The Cincinnati Bengals will have a host of needs when they go on the clock in the 2018 NFL Draft.
But while offensive tackle, linebacker and center look like the biggest needs, one area the Bengals must improve on is turnovers forced by the safeties. Last year, the Bengals got a combined two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and eight pass deflections from George Iloka and Shawn Williams.
That has to improve, and Derwin James could be the man to make it happen. The star safety from Florida State is regarded as one of the top defenders in this year’s draft, and he’s someone who could be great value at the No. 12 pick.
As a junior in 2017, James racked up 84 tackles, two interceptions and one defensive touchdown. He also deflected 11 passes, which aren’t turnovers, but those batted passes can lead to interceptions.
James will also make as many plays in the backfield as a linebacker would. He finished this past season with 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Being able to be a physical safety that can line up at the line of scrimmage or play deep safety is something that makes James stand out in this draft.
“That fits exactly me, I did a lot of it at Florida State, they moved me around a lot,” James said at the NFL Combine. “I could to do it all. I could play deep, I could cover No. 2 (receiver),I can play the tight end, I could play in the box, I can blitz, whatever you need.’’
James added that teams see him as a “safety and a slot corner, slot corner being able to blitz off the edge and play man to man, because I play man to man great.’’
One player he’s been compared to is Chiefs All-Pro safety Eric Berry, someone who James loves to emulate.
“That’s one of my favorite players actually,” James said. “I watched so much tape on Eric Berry, from being a box safety, covering No. 2s (receivers), tight ends, that’s a great compliment.’’
As far as where James will be drafted, many mock drafts have had him slipping into 12-15 range where the Bengals could grab him. However, James is confident he’ll be a top-10 pick when it’s all said and done.
“I still feel I’m top 10, I’m confident through the whole process” said James. “Like I said it’s a lot of mock drafts people have with their own opinion, but at the end of the day nobody who’s picking who.’’
At the combine, James validated his status as not only the best safety in this draft, but arguably the biggest freak athlete. He recorded a 40-yard dash of 4.47 seconds (ninth-best among combine safeties), mind you at 6’3” and 215 pounds. He also logged a 40-inch vertical jump (sixth-best of all defensive backs) and an 11-foot broad jump (fifth-best among defensive backs).
For what it’s worth, all four NFL.com mock drafts have James being selected after the No. 12 pick, so it looks like there’s a good chance Cincinnati will have a chance to take him.
2018 NFL Combine Interviews: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Could hyper-athletic Florida State safety Derwin James be the Bengals' Round 1 pick?Posted by Cincy Jungle on Monday, March 5, 2018