TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – While his official landing spot is uncertain, this much is not:
Derwin James will be picked in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft on Thursday night. Potentially in the top 10, and maybe higher.
When James does go off the board, he’ll join – and create – some elite company, both for himself and for Florida State.
A top-10 selection, which is projected by several draft analysts, would make FSU the only school with two top-10 defensive backs in the last three seasons (joining Jalen Ramsey, fifth overall to Jacksonville in 2016).
“James is an enforcer in the mold of (Seattle All-Pro) Kam Chancellor,” said ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who ranks James as the eighth-best overall player in the draft. “He’s not afraid to bring the wood.”
And Kiper’s ESPN counterpart, Todd McShay, believes that James might find a happy home down the road.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have drafted four Seminoles in the last 10 years, own the No. 7 overall pick and could use help in the secondary.
“Tampa Bay should take the best player available (at No. 7) – which is James,” McShay said. “James is a versatile playmaker on the back end, and also a terrific athlete.”
No matter where he ends up, James will be FSU’s second first-round DB in the last three seasons, sixth DB drafted in the first two rounds since 2010 and 31stdefensive back picked in the last 30 years.
And while other schools’ draft histories may lay claim to gaudier numbers, it’s hard to top the pedigree and legacy that James will be joining.
Not only does FSU count some of the league’s top current stars among its former standouts – 2017 All-Pros Ramsey and Xavier Rhodes, Super Bowl champs Ronald Darby and Patrick Robinson and regular starters Lamarcus Joyner and P.J. Williams – but it also boasts some of the finest defensive backs to ever play the game at the professional level.
That includes Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders, four-time All-Pro LeRoy Butler, 13-year pro Terrell Buckley and 2007 interceptions champ Antonio Cromartie, among several others.
So while a host of schools may lay claim to the title of “Defensive Back University,” in James’ mind, there’s really no competition.
“I mean, we’ve got the top two corners in the NFL currently – Xavier and Jalen,” James said. “Look at Deion, Terrell, myself. There’s a lot of guys that came through this program, guys that contributed at a high level. We’ve got Super Bowl guys. …
“There’s a lot of great schools, a lot of teams that will argue for their DBs, but I just feel like, Florida State, we’re ‘DBU.’”
Then again, Florida State has an impressive draft history at a number of other positions, too. One that several members of last year’s team will hope to further this weekend.
A pair of defensive linemen – end Josh Sweat and tackle Derrick Nnadi – will likely be the next Seminoles off the board, while receiver Auden Tate, tight end Ryan Izzo, lineman Rick Leonard, linebackers Matthew Thomas, Jacob Pugh and Ro’Derrick Hoskinsand defensive backs Tarvarus McFadden, Trey Marshall and Nate Andrews all hope to hear their names called as well.
In fact, Florida State’s recent run of drafted defensive linemen rivals its stable of cornerbacks and safeties. Since 2008, 12 FSU D-linemen have been picked, which includes seven in the first two rounds (DeMarcus Walker, Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman, Timmy Jernigan, Bjoern Werner, Cornellius Carradine and Everette Brown).
And there are at least some who think that the Seminoles could add another first-rounder this year: The Sporting News’ Nicholas McGee included Sweat in his “Five potential first-round surprises” column earlier this week, with Pittsburgh and Seattle as potential suitors.
“(Sweat) has hugely impressive burst off the ball and excels at bending his body to turn the corner,” McGee wrote. “If a team believes they can harness that on a consistent basis, Sweat should be gone before the first day is out.”
The NFL draft starts with the first round on Thursday at 8 p.m., continues with the second and third rounds on Friday at 7 p.m., then concludes with rounds four through seven at noon on Saturday.
Florida State in the First Round, By Team:
Green Bay Packers (5) – 2002: WR Javon Walker (20th); 2001: DE Jamal Reynolds (10th); 1992: CB Terrell Buckley (5th); 1984: DE Alphonso Carreker (12th); 1973: WR Barry Smith (21st)
Atlanta Falcons (3) – 1995:DB Devin Bush (26th); 1989: CB Deion Sanders (5th); 1981: DB Bobby Butler (25th)
Minnesota Vikings (3) – 2013: CB Xavier Rhodes (25th); 2011: QB Christian Ponder (12th); 1995: DE Derrick Alexander (11th)
Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (3) – 2001: DB Derrick Gibson (28th); 2000: PK Sebastian Janikowski (17th); 1985: WR Jesse Hester(23rd)
Philadelphia Eagles (3) – 2006: DT Brodrick Bunkley (14th); 2000: DT Corey Simon(6th); 1998: OL Tra Thomas (11th)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3) – 2015: QB Jameis Winston (1st); 1997: RB Warrick Dunn (12th); 1995: LB Derrick Brooks (28th)
Cincinnati Bengals (2) – 2000: WR Peter Warrick (5th); 1997: DE Reinard Wilson (14th)
Cleveland Browns (2) –2015: OL Cameron Erving (19th); 2006: DE Kamerion Wimbley (13th)
Pittsburgh Steelers (2) – 2007: LB Lawrence Timmons (15th); 1973: CB J.T. Thomas (24th)
San Francisco 49ers (2) – 1994: FB William Floyd (28th); 1990: RB Dexter Carter (25th)
Arizona Cardinals (1) – 1998: DE Andre Wadsworth (3rd)
Baltimore Ravens (1) – 1997: DE Peter Boulware (4th)
Buffalo Bills (1) – 2013: QB EJ Manuel (16th)
Carolina Panthers (1) – 2014: WR Kelvin Benjamin (28th)
Detroit (1) – 2006: LB Ernie Sims (9th)
Houston Texans (1) – 2005: DT Travis Johnson(16th)
Indianapolis Colts (1) – 2013: DE Bjoern Werner(24th)
Jacksonville Jaguars (1) – 2016: CB Jalen Ramsey(5th)
Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams (1) – 2005: OL Alex Barron(19th)
Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers (1) – 2006: CB Antonio Cromartie(19th)
Miami Dolphins (1) – 1989: RB Sammie Smith (9th)
New England/Boston Patriots (1) – 1969: WR Ron Sellers (6th)
New Orleans Saints (1) – 2010: CB Patrick Robinson(32nd)
New York Jets (1) – 1993: LB Marvin Jones(4th)
Seattle (1) – 1997: OL Walter Jones(6th)
(Note: Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New York Giants, Tennessee and Washington have yet to select a Seminole in the first round)
Florida State in the First Round, By Pick
1: Jameis Winston
3: Andre Wadsworth
4: Peter Boulware, Marvin Jones
5: Terrell Buckley, Peter Warrick, Deion Sanders, Jalen Ramsey
6: Corey Simon, Ron Sellers, Walter Jones
9: Ernie Sims, Sammie Smith
10: Jamal Reynolds
11: Derrick Alexander, Tra Thomas
12: Alphonso Carreker, Christian Ponder, Warrick Dunn
13: Kamerion Wimbley
14: Brodrick Bunkley, Reinard Wilson
15: Lawrence Timmons
16: EJ Manuel, Travis Johnson
17: Sebastian Janikowski
19: Cameron Erving, Alex Barron, Antonio Cromartie
20: Javon Walker
21: Barry Smith
23: Jesse Hester
24: J.T. Thomas, Bjoern Werner
25: Bobby Butler, Xavier Rhodes, Dexter Carter
26: Devin Bush
28: Derrick Gibson, Derrick Brooks, William Floyd, Kelvin Benjamin
32: Patrick Robinson