EUGENE OR - OCTOBER 2: Running back LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates as he scores a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Autzen Stadium on October 2 2010 in Eugene Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
At the University of Oregon, LaMichael James was the Ducks football team. He was the centerpiece and the known weapon that kept that offense explosive.
In his first year, we can expect James to be utilized in a role that would parallel Darren Sproles. He brings with him a homerun hitting ability in that he can make plays from anywhere on the field. The 49ers will wind up using him often as a receiver out of the backfield. In the NCAA, he displayed great hands as a pass-catcher and was terrific on screens.
James methodically uses his blockers, and as a runner he takes advantage of everything. At Oregon, he would hide behind his blockers, tip-toeing before exploding for a large gain. During his stellar college career, he was well-known for his explosiveness, speed and agility -- all things the 49ers coveted on offense this draft.
The addition of James simply equals production, yards, touchdowns and more big plays. He's got very good awareness and field vision, which equated to him being a great red zone runner. Not only will James help the 49ers get down the field when they start deep in their own territory, but he will help them get in the end zone in goal situations, whether as a receiver or runner.
Like a Ray Rice or MJD, James has great body control and balance. For a running back, he's got a no-quit mentality every play. He gets the most yards possible on every single play, and often when you think he's down, he's not.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh mentioned his toughness and for a 5'8" guy, he packs a punch. Maurice Jones-Drew is an inch shorter than James and that didn't stop him from leading the NFL in rushing last season. So if the 49ers view James as an eventual every-down back in this league, I believe them.
He is equally as good around the edge as he is running a draw or dive play. This is due to his vision and ability to use his small stature to shoot in between the cracks in the trenches. He is a very patient runner who explodes at the right time and takes great angles to maximize his yardage. For the 49ers, he will brings serious competition to the running back position, as well as a returner.
He was definitely one of the bigger names in the draft. James is a game changer as he can take it to the house on any given play. In college, he made 60+ yard plays look effortless with his speed and ability to take the right angles.
In one way, he reminds me of Frank Gore in that he is a slippery runner. He was undervalued as a pro for physical reasons but will come into the league with a chip on his shoulder. And like Gore, he's got great vision on the field and will certainly benefit from playing behind the 49ers all-time leading rusher.
The 49ers wanted speed and big-play ability, and they definitely got it in LaMichael James.
LaMichael James drafted 61st (2nd Round) by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFL Draft (via RealTLV)
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