Scout Report – Derwin James

  • Position: Safety, Nickel, Will Linebacker (3-4/Nickel)
  • College: Florida State Seminoles
  • Status: 2018 Draft Prospect

Age: 21, Height: 6’3, Weight: 212 lbs, Experience: 2 year starter (college)

derwin james overview
James (3) is one of the most reliable defensive enforcers in college.
  • Average Opposing Offense Rank: 44.3
  • Average Opposing Pass Offense Rank: 54.9
  • Average Opposing Run Offense Rank: 45.1
  • Average Opposing Points/Game: 31.0/game
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stats as posted on


  • Placed 93rd in Total Tackles this season
  • Placed 102nd in Solo Tackles this season
  • 85% Tackle Rate, 45% Quality Tackle Rate, 7 Assists
  • Best Game: vs. Delaware State (W 77-6)
    • 3 Tkl (2 Solo), 0.5 Sacks, I INT, 1 Def TD
  • Played against 3 ranked opponents, finished 0-3
    • #1 Alabama (L 7-24)
    • #13 Miami (L 20-24)
    • #4 Clemson (L 14-31)
  • Played against 4 Top-25 Offenses, finished 2-2
    • #1 Alabama, ranked 17th
    • Louisville, ranked 3rd (L 28-31)
    • Syracuse, ranked 22nd (W 27-24)
    • UL Monroe, ranked 20th (W 42-10)
  • Played against 3 Top-25 Passing Offenses, finished 2-1
    • Louisville, ranked 13th
    • Syracuse, ranked 17th
    • UL Monroe, ranked 23rd
  • Played against 2 Top-25 Run Offenses, finished 0-2
    • #1 Alabama, ranked 8th
    • Louisville, ranked 13th
  • FWAA All-American Selection (2017)


  • Reliable Tackler with solid foundation, footwork, and wrap-up.
  • Good reaction time and vision allows for quick assessment of plays. Specifically effective against Play Action and/or Read Option.
  • Able to hold containment assignments effectively.
  • Good block shedding ability for a defensive back.
  • Good angles allow for successful pursuits and forcing ballcarriers to the sideline.
  • Top-notch athleticism allows playing at several different positions including Free Safety, Strong Safety, Nickel Corner, and Will Linebacker.
  • Ability to provide pressure on blitzes.
  • Coverage ability is adequate, though not exceptional. Man seems to be preferred, though called to play man a majority of the time.
  • Good instincts, especially when evaluating the flow of the play.
  • Good play-recognition, able to figure out if pass or run quickly despite flow or possible deception.


  • Ball Hawking ability noticably weak for a safety.
  • Closing Speed between him and receiver is lacking. If a pass is toward a receiver in the open field, he will not gain ground to make the tackle or bat the ball down.
  • Not aggressive when climbing to make the tackle.
  • Waits for blockers and/or ball carrier to come to him, allowing himself to be blocked or otherwise meet runners in unfavorable conditions.
  • when fatigued, starts to tackle at the helmet level, making for easier failed tackles and potential facemask/horsecollar/helmet-to-helment penalties.
  • Slows down if deems the play is out of range. Especially a problem against the run where the play flows away from him. Tends to Jog, not allowing himself back into the play if needed.


On film, it is quite apparent Derwin James is a great enforcer. His ability to pursue runners and consistently make solid tackles, whether in congestion or open field speaks volumes of his ability to play at the next level. His bread and butter is as a disruptive force against any and all runners, whether it be a scrambling quarterback, an annoying running back, or a pesky receiver. James has stepped up and dealt with players of all kinds. This is best seen in the competition he has played against. While playing against three ranked opponents is usually the standard for competitive programs, The fact that two of those three were among the Top 5 in the nation places James’s competition on another level than most others’ schedule. Add in the fact he has played against solid offenses on both passing and rushing allowed for James to test his abilities, and build his portfolio against a nicely diverse set of opposition. James is also unique in the fact he has played multiple positions throughout the year. While He is officially documented as being a safety, James’s athleticism allowed for Florida State’s defense to move him around in different formations and packages. In a base 3-4 formation, James lines up as the Strong Safety. In a Nickel package, James lines up as either Strong Safety or the Nickel-Corner. In the dime and Quarter package, James has moved down into a pseudo-Mike position or more prominently, a blitzing Will LB. This ability to move around has allowed for James to be utilized in not only different situations, but also has a different weapon from play to play. The movement and versatility of James does not cover up his major flaws however, in fact in some cases it even spotlights these flaws. It becomes apparent the longer James is placed in a Free Safety or Corner position that his cover skills, both man and zone, are pretty average. This has for the most part been an aspect of his game that he has been able to deal with as he often times lined up against slot receivers and others coming off the sideline. The problem becomes more significant in situations where James is caught at the deep zone and QB’s start picking on him. This occurred a few times against Alabama, but definitely showed in the game against Louisville. James simply did not have the level of ball hawking or command of the deep threats like others I have seen (Malik Hooker from 2016, for instance). This doesn’t drastically change James’s draft stock however. Unlike college, in the NFL, James will not be asked to play so many positions on a whim. He may stay as an alternate between safety and nickel, but for the most part his play style will have him set as a Strong Safety. This is a major strong point for him, as Strong Safety allows him to be the disruptive enforcer his game compliments, while also not being burdened with being the safety net.

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