SOTT Draft Profile: LaMichael James
The next few weeks here on State of the Texans we will be doing some draft profiles of some particular players who could possibly fit into the Texans plans. We are not going to try to piece together scouting reports, but we enlist help of bloggers who actually cover the respective player and their school.
Every season there is that one running back coming out of the college ranks who electrified the game, but his game has a big question mark on it as to how it will translate to the NFL. We are talking about the Oregon Ducks junior running back LaMichael James. At 5’8″ and 194 lbs., James will have to prove to scouts his size will not be that big of a factor at the next level. The Texas native set Oregon records and looks to become a staple on an NFL roster for years to come.
Can you give us some background on James?
James is arguably the greatest player to ever play at Oregon. He absolutely crushed every significant school rushing and scoring record. He is the only back in conference history to rush for 1,500 yards in 3 straight seasons, and is the second most productive back in school history, despite only playing three seasons. He is an explosive back that can take it to the house at any moment, but is also very successful between the tackles.
Do you think his elbow injury showed a part of James we haven’t seen before? Like toughness.
It didn’t surprise Oregon fans. Even as a redshirt freshman he showed surprising toughness and power. He’s small, but has a lot of lower body strength which allows him to get extra yards in the pile. He also carried the Ducks in 2010 despite battling injuries through the last 4 games of the regular season.
What are James’ strengths and weaknesses?
James’ main strength is his agility and acceleration. He can change directions on a dime and while keeping his speed. He has surprising toughness and power which allow him to gain extra yards after contact, and is not as easy to bring down as you might expect. He also has a great feel for the game, and has greatly improved his ability to read and hit holes in his last two years at Oregon.
For weaknesses, the main thing is his size. He will not break tackles in the NFL like he did in college, and will struggle to stop linebackers in pass coverage, though he has no issue with sacrificing his body to stop an oncoming rusher. Early in his career, he had problems with fumbling and dropping passes, though he has improved significantly in both areas, and that doesn’t seem to be a liability anymore.
What did James mean to the Ducks in 2011?
LaMichael James was the one player on the Oregon team over the past 3 seasons that was capable of carrying the team for stretches. When the Ducks needed a big play or a big drive, he would put the team on his back and carry them down the field. Oftentimes, he did that with surprising power and toughness, running for 5-7 yards per carry, willing the team down the field.
Oregon’s offense has been incredibly explosive the last few seasons, but James brought a surprising consistency that you often don’t notice, because he was a threat to take it to the house every time he touched the ball.
Can you see James as a starting back or a situational one?
It really depends on how you define the terms. I don’t think that he’ll be able to be the lone starting back on an NFL team. He has a lot of strengths, but he carried the ball a lot at Oregon for a back of his size. Despite missing parts of last season, he touched the ball almost 300 times. When Oregon made their championship run in 2010, he touched the ball over 300 times in 12 games. With a midseason injury to backup Kenjon Barner, James carried most of the rushing load himself, and you could tell as the season progressed. In late season games against California, Arizona, and Oregon State, he was battling through injuries, and you could tell he’d lost a half-step.
If James is in a position where he’s splitting time with another back, I think he could excel. James has been drawing a lot of comparisons to Darren Sproles, and he only touched the ball around 10 times per game last season. I think this type of load would be perfect for James. I think he could excel on first down or third down, but the key will be not overloading him so that you get the most productive carries possible.
How do you see James projecting to the next level?
I think he could be very successful, and could excel in the changing NFL. I don’t ever see him as that #1 running back like he was at Oregon. But he has the talent and desire to be very, very productive for the team that grabs him. If he gets in the right offense, he could be downright scary for opposing defenses.
Special thanks go out to Jared and you can follow all of the Oregon Duck news on Addicted to Quack.