Derwin James’ time in the garnet and gold has officially come to a close.
The former five-star recruit announced today he’ll forego his final two years of eligibility and declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. James also won’t participate in Florida State’s bowl this season, a matchup with Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl.
Ranked as a top-10 recruit nationally, James committed to the Seminoles after his freshman year in high school, sticking with his pledge despite offers from Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, and many others.
James broke into the starting lineup at safety as a true freshman in 2015, quickly becoming one of Florida State’s top defenders. In 2016, James suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in the second game of the season, causing him to miss most of his sophomore campaign. However, he returned this season to lead the FSU defense once again.
Derwin James Collegiate Stats
In skipping Florida State’s bowl game, James is making a smart decision for his future. While the Independence Bowl gives the ’Noles a chance to earn their seventh win this season, it’s meaningless when compared to the goals at the beginning of the season, as well as his NFL future.
In recent years, we’ve seen examples of players participate in bowl games only to suffer injuries affecting their draft stock. The most famous example is Jaylon Smith, the Notre Dame linebacker thought to be a Top-10 lock who tore his ACL, LCL, and suffered nerve damage in his knee in the Fiesta Bowl, a non-playoff game. Although Smith went on to be a 2nd round pick by the Cowboys, it was a severe drop from his original projection.
Last year, the ’Noles saw an example of this first-hand when Michigan tight end Jake Butt tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl. Butt fell to the 5th round and has not played in his rookie campaign, placed on injured reserve by the Denver Broncos earlier this year.
Right now, James is considered a sure-fire 1st round pick by many major outlets. He is being projected anywhere from the sixth overall pick to the fifteenth overall pick. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report has James as his tenth overall prospect in the draft. Although it’s still early in the process, many draft scouts and analysts are fans of James as a prospect.
While it’d be nice to see James lead the Seminoles one last time in the bowl game, a victory in the Independence Bowl is not worth gambling 1st round draft pick status. The 6th overall pick in 2017 (S Jamal Adams, LSU), where James was projected above, signed a contract worth $22 million. That’s life-changing money.