1. Derwin James, Safety, first Pro Bowl selection
Not only did James emerge as the Chargers top defensive back in 2018, but he may have cemented himself as the NFL’s next great safety.
The rookie out of Florida State University was a tone-setter and focal point of the Bolts’ defense in his debut season. James racked up 105 combined tackles and 75 solo tackles, both of which were team-highs. The 22-year-old safety also tallied 3.5 sacks and three interceptions.
James was also a key contributor in the Chargers’ two postseason games. The 2018 first-round draft pick led the team with 10 solo tackles and was second with 14 combined tackles. He notched five solo tackles in each game during the playoffs, which included a strong performance in the Wild Card round against the Baltimore Ravens’ potent rushing attack.
The Florida-born safety lived up to his 17th overall billing in the 2018 NFL Draft. James displayed his brute physicality, dashing speed, spot-on tackling, and solid pass coverage skills in 2018. Seeing the rookie load up and blast opposing ball carriers with bone-shaking force became a common sight.
Needless to say, the first-year defensive back earned his Pro Bowl nod this season, and it surely will not be his last. The next accolade he should be eyeing is the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year, an award he should be in legitimate contention for.