As soon as LaMichael James was drafted a host of people threw their collective arms up in the air and asked, "Why did we just draft a guy that's just like Kendall Hunter?!?"
I get it, you see a short running back with explosive potential and well that's close enough...But it's not.
Eric Branch posted a few items on the similarities between the two aforementioned backs yesterday and today. The primary comparisons were college rushing statistics, combine performances, and the fact that both grew up in East Texas.
Again, on paper, sure. But what's not being mentioned is how these two are not built at all like one another. You can point out that both are short and both are just under 200lbs. but that doesn't explain their body make-up: weight distribution, girth, etc.
Hunter has huge, powerful thighs and carries his weight low. He's also at least a full inch shorter than James and outweighs him by at least five pounds as of last season's depth-chart (which could be an even greater gap if Hunter's put on good weight in the off-season program).
James is more of a "V-Cut" type of guy with thin legs, getting larger as he goes up, although he proved he wasn't overly strong in the upper-body in his combine bench-press performance.
Of the two I'd say that Hunter is already built to run inside over and over, something he was actually called-upon to do in 2012. Don't forget that Hunter, not Anthony Dixon, started in place of Frank Gore when injured. He also relieved Gore in more than one game when the old-man got nicked-up.
Right now I think James is the X-Factor type of RB with more elusive speed near the edges and less power inside. I'm sure the 49ers, always preaching versatility and duplicity, want him to expand his repertoire...but right now he's more of a complimentary player with big-play potential.
None of this is a sleight to James, but beyond statistics (in two different conferences against different opponents) and being "short"...these guys just aren't the same.