After another productive season for the Chargers, despite missing three games to a combination of injuries and a questionable suspension, the respect and admiration for Derwin James has only grown in the eyes of the NFL.
Continuing along with ESPN’s annual series where they survey league execs, players, and coaches to make consensus top-10 rankings across each position group, we bring you one what is likely the highest-ranked Charger in safety Derwin James. After averaging out the numerous rankings they received, James came in as the #2 player at his position behind only Minkah Fitzpatrick of the Steelers.
For added context, James’ highest ranking received was at #1 while his lowest was #8. While I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I would LOVE to meet the person who realistically believes there are seven safeties in the league better than James. Show me that person and I’ll show you a liar,
At any rate, here’s what analysts Jeremy Fowler had to say about the Chargers’ versatile chess piece:
“Now that James has put together two full seasons after injury-plagued 2019 and 2020 campaigns, his place in the safety pantheon has only improved.”
“James’ well-rounded performance in 2022 included four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and 115 tackles on his way to second-team All-Pro honors.”
That’s not a bad stat line. He missed three games and still came within three total tackles of his previous career high 118 he notched in 2021. It also should be noted that in each season in which James played at least 14 games, he’s collected at least two interceptions and multiple sacks. The guy just pads the stat sheet week after week.
So what did some of the anonymous team personnel have to say? Let’s take a look:
“Before the injuries, you saw him and thought that’s going to be the next Sean Taylor,” a high-ranking NFL personnel evaluator said. “The cool thing is he’s played through the injuries and held up really well and is a super respected Pro Bowl player. I’m not sure he’ll reach that level of J.J. [Watt] and AD [Aaron Donald] and those type of defensive players, but he works hard enough that maybe he can.”
That high praise, for sure. Anytime a player gets compared to a the legend that is Sean Taylor you just know they mean it. Otherwise, I don’t think many would dare to make that comparison.
“People will try to classify him as Jamal Adams, but he’s not that,” said the evaluator, referring to the hybrid safety/linebacker players. “He’s got range and is physical, too.”
I have to agree here, as well.
James can do all the things that had made Adams a household name, but he’s much more well-rounded. With James’ elite ability in the box, I don’t think he’ll ever be the same ballhawk Fitzpatrick is within the stat sheet as he’ll only continue doing his work closer to the line of scrimmage. With that comes less opportunities for interceptions, and knowing how important those takeaways are, it’ll be tough to see him overtake Fitzpatrick for the #1 spot should their numbers continue on a similar trajectory in the years to come.