Kyle Hoffenbecker: Packers select Derwin James, S, Florida State
Before everyone in the comments gets mad at me for this one, hear me out. The Packers need impact players on defense. While Minkah Fitzpatrick may be the best “impact player” in the draft, I really find it hard to believe that he will be available when the Packers are on the clock.
A trade up for Fitzpatrick seems more possible than getting him at 14. Despite the fact that the Packers have a surplus of picks, I cannot see Brian Gutekunst trading up in the first round.
While the top need for the Packers is undoubtedly a cornerback, I don’t think Denzel Ward is there at 14 either. I love Josh Jackson and I wouldn’t be mad if he is taken with the 14th pick, but James can do a lot more than Jackson can. It all depends on if Gutekunst is looking for a playmaker or someone to fill a much-needed gap on defense with his first-round pick.
James is extremely versatile. That is something the Packers, and other teams for that matter, look for in a defensive back. James can play safety and cornerback just like Fitzpatrick can too.
An NFC scouting director had this to say about James (from Lance Zierlein of NFL.com’s report):
"“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.”"
The Packers are looking for a new voice in the locker room after the departure of Morgan Burnett. James might be the man to acquire that role. He clearly has the leadership skills that is not often seen in a player this young.
The Packers like to play safeties all around the field. James could easily become another movable piece under Mike Pettine’s new scheme in Green Bay.