Has very good speed and quickness. Can be a dangerous home run threat when he gets on the edge or in space. Does his best work on the stretch play or counter plays. Dangerous cutback runner that does a nice job showing patience and finding daylight there. Has the smaller stature to hide behind his blocks and let holes develop. Quick to hit the hole and able to sneak through creases due to his burst. Shows quick feet in the hole or when working in space. Able to show a jump cut to bounce plays outside. Able to make the oncoming defender in the hole miss due to his quick feet and balance, and break the big gain. Very good burst and acceleration into and out of his cuts which make him explosive on the edge. At times, runs hard behind his pads on the edge. Compact build allows him to break arm tackles and speed makes it difficult to get a square hit on him. Will use a stiff arm at times on the edge, or lower the shoulder to finish a run against a pursuing defensive back. Will fight for extra yards at times. At times, shows ability to run downhill well to keep the chains moving in short-yardage. Has good hands and adjusts well to the high or low throws. Very dangerous on screens because of his speed and quickness in space. Shows some ability to step up and cut a blitzing linebacker in pass protection. Shows some ability as a return threat due to his quickness and burst.
Lacks size and questionable whether he has the durability to hold up to an NFL punishment. Can be too tentative at times when running between the tackles. Not a threat to break tackles at the point of attack, especially against bigger defenders. Will stop his feet at times at the point of attack, looking to juke a defender rather than just running through him. Doesn't consistently finish his runs. Can be too patient at times waiting for the hole to develop. Dances too much at times in the backfield. Will look for the cutback to develop too often. Doesn't always take what is given to him and his cutbacks and dancing can lead to him losing yardage too often. Takes too many risks as a punt returner and dances a bit too much as a kickoff returner.
James is a highly productive runner at Oregon that was the focus of that offense over the years. His home run abilities and big play potential was always the focus of slowing down first and foremost when taking on the Duck offense. The overwhelming majority of his runs were stretches, slants, and counters, designed to get him to the edge where he was one of the most dangerous backs in the country. He was also a very productive back in the passing game working on screens. All of this makes him the ideal candidate as a change of pace third down rusher at the next level. Although he does a lot of the small things that make you think he could overcome his lack of size and be more than a situational runner at the next level. He was suspended for the season opener in 2010 for pleading guilty to misdemeanor harassment charges from an altercation with his girlfriend. He was given two years of probation as a result, and was limited to house arrest despite being sentenced to 10 days of jail time.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(9/3) vs. LSU: 17 att., 54 yds, 3.2 avg, 0 YAC, 1 TDs; 7 targets, 6 rec., 61 yds, 64 YAC, 0 TDs, 0 drops
(10/6) vs. California: 30 att., 239 yds, 8.0 avg, 15 YAC, 1 TDs; 1 target, 0 rec., 0 yds, 1 drop; 1 fumble
(11/12) at Stanford: 19 att., 144 yds, 7.6 avg, 23 YAC, 3 TDs, 1 tgt., 1 rec., 10 yds, 13 YAC, 0 TDS; 1 fumble
(12/2) vs. UCLA: 25 att., 219 yds, 8.8 avg, 23 YAC, 3 TDs; 2 tgt., 2 rec., 24 yds, 27 YAC, 0 TDs
(1/2) vs. Wisconsin: 25 att., 159 yds, 6.4 avg, 19 YAC, 1 TDs; 1 tgt., 0 rec., 0 yds, 1 drop; 1 key block, 1 fumble
2011: 12/11 GS, 247 att., 1805 yds, 7.3 avg, 18 TDs; 17 rec., 210 yds, 12.4 avg, 1 TD; 13 PR-10.7 avg, 1 TDs; 1 KOR-21.0 avg, 0 TDs;
2010: 12/?-294-1731-5.9-21; 17-208-12.2-3; 1 PR-(-2.0 avg), 0 TDs
2009: 13/11-230-1546-6.7-14; 17-168-9.9-0; 2 KOR-21.5 avg, 0 TDs
- missed 2 games in 2011 with dislocated elbow
- missed season opener in 2010 due to a one-game suspension
James behind a zone-blocking team that is looking for him to have a Darren Sproles/Reggie Bush-like role on third downs could find themselves with a very dangerous commodity. He's a guy that will live and die by his ability to produce the big plays, something he did with high regularity at Oregon. But that was helped by the style of offense they ran, which was a lot of zone runs designed to get him to the edge, and spreading the field to limit how many defenders are in the box. A team that is going to be a pass-first offense that either runs a zone-heavy attack or has the beef up front to push the defenders off the ball will compare the best for him. It's why Sproles and Bush are good comparisons, but New Orleans does a lot of this. In a more traditional NFL offense, James will be much more of a situational runner that will produce more in the passing game than he will as a runner. He's just not really a guy that is going to thrive running the ball up the middle a lot. At worst, I expect him to be considered one of the league's top third down backs. At best, he might offer some Chris Johnson or Jamaal Charles-like potential as a big play threat that can be the lead back in an offense. He'll need to add a bit more muscle, and he'll never really be a 20-carry guy. But like Charles, in a role that probably shoots to give him around 15 touches per game, including both runs and catches, he can be a very good and productive rusher. I wouldn't bet on him reaching that potential, and it would require him having one of the better run-blocking lines in the league. But I do think that potential is there if he continues to get stronger. Like Jahvid Best, durability might be a concern, which is why he may not reach his full potential, because you can't trust him to stay healthy for 16 games and get 15+ touches. Instead, he's probably a guy that can last a season if you limit him to 8-12 touches per game, splitting them both as a runner and receiver. He did fumble a bit at Oregon, but most of them came when he was fighting for extra yards and the ball was stripped out. I don't see it being a major issue at the next level to the point where he'll fumble more than your average NFL runner. I think as far as his pass protecting skills go, he has what it takes to produce there. He may not be great, but I think he should be good enough early on that he can contribute fairly early as a third down specialist in his career.
Warrick Dunn, ex-Buccaneers.
James offers many of the same traits that Jacquizz Rodgers brings to the table, except James is a much more explosive runner that can give you those big home run plays similar to Jerious Norwood. But like Norwood, you're going to be concerned about his durability. I don't think it'll be on the level that Norwood had in Atlanta, but I do think you'll have to be careful about his usage and better have two other backs that can handle the load if he's out. The problem would be with James and Quizz being ideal for many of the same niches, and would only really work well together if the Falcons became a much more pass-oriented offense, and had them split reps on third downs similar to how the Saints use Sproles and Pierre Thomas. Otherwise, their presences would essentially cancel each other out, and one would probably be vastly underutilized. James could provide some big plays as a returner, but he's not trustworthy enough to think he could stick there long-term unless he really commits to get better there.
In the right scheme, James could potentially offer late second round value for a pass-heavy team looking for a Darren Sproles-type of specialist. But in most offenses, he'll just be a good third down guy that can be a nice change of pace runner to a more physical bruiser. That makes him more in line with the sort of talent that gets drafted in the third or fourth round.
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"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.