The New York Giants had hoped to create competition and flexibility at the free safety position by moving Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from corner to safety at the start of the off-season. However, he was quickly cut when he wouldn’t agree to a pay cut.
Darian Thompson had tackling issues which helped lead to a disappointing 2017 season, and while Andrew Adams is a reliable option, he seems to be viewed as more of a high level third safety.
New defensive coordinator James Bettcher values athleticism and versatility in his defenses, allowing him to mix and match fronts and coverages to disguise aggressive blitz schemes. That fact, and the questions at the position, could put versatile Florida State safety Derwin James firmly on the Giants radar.
But what does he still bring to the table after missing the 2016 season with a knee injury?
- Elite size and athleticism for the position.
- Versatile player. Able to play in coverage, run support, or blitz.
- Capable of sticking with running backs, tight ends, or some receivers in tight coverage.
- Experienced blitzer.
- Quick to come down-hill in run support.
- Good play strength taking on blockers.
- Reliable tackler.
- Can take overly aggressive angles, opening the door for big plays.
- Can also be a step slow in reacting to run plays.
- Shows solid instincts in coverage, but hands drops a few too many interceptions.
- Injury concerns after missing 2016.
What they’re saying
SOURCES TELL US
“He is going to be the dude in any locker room he ends up in. That’s his makeup. Physically, he’s probably more talented than Jamal Adams but Adams was more consistent as a player. Derwin is still learning so he has a sky-high projection if his play can catch up to the talent.” -- NFC Scouting Director
James is a player that scouts, and coaches, will simply love. He has the kind of physical talent to make front offices feel safe about selecting him highly, and coaches eager to work with him.
He is versatile enough that he will be able to find a home in nearly any defensive scheme, be it as free safety, strong safety, or undersized WILL linebacker. He could be a legitimate weapon for a creative defensive coordinator who calls an aggressive and multi-faceted defense.
As it so happens, that is exactly what the Giants have in James Bettcher. James will likely be drafted in the top 15 picks of the draft, so barring something astounding, the Giants probably won’t have the opportunity to select him with their natural first or second round picks. However, if they opt to trade down, James could be in play as a frightening combination with Landon Collins -- or insurance against him leaving in free agency after this year.