The NFL offseason is here, which means countless mock drafts will be written by multiple outlets. But that’s not a bad thing. Mock drafts are fun, speculative and most importantly, they give fans a look at players their team could possibly end up selecting.
That’s what I’ll be doing between now and draft day.
This time, we’ll take a look at ESPN’s Todd McShay’s latest mock draft (subscription required) in which he has the Los Angeles Chargers selecting Florida State safety Derwin James with the No. 17 overall selection.
Who is James and how does he fit with the Chargers? Let’s take a look.
Hometown: Haines City, Florida
School: Florida State
Tackles for loss: 15
Pass deflections: 15
Forced fumbles: 2
Fumble recoveries: 2
James is a versatile safety who has experience lining up all over the field for the Seminoles, including covering wide receivers out of the slot. He is tremendous in coverage as he has the speed to keep up with wide receivers and the size to match up with tight ends. He is also able to go up and challenge jump balls against bigger receivers.
But his abilities don’t stop there. He is capable of coming down and lending run support and he is a sure, strong tackler. His athleticism allows him to make plays that most defenders can’t make and he is the type of guy defensive coordinator Gus Bradley would create wonders with.
James could be used in the same mold as Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas were during Bradley’s time with the Seattle Seahawks. It’s high praise to mention James in the same sentence with those two players, but he is a unique safety who should be considered the top safety in this draft.
In fact, you could make the argument that he’s the best overall defender in this draft.
There aren’t many and there certainly isn’t a glaring one. He did miss all but two games of his sophomore season due to a season-ending knee injury. He also sometimes takes poor angles, but you’re only listing that if you must list a weakness.
How he fits in Los Angeles
Tre Boston had a good year for the Chargers this past season and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t re-signed. However, Adrian Phillips is also an unrestricted free agent and drafting James would push Boston to a backup spot and rotational player. James is a day one starter.
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The team hasn’t had a center fielder kind of safety since Eric Weddle and it’s been a hole since he left. Still safety isn’t the biggest position of need going into the draft.
That said, improving the middle of the defense does need to be the main focus and though that would entail selecting an interior defensive tackle or inside linebacker, James has the ability to help on run defense and he gives Bradley the kind of field general he loves to have on defense.
James has top 10 ability and could easily be gone when the Chargers come up at No. 17. However, if the team is looking for “best player available” in the first round as Tom Telesco did with Mike Williams last year (or thought he did), it’s hard to say James wouldn’t be that guy at No. 17.
I can understand this selection, just not sure if it’s a better pick than someone like Da’Ron Payne or Vita Vea. But that would be the argument as to whether to pick for top need or best player available. Are either Payne or Vea better overall players than James? I’d say no.