Derwin James is college football’s next superhero.
Though he’s played in only 14 collegiate games, the 6-foot-3, 211-pound redshirt sophomore from Florida State is already being hailed as one of the top prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks recently called James a mix of Jamal Adams, the former LSU safety who went 6th overall in the 2017 Draft, and Reuben Foster, the former Alabama LB who went 31st overall in the 2017 Draft.
“This is going to be a crazy combination, but I’m going to take two prospects from this draft we just finished. He has a mix of Jamal Adams and Reuben Foster in his game,” Brooks said on the Move The Sticks podcast. “He’s a grown man. One of the best specimens you’ll see.”
That statement alone should be enough to grab the attention of any football fan, but if you need extra convincing, check out these clips.
Casually making a ridiculous one-handed catch:
Carving up agility drills with buttery smoothness:
Elevating into another stratosphere for a jump ball:
Pulling a Vince Carter-esque dunk with little trouble:
Flattening a 300-pound right tackle:
Benching 400-plus pounds:
Oh, and that last clip is from two years ago, so James is probably even stronger now. As you can tell, he’s a rare physical specimen. His versatile skillset allows him to do it all in Florida State’s defense, and he has the potential to line up at free safety, strong safety, cornerback, outside linebacker, defensive end or edge rusher. He can also return kicks and may even get snaps on offense this season.
Former NFL head coach Rex Ryan believes James is even better than Jabrill Peppers, the do-it-all defender who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last year and went on to get picked 25th overall in the 2017 Draft. “No offense to [Jabrill] Peppers, but he only wished he was the player this kid [is],” Ryan said during an FSU broadcast.
As a true freshman, James racked up 91 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles en route to All-ACC Third Team and All-America Honorable Mention honors. Pro Football Focus rated him as the second highest safety in the country that year. Last season, James had 11 tackles and an interception before suffering a knee injury in the second half of the Seminoles’ second game of the year. The injury—torn cartilage in his left knee that required surgery—kept him out for the remainder of the season.
Redshirting gave James the chance to better learn the system and improve his football IQ. Now he’s ready to burst into the national spotlight. “The game has slowed down so much for me just by watching it for a year,” James told Sports Illustrated. “I’m seeing things before they happen.”
Another thing James has going for him? Good football genetics. Former All-Pro running back Edgerrin James is his cousin.
Check out Derwin’s highlights below: