Along with the announcement that LaMichael James will go pro comes the inevitable furious mock-draft adjustments and probable rising and falling of his stock both before and after the Combine. Right now as it stands, though, where should we expect James to be taken in this year's Draft?
Though at this early stage it's hard to predict exactly where teams will place him on their board, a conservative guess would be somewhere between rounds two through four. Rob Rang, a respected draft analyst, had this to say about James' potential for the NFL back in mid-November.
Despite staggering production, scouts can't help but be cautious when grading [LaMichael James] for the next level. Listed at 5-9, 195 pounds -- many suspect he's considerably smaller than the Oregon program indicates -- James clearly doesn't possess the size most pro clubs want in a featured back.
He's also not necessarily the traditional scat-back as some peg him to be. James has only 13 receptions this season and finished each of the past two years with 17. Though his relatively low catch totals hardly mean that James lacks the hands to be an effective outlet receiver, any concerns about his ball skills weren't helped Saturday night with only one catch (for 10 yards) and a muffed punt in which the ball simply slid through his hands.
James is a stronger runner than you'd think considering his size. He finishes runs like a big back -- feet chugging, twisting and leaning forward to gain ground as he's being tackled. That said, his value lies with his elusiveness and blazing straight-line speed -- and teams have traditionally been unwilling to invest a top 100 pick in undersized backs with this limited skill-set.
Some of the other speedy, undersized backs James has been compared to -- Darren Sproles, Taiwan Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers -- made it to the fourth round despite similarly jaw-dropping collegiate production.
I think what Rang writes, though possibly discouraging or unbelievable for Duck fans, is logical and is based on historical precedent. Even if James lasts that long and doesn't go until day three of the Draft, it doesn't mean he won't be effective for his team and ultimately have a good career. Jacquizz Rodgers, for example, has played solidly in his rookie campaign in a backup role, racking up 205 yards rushing and a touchdown to go with his 21 receptions for 188 yards and a touchdown through the air, and may play a key role in the playoffs.
On the other hand, with the success that Rodgers and Darren Sproles have had this season, Sproles with 600+ yards on the ground and 700+ yards through the air on his way to 9 total touchdowns, perhaps teams will begin to see a higher value in running backs of LaMichael James' ilk. Time will tell, and it will be one of the more interesting storylines of the mid-rounds.
For more on LaMichael James' announcement and everything Oregon Football, make sure you check out Addicted to Quack.