2018 NFL Draft: Derwin James declares, forgoes bowl game

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 02: Derwin James
ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 02: Derwin James /

Derwin James could be the first defensive back taken in the 2018 NFL Draft

Florida State safety Derwin James has announced he will not play for Florida State in the Independence Bowl and will enter the 2018 NFL Draft.

James made his announcement on Instagram and through an article on The Players’ Tribune.

It’s no shock the redshirt sophomore won’t play against Southern Mississippi two days after Christmas and after head coach Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M. The risk of suffering a major injury is too high for a player who could go in the top-10 of the draft this spring.

Over 26 games with the Florida Seminoles James collected three interceptions, 15 passes defended, and 186 tackles. He missed all but two games in his true sophomore season after tearing cartilage in his left knee, but returned to be the Seminoles only All-ACC player.

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Only a handful of teams in the top-10 will show strong interest in drafting the 21-year-old safety. Of the five teams projected to sit atop the draft, only the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers won’t draft a quarterback. Indianapolis would be a fit, but they need to protect Andrew Luck and are likely to look towards guard Quenton Nelson or Mike McGlinchey from Notre Dame.

San Francisco would be a landing spot for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, and likely aren’t in the market for a safety.

Everything will depend on how the quarterback class shakes up through the combine and draft process.

Next: 2018 Senior Bowl: 10 players worth watching

James looked like a rangy, physical safety before his knee injury, and it looks like the injury never fully healed last season. If the medical information comes back clear the floor for James would be a top-15 pick over other safeties such as Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick.