With only two days left until the 2018 NFL Draft, speculation and anticipation surrounding who first-year GM Brian Gutekunst will select are only going to continue to build. The Green Bay Packers have been linked to a number of different prospects and its difficult to decipher which reports are just smoke screens and which may actually hold some truth. One player in particular, though, seems to be picking up traction as the draft approaches. Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst says Green Bay has given Florida State safety Derwin James a higher grade than other defensive players mocked to the Packers.
James is arguably the best safety in this year’s class. He’s more of a true backend player than Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick does a lot of things well, but he doesn’t excel at one thing. He can play corner and safety and some teams may value his ability to be a chest piece that can be moved around in their defense. James, however, is a menace playing near the line of scrimmage and is constantly in great position dropping deep in coverage. Unfortunately, most mock drafts have him coming off the board before Green Bay’s 14th pick. If Gutekunst does want to move up in the draft, James is the player to do it for.
Derwin James throwing a Florida OT really never gets old pic.twitter.com/ogSu50tqey
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) April 5, 2018
“There are two players in this draft I’d trade up for,” said a scout for an NFC team. “I’d trade up for Derwin James, and I’d trade up for Roquan Smith.
“I’m a big, big fan of Derwin James. This guy has rare ability. He can play down (by the line of scrimmage), he can play back. You can rush him, blitz him, he knocks down passes, tackles people.”
The last time the Packers had a top-10 pick they selected BJ Raji. The higher your draft choice the better chance you have of finding a difference maker for your team. And, the Packers don’t get to pick this high very often. Raji was an anchor for Dom Capers’ defense for six healthy seasons and James can be that same type of fixture in Mike Pettine’s secondary.
The Packers have the leverage to move up if need be with 12 total picks- the most of any team. That kind of draft capital will make moving up a little easier if a team misses on the guy they really wanted.
James is a dynamic player despite little experience (26 game appearances), but it hasn’t hurt his draft stock. James looks like a polished veteran with his tackling angles and natural footwork when he finds himself in space. At 21 years old, James is a player beyond his years.
— Brandon Carwile (@PackerScribe) April 22, 2018
The possibility of snatching up James looks like a possibility the Packers shouldn’t pass up. They have an ailing secondary and they need cornerbacks more than any other position. James doesn’t fill that need, but he can just as easily get this defense back on track than a top-rated corner. His savvy play and vocal leadership will be compelling in the Packers locker room.
Green Bay’s secondary needs an alpha dog and James is every bit of that.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.