No. 2: Chargers safety Derwin James
Knowing No. 2 on my list probably gives you a pretty definitive answer as to who No. 1 is. Between EDGE Joey Bosa and Derwin James, it was difficult to order them in the top two slots.
James has the potential to become the best safety in the league. We saw that promise in his rookie year when he posted an 88.3 defensive grade and an 89.7 coverage grade, per Pro Football Focus. He tackles in a way that reminds me of the old-school NFL with his physicality. It almost feels like he’s everywhere on the field at once when he plays.
A stress fracture in his foot caused him to miss the first three months of the 2019 season. He was still good in the last month despite the injury, but it’s tough to think about what his season could’ve been like had he not gotten injured. There’s no doubt in my mind a full season would’ve vaulted James into the top three safeties in the eyes of many.
There are only three safeties with top-10 grades against the run and in coverage since the 2018 season. James is joined by the New York Jets’ Jamal Adams and Minnesota Vikings’ Harrison Smith on that list.
There are very obvious reasons to be high on him going into next season, as he has elite athleticism and talent. The only potential issue that could come up in the 2020 season is how the changes at free safety affect his play. The duo of James and Adrian Phillips was part of what made the Chargers secondary so dominant. It will be interesting to see if Rayshawn Jenkins or Nasir Adderley can fill that crucial free safety spot next to James.
As long as James stays healthy and keeps playing as he has been, there’s no doubt he could eventually become the best safety in the league.