While projections will undoubtedly change after the scouting combine and free agency, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. is -- for now at least -- sticking with Derwin James to the Seattle Seahawks in the first round. Kiper has the Florida State safety going No. 18 overall to Seattle in his second 2018 mock draft, which was released Wednesday, just like he did in his initial version from last month.
In Kiper's latest first-round scenario, James would be the second safety off the board and the third defensive back chosen behind Alabama safety/cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick (Browns at No. 4) and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward (49ers at No. 9).
Kiper has LSU running back Derrius Guice going 20th to the Lions with the Bills taking Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes one pick later. Those were the players that ESPN's Todd McShay sent to the Seahawks in his first and second mock drafts, respectively.
James is a bit of a wild card because he only played in 27 games at FSU and missed all but two in 2016 after tearing his meniscus. He left school after his redshirt sophomore season and therefore didn't play in the Senior Bowl. That's why Kiper noted that the scouting combine later this month will be particularly important for James in terms of medical reports and testing in drills.
A few thoughts on the possibility of James to the Seahawks.
The projection is tied closely to the uncertain future of Kam Chancellor, who may never play again because of a career-threatening neck injury. Chancellor's size (6-3, 225) and physicality allowed him to regularly play close to the line of scrimmage, giving Seattle an extra defender in run support while Earl Thomas patrolled the back end as the lone deep safety. Kiper believes James (6-3, 211) can fill that same role, saying in a conference call: "He's a guy that can go down in the box; he's a Kam Chancellor type." So in terms of style of play, that would seem to be a nice fit.
While it's true that the Seahawks have rarely used early-round selections on defensive backs under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, a point that was raised following Kiper's first mock draft, there are a couple obvious counterpoints to that. One is that they did use a first-rounder -- No. 14 overall -- on Thomas back in 2010, the year Carroll and Schneider arrived. That was the same year they chose Chancellor in the fifth round. With those two spots solidified with Pro Bowlers -- and in Thomas' case, an All-Pro -- there hasn't been a need to address that position early in the draft. Similarly, All-Pro Richard Sherman has been locking down one cornerback spot since he was chosen in the fifth round in 2011. Seattle has filled the cornerback spot opposite him with mid- to late-round picks, undrafted players and free agents before selecting Shaquill Griffin in the third round last year. So the fact that Seattle hasn't taken many defensive backs early may simply be circumstantial as opposed to a reflection of any organizational philosophy.
No conversation about first-round options for the Seahawks would be complete without mention of the possibility that they trade down (a scenario that mock drafts generally don't account for). The Seahawks have shown a proclivity for trading either back in the first round or out of it entirely under Schneider and Carroll, and that could carry even more appeal this year with Seattle holding no picks in the second or third rounds. But while we can assume that the Seahawks will be open for business in the first round, it's entirely conceivable that they make that pick instead of dealing it. What if they can't find a trade partner willing to make them a suitable offer? What if a player they love falls to them at 18 and they determine he wouldn't last long beyond that? Said Kiper: "I think Seattle at 18, you talk about the Legion of Boom, kind of the Legion of Boom 2, you're trying to develop that and I think he would be a good fit for Seattle for that reason. That's what he is. He certainly fits them perfectly; he's not a guy that's going to fit everybody. To see him at 18, a guy that was projected as a top-five to top-10 pick back in August, that would be a pretty good selection."