USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell breaks down what he saw from the top quarterback prospects Saturday at the NFL scouting combine.
USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS — Derwin James was told Sunday at the NFL scouting combine that Dallas Cowboys fans are already clamoring for their team to draft him in the first round, lighting up social media with pleas for Jerry Jones to select the Florida State star.
Perfectly aware Dallas currently owns the 19th pick overall pick, James seemed bemused.
“I think it’s a good compliment. I don’t think I’ll go that late. I feel like once I come out and show people what I can do,” he said, “I feel like they gotta trade up.”
After James’ first season with the Seminoles in 2015, when the safety was a freshman All America, he was already being mentioned as a potential top-five talent, perhaps even a Heisman Trophy candidate. But expectations were dampened the next season, when James tore the meniscus in his left knee and missed all but two games. He said the knee has been “100% ever since I had the surgery, I haven’t had any problems with it,” but believes it may still be affecting perception of him.
“I came back kinda rusty just being hurt a whole year, so I had to get back into the flow of things,” he said, admitting 2017 didn’t go as planned for him or the team, which finished a disappointing 7-6 after suffering crippling injuries.
“I just feel like my best football is ahead of me, I have to reach my full potential. Whatever team does draft me, they’re gonna get a great player.”
They should certainly get a versatile one. Florida State deployed James in various positions on defense, allowing him to leverage his athleticism, film study and leadership. He’s widely considered the second-best defensive back in this draft after Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, not that James is conceding that.
“I can do it all. I can play deep, I can cover No. 2 (receiver), I can play the tight end, I can play in the box, I can blitz – whatever you need,” said James, who measured in at 6-2, 215 and has drawn comparisons to Chiefs all-pro Eric Berry.
“In today’s NFL, which is a pass-first league, when you can drop a safety down on a slot receiver and feel comfortable, that guy is worth his weight in gold,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said when asked about James.
Former Seminoles (and current) NFL stars Jalen Ramsey and Dalvin Cook are among those James said have helped him navigate the combine process.
“They both tell me it’s a long process, but it’s everything that you ever worked for you in your life. It’s a blessing and an opportunity to be here,” said James. “They just told me enjoy it all and be in the moment.”
He said teams have so far mostly talked to him about playing safety and slot corner, though dime linebacker may also be a possibility at the next level given his effectiveness as a blitzer. James said he’d already had eight formal meetings — Seahawks, Packers, Raiders, 49ers, Chargers and Vikings among them – but many more were lining up to meet him Sunday evening.
However, James had not had contact with the Cowboys — yet — which may be a good way to temper expectations in Dallas.
“I’m gonna go top 10,” he said. “I know I’m gonna go top 10.”
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