He might be the best player nationally in 2016, but at minimum it’s a no-brainer he is the ACC’s best player, right?
Well, not according to the folks at Pro Football Focus. The junior is slotted at No. 6 nationally and second in his own conference behind a Florida State player. It's not Dalvin Cook either. It's Derwin James. The sophomore, who was a freshman All-American last season, is listed fifth. Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey is the top overall player, and 18 ACC players in all made the list of 101 players.
“One of the nation’s most unique players, James … found a way to contribute in all phases and he may be the best all-around defensive player in the nation heading into 2016,” the website states, noting James’ positive grade in every game.
Watson is labeled the most talented quarterback in the country, but listed are concerns about his ability under duress and accuracy on shorter throws.
Normally, a quarterback will always be held in higher regard than a safety, but Pro Football Focus mentions there is less of an emphasis on the quarterback position in college compared to the NFL. There is also the fact the 6-foot-3, 213-pound James is not limited to just the defensive backfield. He can play coverage, load the box or create havoc as an edge-rusher, and PFF posted solid grades in every area. He was Florida State’s No. 2 tackler despite starting only eight games.
As one coach who played against James puts it, the young Seminoles star is a "grown-ass man."
There’s no wrong answer between the two as both James and Watson are likely the best at their respective positions and among the top players in the country. If you’re building your team around one for 2016, it’s hard to go against the quarterback, especially one that is months removed from being named a Heisman Trophy finalist.
James’ unique versatility at least makes it an intriguing discussion.
Lucky for us, James and Watson will line up across from each other in a 75-set chess match Oct. 29. Each would likely trade top billing in the ACC player rankings for the top spot in the league standings by the end of that day.