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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

"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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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

nigrivasilayesrej's picture

IMO Derwin James is a top 5 talent in this draft (Barkley, Nelson, Chubb, Fitpatrick). I would be okay trading up to get this guy. He would immediately become a leader on this DEF, a true difference maker. The Randall trade doesn't make a ton of sense right now, but I'm guessing they are planning on using all of this draft capital to be ultra aggressive come draft time. I heard rumors that the Packers were strongly considering drafting Kizer at pick #33 last year, before taking King. They must really like the guy.

John Kirk's picture

I would've loved to see the reaction to Ted burning 33 on Kizer. It would've been legendary meltdown mode. I'd have been stunned.

We should explore the permutations possible if we had drafted him at 33. Why? At that point, Hundley was supposedly the darling and had great upside. Why would we have taken Kizer at 33? Does that mean there are things going on with Rodgers we aren't aware of from the standpoint that the org might be soured on him as a person, not the player? Favre wore out his welcome. Perhaps, the umbrageous Rodgers has done the same? Were they thinking of moving on from Aaron after 2019 when his contract is expired? Was that potential move protection for maybe him not wanting to sign here again so he could finish elsewhere ala Favre? I think the Kizer at 33 talk is a tremendously captivating topic.

nigrivasilayesrej's picture

Honestly, I would have fell out of my chair in shock, along with the rest of Packer nation, had they taken Kizer at 33. I have no idea what is going on behind closed doors, but if you take Kizer at 33 that most definitely would have sent a message; one that would not have been received well by QB1 or Packers fans (myself included). I simply will never understand why they traded back & didn't take Watt with their original pick - it was set up perfectly for them. Then again, after the Randall trade, go look at how bad that 2015 draft looks now. Who the hell knows what Ted Thompson has been doing these last few years.

John Kirk's picture

I completely agree with you. I'm wondering how our QB1 will perceive this move NOW? He knows we need D, TE's, and he sees a trade for his potential successor? I can't imagine he's too thrilled by seeing this go down.

There is definitely more to Kizer at 33 last year than we possibly know right now. Maybe, in a few months, or even a few years we'll understand that rumor with hindsight.

TommyG's picture

John, I think you’re off-base here. Kizer has been brought in to replace hundley. I think they knew how bad hundley was and were looking for their next backup. I think this also speaks to how bad Callahan must be. Nobody on the packers staff seems to think they have anything there. Rodgers has nothing to worry about and I don’t think he’s “worn out his welcome”. Favre was a train wreck at the end, especially when he played the maybe-I-will maybe-I-won’t retirement game each year. I don’t think AR gives even two thoughts about who is behind him in line to lead the pack. He knows he is GOAT.

OrganLeroy's picture

You are so far off it's not even funny. None of this has anything to do with Aaron Rodgers successor. My God, what are you smoking?

John Kirk's picture

I don't smoke. Why would the Packers toy with the idea of taking Kizer at 33 last year? To replace Hundley before we all saw just how awful he was?

How do you know Kizer isn't the orgs plan as successor to Rodgers? When Aaron is 40, Kizer will be 27. If you can explain why we entertained taking Kizer at 33 last year, I'd love to hear your explanation. It's very easy to laugh at the suggestion now but explain the idea of Kizer a year ago.

Nick Perry's picture

I just posted a reply to another comment of yours on the topic of the Randall trade. I apologize because I didn't see this comment before posting that comment.

"How do you know Kizer isn't the orgs plan as successor to Rodgers? When Aaron is 40, Kizer will be 27. If you can explain why we entertained taking Kizer at 33 last year"

Now IF that rumor was true THIS SUGGESTION by John is pretty damn reasonable. IF they really considered taking Kiser with their first pick in last years draft AFTER they passed on Watt and now have traded a player in a position of HUGE NEED, you have to wonder what the Packers ideas are about Rodgers past 2020.

To suggest the Packers entertained the idea of drafting Kiser last year at 33 to "Fill a need at back-up QB" like some have suggested is comical.

I'm not in favor of moving on from Rodgers anytime soon but acquiring Kiser by trading one of your CB's when you only had TWO to start with says something doesn't it?

UGH.....I'm getting a headache. This needs to start to come together because I KNOW there's a plan in place. There HAS to be a plan in place right guys????

John Kirk's picture

I responded to you over in the trade thread, NP.

The Kizer trade is a huge can of worms. Beyond what you and I have been typing to, it also makes me wonder about how Randall came to be a Packer and why Kizer wasn't our pick at 33? It appears that Alonzo and or Eliot over in Cleveland may have been a driving force or at least riding with Ted on the selection of Randall. Brian may or may not have been on board with the selection of Damarious, but I think it's fair to speculate if that rumor was true Brian was the guy who was behind taking Kizer at 33 last year. Now, he has him. Question is then, again, why did Brian want Kizer at 33 when we have a HOF QB under contract for 3 more reasonable years? He wasn't the GM but he had to know Ted was going to be gone soon and he might be the guy to follow him. I just find it interesting the Packers connection on this trade and what sides may have thought what when they were still in Green Bay.

I'm going to hold out hope for the incredibly slim possibility Aaron is dealt right up until Cleveland is on the clock with the 1st overall. The org will have had another 6 weeks to work out an extension for Aaron, and Cousins and Brees will likely have signed long before the draft so we'll know what we need to pay. If no extension comes prior to the draft, I believe they have to at least consider trading him to Cleveland for 1 and 4 and more. What would be the hold up? The top other guys will have their deals. Us not extending him before the draft will raise more questions as to whether we want to do it or he wants to do it.

worztik's picture

This just may be the beginning of a mega deal with Dorsey!!! AROD to Cleveland for their #1 & #4 overall 1st round picks this year, and a slew of others, either in this year’s, next year’s or both year’s drafts!!! This may be a “test the fan base waters” deal to listen to the critics and the true fans to get a feel as to where WE STAND!!! I hear people say that those at 1265 could care less what we think and how we feel and that a load of bologna!!! Kiser as our next franchise QB? Stranger things have happened... and he’s young like AROD was when drafted him and kizer, likewise, was projected much higher than where he went in the draft!!! Admittedly, I never saw him play in an NFL game... not many go out of their way to watch Cleveland... yet! Kizer is 6’ 4” and 230 #s with a strong arm and he’s athletic!!! Sounds like a franchise QB to me! He’s no AROD, yet, maybe never will be but, at least Hundley’s gone and we improved our draft positions!!! A couple more, like the one I mentioned and we may have a team... again!!! Just sayin’... And if nothing else, we can let his current contract run its course and franchise him for 2 years after that!!! This is a great start for Gutekust!!!

flackcatcher's picture

heh heh heh heh.........

Chuck Farley's picture

Hey they can always say after the fact, Oh we really liked this guy but had other needs, darn it. Its all bull shit. I dont think many of the good CB's will be there at 14. The problem with that is after 14 the good CB's drop way off in talent. No play makers in round two or later thats for sure. This draft is not deep in CB talent this year.
Nor is it deep in edge rushers. A terrible year to need and edge rusher after pick 5 or six.

kevgk's picture

theres like 5 good dbs and 4 or so good edge rusher. There will be one of the two if not more at 14 depending how many offense players get drafted

Chuck Farley's picture

No your confusing like ted did, between players and play makers, the later this team has one. The play maker guys will be gone by pick 10.
Then you got guys who can play but at what level. The packers need to move down for the real talent.
The edge rusher they are talk8ng about was div 1a, he is raw, needs a lot of development and did nada at senior bowl, he was manhandled they say.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

WE NEED PASS RUSHER ..I am sick and tired of 3rd and 25 and then boom 1st down. NO MORE!!

John Kirk's picture

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?

nigrivasilayesrej's picture

IMO, assuming Rodgers is healthy for 16 games, the floor is 9 to 10 wins, regardless of how bad the rest of the team is. Look how bad the DEF has been the last several years & still QB1 carries the team to the playoffs. I think maybe what gives is Rodgers' patience...

ShanghaiKid's picture

@nigriv on point today. Outside of Monty and Rip, 2015 was a complete disaster. You have to believe Rodgers patience is paper thin after he’s carried a bad D for a long time, I can’t imagine he’s happy with everything that has transpired in the last 4-5 months. D needs a quick turnaround.

JDK52's picture

He's been paid $137 million by the Packers to carry the team. His patience is not a concern.

nigrivasilayesrej's picture

It should be.

fthisJack's picture

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

Madfan's picture

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.

Rossonero's picture

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.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

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

TommyG's picture

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.

fthisJack's picture

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

mrtundra's picture

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.

Jon Lee's picture

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.

Paul Godbout's picture

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...

Mojo's picture

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 -

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.

Robert William's picture

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.

Chuck Farley's picture

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?

Bearmeat's picture

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.

Dzehren's picture

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.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

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 !!!

Doug Niemczynski's picture

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

BamaPackFan's picture

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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