Pundits and front office brass can make and run through all the mock drafts they want, but they truly never know what will happen until draft night.
Such was the case with the Chargers when they selected safety Derwin James 17th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. As General Manager Tom Telesco admitted, James never fell to them in any of their mock drafts.
Good thing he did when it actually counted.
"Oftentimes, we say that we didn't think (the player we drafted) was going to be there," Telesco said. "We hear that all the time (and) I hate hearing that. But honestly, this one, we did not expect (James) to be there at our pick. We were prepared to take him if he was, but we did not think he would be there. So, suffice to say we were very excited to bring him in."
Pre-draft, James was considered a lock for the top 10 as the top safety prospect in 2018. But luckily for the Chargers, he fell into their lap, and they couldn't help but add him to the team.
"We had a great group of players that we really liked, that we felt we could sit and wait, and we were going to get a good player no matter what," Telesco continued. "We got lucky with Derwin, but we felt like we had a good stack of players, that we didn't have to move. If Derwin had gone off the board, we could've gone to another position and felt very good about that. But it worked out. It worked out well."
One of the best parts about James' skillset is his versatility. His ability to do a wide variety of things including helping stop the run is of the utmost importance to the Bolts.
"It's a good fit for our defense," said Head Coach Anthony Lynn. "This guy, he has the skillset where he can do multiple things. There's a lot of versatility. We can use him as a linebacker. We can use him as a strong safety, a free safety. We can rush him off the edge. He's a good tackler in space and an outstanding coverage guy…. This is a run-hit safety right here. And he's one of the better tacklers in space that I saw on tape. So I think he's going to help eliminate some of those explosive runs that you saw last year."
James joins a secondary chockfull of stars including Casey Hayward, Jahleel Addae, Jason Verrett and others. But it's clear the addition of the former Florida State stud who recorded 84 tackles, 11 passes defensed, two picks and one sack in 2017 will make it that much more impressive.
"We have talent in the secondary and I think we can have another one of the best secondaries in the National Football League," Lynn admitted. "Every year is different. What we did last year, we can't lean on that this year. Like I said, these guys have to go back to work and get it done. And Derwin, he has to fit into this group. There's going to be some changes and a learning curve there (but) I think our potential is to be really good in the secondary."
Experience Draft Day One in Arlington with exclusive photos of Bolts first-round pick, Derwin James.