Nasir Adderley And Derwin James Are A Perfect Pair
When the Chargers selected safety Derwin James in the 2018 Draft, they struck absolute gold. The former Florida State safety needed almost no time to adjust to the speed of the NFL, garnering a First-Team All-Pro and Pro-Bowl selections as a rookie. He also narrowly missed winning Defensive Rookie of the Year.
James is already regarded as one of the top safeties in the league, but he didn’t have much help on the back end. His running-mate, Jahleel Addae, had a tumultuous season, playing out of position at free-safety before eventually getting released. This left the team with a hole in it’s secondary, with no obvious option to play alongside it’s rising star.
Then, with the 60th pick in the 2019 Draft, the Chargers selected safety, Nasir Adderley. For much of the draft process, Adderley was considered a fringe first-round pick. Some even projected him getting picked by the team with the 28th pick.
Playing at an FCS school like Delaware, you have to really stand out for NFL teams to notice. That is what he did. Adderley excelled in coverage racking up 11 interceptions and 24 pass break-ups in his four seasons. He finished with the top coverage grade (89.9) amongst safeties according to Pro Football Focus, allowing just seven receptions. He gave up zero touchdowns and quarterbacks had an abysmal 1.7 Passer rating when targeting him.
What makes Adderley such a force on the back end is his playmaking ability. He is a natural at locating the ball in the air and had some unbelievably acrobatic interceptions in his career. He is extremely feisty at the catch point dislodging footballs frequently with big hits, and active hands.
The most exciting part of Adderley’s game might just be his physicality. Watching him mix-it-up with lineman trying to block him is a delight. He is also a very sure tackler amassing 165 solo tackles in his collegiate career. He never shies away from contact and takes good angles coming up from the second level. Adderley brings a tenacity, and toughness that NFL teams covet.
Adderley’s draft stock dropped slightly because of a poor Senior Bowl and questions about his range. These are understandable, but I believe his body of work speaks for itself.
It should help that he is going into an ideal situation. Adderley has the chance to line-up next to James and behind a couple of stellar pass-rushers. He also goes into Gus Bradley’s zone-heavy scheme which has been his strong suit.
Now that Los Angeles has drafted a true free safety, it allows James to play to his strengths as well. Now Derwin can stay up near the line-of-scrimmage to help out against the run. He was also an extremely proficient blitzer, which he can do more of with the help behind him.
It’s easy to imagine James getting after the quarterback forcing a rushed throw with Adderley waiting to pick it off. This move also makes the Chargers more versatile, with both players capable of lining up at both safety spots.
If Adderley is able to win the starting free safety job, there will be a steep learning curve. The jump from FCS to the NFL is enormous. Adderley isn’t scared of those expectations although, proclaiming he and James will be the best tandem in the league.
Those are lofty expectations, but I don’t think it is out of the question. We have to wait and see how he progresses and adjusts to life in the NFL. One thing is for sure, Charger fans should be excited because they have one of the youngest and most exciting safety duos in the league.