Packers' Interest in FSU Safety Derwin James Now Justified

-- The argument could be made that the Green Bay Packers had no business drafting a safety in the first round of next month's draft.

After Friday, that argument would seem a lot less plausible.

Since cornerback Damarious Randall was traded to the Cleveland Browns on Friday, the Packers were down one less defensive back who played in multiple positions for former defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Capers' predecessor, Mike Pettine, seemed like he had a player in Randall who would fit the traits of the schemes he implements to a T.

Pettine values versatility -- and that's what Randall brought to the table since being drafted to Green Bay with its 30th overall selection in the 2015 draft. A former safety at Arizona State University, Randall excelled in coverage at times, and other times, evidently lacked fundamentals in playing the position.

Now, it's up to the Browns to determine whether or not they want to keep Randall as a cornerback where he's played both in the slot and on the perimeter, or transition him back to his natural safety position. For the Packers, it's up to them on how they want to go about replacing him.

That circles back to the possibility of targeting Florida State safety Derwin James, who would be a do-it-all defensive back for Pettine.

At 6-2, 215 pounds, James strayed from his default safety position often, playing as the nickel cornerback and as an extra linebacker in certain packages.

At the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last week, James confirmed that he had a formal meeting with the Packers' representatives. As if foreshadowing the Randall transaction, they reportedly discussed James lining up in coverage as a safety and slot cornerback as well as being able to blitz off of the edge, according to Ryan Wood of Packersnews.com.

"I can do it all," James said at the Combine. "I can play deep, I can cover the No. 2, I can play the tight end, I can play in the box, I can blitz; whatever you need."

The Packers also have safety Morgan Burnett on the cusp of potentially hitting the free agent market barring an agreement being reached sometime between now and Wednesday. James could either fill the role left behind by Burnett is a hybrid safety that can serve as an extra inside linebacker, or he can be plugged in as a more athletic version of Randall and play multiple positions like Micah Hyde once did.

Green Bay was just one of the 18 teams James met with in Indianapolis, and he was one of the nine plays the Packers have had formal interviews with. They could very well address the deficiency at cornerback prior to the draft in free agency, which isn't out of the realm of possibility, or they could leave all of their cards on the table in hopes of James falling to No. 14.

"I just want to come in and be the player I know I can be and reach my full potential. ... I know what type of player I am, I know what I'm capable of, I'm ready to show people that I love the game of football."

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (18)

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John Kirk's picture

March 09, 2018 at 09:27 pm

It would be incredibly unwise making moves in anticipation of being able to draft a certain player. Still, hard not to be excited about a Florida State Safety as it recalls LeRoy Butler.

As you ponder what has happened it's getting harder and harder to conclude we're not taking a DB with 14. Not thrilled that we may have pigeonholed ourselves into that particular course of action, but it is what it is.

James, in theory, is an interesting pick for us, but we're still buck naked on the outside and we play in Green Bay. Would love moving on from Morgan. Seeing Josh Jones and Derwin running all over the place with their speed and skills would be something fun to speculate on.

The draft doesn't have half of what we need to fix. We don't have the cash to fix the holes. What's going to give? The record?

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fthisJack's picture

March 09, 2018 at 10:00 pm

and assuming we don't sign a CB in FA.

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Madfan's picture

March 09, 2018 at 09:38 pm

I think it shows GB's interest in Denzel Ward since Randall played outside most of the second half of the season. Ward can start the season as the slot CB and transition to the outside as he learns the defense.

More players on the Packers roster can fill the slot CB position than the outside CB position.

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Rossonero's picture

March 09, 2018 at 09:53 pm

I don't care who we draft, just play to their strengths.

We let Hayward and Micah Hyde go, and their new teams play to their strengths and they blossom.

Now we've traded Randall, whose college position was safety. What do we do? Put him at CB.

Sidenote-- Derwin James blew out his knee in 2016. Let's hope that was only a one time thing.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 12, 2018 at 09:33 am

He is a top 10 pick people and we have the number 14 pick so get over it and move on pipe smokers

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TommyG's picture

March 09, 2018 at 10:06 pm

The author has a fascination with James (no doubt due to a proclaimed history), but it’s not unfounded. The guy can ball and will immediately improve any team. I don’t think that our pick at 14 has a chance of even sniffing st him. He will be gone in the top 10 and maybe the top 5. While it’s fun to look at his talent, and it’s equally fun to want him on our team, I don’t think he will land in green bay. Probably go to the bucs.

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fthisJack's picture

March 09, 2018 at 10:07 pm

James is my guy in this draft. big fast leader. maybe light a fire under HHCD azz!

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mrtundra's picture

March 10, 2018 at 08:47 am

Picking Derwin James would also be a good move for the Packers if HHCD decides to go elsewhere in 2019. We wouldn't be looking for a HHCD's replacement in 2019 if we draft James.

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Jon Lee's picture

March 10, 2018 at 12:06 am

We don't need someone who can cover a 2, we need someone that can cover a 1. We traded Randall to move up 15 or so spots in the 3rd round and a QB that may or may not be good in 3 years. Say what?
John Dorseys laughing all the way to the bank.

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Paul Godbout's picture

March 11, 2018 at 10:43 am

Please pass me some of that stuff you're smoking sir...First off, we moved up about 12-13 spots in both the 4th and 5th rounds to get Randall. We acquired a 2nd year QB who the Packers were high on last year. It's very possible they knew Hundley wasn't going to be their guy so drafting Kizer would've been competition for Hundley. Who knows - had we drafted Kizer last year, he may have been the guy to win us some games while Rodgers was out. Maybe learning under our system instead of a dysfunctional Browns team would have been all we needed? Maybe he would've won one more game than Hundley and our playoff chances would've been better before Rodgers could return? Lot of ifs there but the whole dynamic changes if Kizer is drafted. They did enough scouting on him and were almost willing to pull the trigger to draft him last year so I have confidence the Packers had a plan for Kizer. I think this trade was glorious. There's more to come...stay tuned...

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Mojo's picture

March 10, 2018 at 12:10 am

If he has one more year in him I think the Tramon signing meter has gone up significantly. Can he pull a Jahri Evans and put together a decent season as perhaps a reliable vet? Even as a backup it might be worth a look.

Tramon had an 88+ PFF rating last year after a terrible 2016 season. Plus he loves Pettine - https://scout.com/nfl/packers/Article/Tramon-Williams-Skys-the-Limit-for...

It's been an interesting post-season in GB with all the FO moves and now an actual trade. Quite different from the Ted years and I expect much more wheeling and dealing to come.

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Robert William's picture

March 10, 2018 at 03:51 am

We swapped one suspect player for another moved up our draft spots in rounds 4 and 5 and saved a little under one million on 2018 salary cap. A low risk gamble. Well done.

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Chuck Farley's picture

March 10, 2018 at 09:56 am

IF this draft was laden with CB talent this year, real play makers who can come in and ball and not be developmental guys you cant count on on day one fine. The problem, there are a couple of real ballers who wont be there at 14, after that your looking at guys who would be back up fill in type guys.
The pack have a team of back up fill in guys now. IMO the Pack have had the worst defensive backfield for several years and almost twice set records for most yardage given up via the pass. One guy aint gonna help that.
Toss in a piss poor pass rush to make it worse and yes, 12 draft picks arent turning this thing around. Free agents arent because we have no money with the big contract to Rogers taking a lot of money off the table so this team will not be any better and maybe worse then last years possibly?

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Bearmeat's picture

March 10, 2018 at 07:26 am

I don't like the move, and I don't like James in this year's draft. Not that he's not a good player - but we already have his spot covered in theory. HHCD and Brice/other younguns at FS. And J Jones as either box safety or WILB.

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Dzehren's picture

March 10, 2018 at 09:52 am

Target CB's like Jeremy Lane from Sea, Aaron Colvin Jacksonville, EJ Gaines from Buf or Tramaine Brock Vikings. Draft 2 CB's & bring in 2 UDFA's. Cut D. Goodson and trade/cut Rollins & clean the house.

If cap space frees up (A-ROD extention- Nelosn or Cobb restructure) - target a CB #1 via trade or FA.
More vet CB's could be available after training camp.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 11, 2018 at 07:15 pm

Stupid article!!!

Derwin James will be gone before the 14th Pick

Just go get Marcus Davenport or lineman
to sack the QB

Gimme a guy who can sack the QB in 3 seconds and I will show you a #1 pass
Defense !!!

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

March 12, 2018 at 09:35 am

Let's see here the Packers were going to draft Kaiser then the Packers see how he actually plays then we obtain him in a trade maybe this is why the Packers can't evaluate talent because even after see how bad the guy played they still want the guy something wrong here in Denmark

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BamaPackFan's picture

March 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm

I hope and believe they will be able to do more with Kizer than with Hundley. He certainly has a stronger arm according to scouts. We swapped a bad guy for a good one, maybe a decent QB2 to boot, and we swapped up in the 4th and 5th. I love having the 1st pick on day 3. It gives you a lot of time to look it over and see who should be long gone by now and find out why. If no good reason, he is yours. I couldn't believe Perine was there in 4th- pick 1 last year. I really liked him, of course we didn't pick him.

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