It’s been 20 years since a defensive player won the Heisman Trophy. Could Florida State safety Derwin James break the drought in 2017?
The odds are stacked against him, but ESPN is in his corner. A panel of writers, reporters, analysts and Insiders at The World Wide Leaders of Sports ranked the top 50 college football players, and James finished No. 1 on the list.
“Perhaps the most versatile player in college football, expectations for James are skyrocketing after an offseason spent rehabbing his knee and learning nearly every position on defense,” the ESPN staff wrote of James. “Expect him to line up at his usual safety spot, while also playing cornerback, linebacker and some defensive end.”
James only played in two games last year because of a knee injury, but as ESPN noted, when on the field, he is everywhere. As a freshman in 2015, he posted 91 total tackles, including 9.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks, 4 pass defenses, 2 force fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.
In addition to James, the Seminoles had three other players ranked in the top 25 on ESPN’s list. Florida State sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois was the next Seminoles player at No. 11. Junior defensive end Josh Sweat and junior defensive back Tarvarus McFadden were ranked 24th and 25th, respectively, as well. No other team had more than two players in ESPN’s top 25.
The ACC led all conferences with eight players in ESPN’s top 25. The SEC was second with six players.