Picture credit: REUTERS/USA Today Sports/Matthew Emmons
Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, there was plenty of the usual speculation around how the Chargers would spend their first-round pick, but few concrete ideas on just how Tom Telesco and his staff were approaching the 17th overall pick.
Once he’d handed in his card and the pick was made public, the initial reaction across league circles was hugely positive.
The Chargers, by most genuine grades, had picked up a steal in former Florida State safety Derwin James as their first-round addition to the roster.
Plenty of scribes, myself included had hoped one of either Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne may have been around when the Chargers pick hit the clock, but with both big run-stuffers off the board, a solid addition at the safety position is probably the next best step.
Beefing up at safety
With Tre Boston seemingly on his way out the door after just one season with the franchise, adding to a safety depth chart already boasting Jahleel Addae, Rayshawn Jenkins and AJ Hendy could definitely be classified as a priority and Telesco delivered.
James will go straight to the top of the depth chart at strong safety with Adrian Phillips likely the go-to man at free safety.
While run-defense remains a significant concern for the Bolts and could possibly still be addressed in the upcoming rounds of the 2018 Draft, adding firepower and a genuine playmaker into the backfield adds an extra dimension to a Chargers defense that is fast looking like it has the perfect mix of steel and swag.
Falling down the board
As good as having the chance to draft Derwin James is, Tom Telesco and the Chargers wouldn’t have had the chance to grab the 6’2″ defensive back out of Florida State if he hadn’t dropped down the draft board.
Many had expected James to go well inside the top ten but with a raft of quarterbacks going early and plenty of trade moves added into the mix, James fell perfectly into the clutches of the Bolts who will be incredibly happy to snare a kid likened somewhat to a defensive back they know very well, Eric Berry.
Berry has been a stud in the secondary for the Charger’s AFC West rivals Kansas City since he was drafted in 2010 but with the addition of James, the Chargers will be hoping to cause similar concerns for new Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes over the next few years.
There’s nothing he can’t do
The one thing that comes to mind quickly as you begin to wade through the pre-Draft analysis on Derwent James is the sheer level of his versatility.
James is athletic and powerful, he’s fast and an explosive ball-carrier capable of shutting down a running game or being distinctly impactful in the secondary on passing plays.
Experts like Lance Zierlein was also highly impressed by his presence in the locker room.
“(James) is an absolute alpha in the locker room,” Zierlein said in his NFL.com appraisal.
Drafting smack-bang in the middle of the first round can be a tricky prospect. Sometimes your best 4-5 guys are off the board while other times someone suffers a shock fall and you’re left trying to work out if you’ve missed something or you should draft a steal.
It’s too early to say for sure, but it sure feels like the Chargers have drafted a steal in Derwin James.
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