Redskins draft countdown: If they draft S Derwin James, the Redskins will have to alter their defense


Redskins draft countdown

Derwin James

Florida State

He lines up deep, pressed up against the line of scrimmage, and everywhere else in between. Derwin James not only sets the tone for games defensively, he changes outcomes. Just line him up wherever you need him. He will find the ball. James can quickly become a major presence in an NFL locker room. 

Height: 6-2
Weight: 215
40-yard dash:4.47

Projected draft round:1

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have their two starting safeties in D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson. But Nicholson’s ability to stay on the field for the entire season is in question. James would be high-quality depth. 

On a broader level, the Redskins lack impact players, especially on defense. A lineman like Da’Ron Payne or Vita Vea would fill a more urgent need in a specific spot. But would either player be able to lift the whole defense and give the opposing offense a player they have to account for on every snap? James has that potential and that could fill a greater need than more beef on the D-line. 

Film review: vs. Florida, vs. Clemson


—James does line up everywhere. He lined up as the deep single safety, as one of two deep safeties, at inside linebacker and pressed up against the line in the middle and on the edge. 

 —His mobility is tremendous. A few times he was backing up out of the picture before the snap and then he shot to the line to help make a run stop or assist on the tackle after a short pass.

—James has great anticipation, but he doesn’t always make the play. Against Florida, he was able to sniff out a swing pass but after he flew to the receiver he missed the tackle in the backfield. 

—That play was one of few where James seemed to be out of control. On most plays when he was lined up at safety he took his responsibility as the last line of defense seriously. He doesn’t go for the big hit; he makes sure the ball carrier gets to the ground. Sometimes this makes him appear to be overly cautious but it’s better than overrunning and allowing the big play. 

—If you want to find the ball, find James. If you want to find James, find the ball. 

—The Redskins want to improve their rushing defense. Adding a lineman isn’t the only way to do that. Against Clemson, the defensive front was tiring in the fourth quarter and James made tackle after tackle on running plays. 

Potential issues: Despite his presence around the ball, James did not make many big plays. In 26 games with the Seminoles, he had just three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Teams generally look for more takeaways from highly-drafted safeties. Eric Berry, to whom James has been compared, picked off 14 passes in three years at Tennessee. 

James suffered a torn meniscus in his sophomore year that ended his season after two games. Such injuries don’t tend to have lingering problems but it’s certainly something to check out. 

Bottom line: The team that drafts James won’t have to completely revamp its defense but the coordinator will have to be creative to make him worth a top-15 pick. Just lining him up at free safety will get you a good player but not an impact player. 

If James is still on the board along with Payne and/or Vea, the Redskins will need to make the classic choice between filling a need and taking the best available player. The organization will need to decide how to utilize James if they are going to take him. If they just want him to “fit in” they should pass and take the lineman. If they are willing to make him a centerpiece in their defense and use him in an active, attacking “robber” role from Day One, they should go ahead and take him. 

Redskins draft countdown

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.