Chargers' Derwin James Ranked as Top-10 Safety by CBS Sports

Jason B. Hirschhorn

Los Angeles Chargers defensive back Derwin James missed all but the final month of the 2019 regular season with a severe foot injury and did not fully recover until this offseason. Even so, James left enough of an impression on CBS Sports to rank as one of the 10 best safeties in the NFL entering 2020.

According to the list published by CBS Sports, James ranks as the eighth best safety in the league. That puts him ahead of noteworthy veterans Earl Thomas (No. 10 on the list) and Kevin Byard (No. 9 while behind peers like Jamal Adams (No. 3) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (No. 2). Given all the time James missed last season, it stands to reason he could quickly move up with a healthy 2020.

James, who entered the league as a first-round pick in 2018, already has a first-team All-Pro nod under his belt and appears primed for a breakout campaign in 2020 if he remains healthy (and the season avoids any coronavirus-related disruption). The Chargers hope to lean more heavily on his versatility this year, especially with the surplus of talent in the secondary. James, who has the size and speed to line up anywhere outside the defensive interior, could see even more work near the line of scrimmage than in the past.

Regardless of James' ranking among the league's safeties, he enters 2020 as arguably the most important member of the Chargers defense. The coaching staff has built its defensive scheme around his talents, and his absence for most of last year helps explain the unit's shortcomings. But with James back in the fold, Los Angeles has the chance to establish itself as one of the premier defensive teams.

-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH