may want James, he might be gone before No. 14.
According to a report from Matt Miller, James is currently expected to be drafted within the first 10 picks.
Derwin James top 10. Frank Ragnow Round 1. Maurice Hurst day 3. That's all the latest buzz from the draft world.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 25, 2018
Last season at Florida State, James showed off his superstar potential. He racked up 84 total tackles to go along with a sack, two interceptions, a defensive touchdown, and 11 defended passes. James was a physical presence in the secondary and was without question one of the best defensive backs in the nation.
Standing in at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, James would make for a perfect fit in the Packers’ secondary. Morgan Burnett left town in free agency for Pittsburgh, which leaves an opening alongside Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at the safety position. Josh Jones is currently penciled in as a starter, but drafting James would allow Jones to go back to his hybrid role from last season.
NFL.com currently has an Eric Berry comparison for James. If he turned out to be that kind of playmaker, the Packers would be very wise to move up for him. Berry might very well be the most underrated safety in the league when he’s healthy.
Lance Zierlein wrote up a brief over of James’ game for NFL.com and here it is for more information on what the Florida State standout brings to the field.
“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.”
Green Bay also reportedly like Minkah Fitzpatrick, the defensive back from Alabama. While they would happily take Fitzpatrick if James isn’t available, they do have a higher grade on James at this point in time.
Trading up in the draft to get a talent like James would be well worth the price for the Packers. Gutekunst may only have to move up four or five picks in order to get James. If that is the case, they would only have to package a mid-round pick or possibly a third rounder to get their man.
All of that being said, it will be interesting to see what Gutekunst and the Packers do in the first round. James would be a perfect fit, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them move up a bit in order to get him.