NFL Draft 2012: Why LaMichael James Will Be a Mid-Round Steal

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IJanuary 12, 2012

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Running back LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks carries the ball during the second half against the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

When you ask about Oregon running back LaMichael James as a potential draft pick in April, most of the draftniks will tell you the same things.

He's too small. 

He can't handle the full work load. 

He's going to get hurt. 

All these concerns for the 5-foot-9, 185-pound James are valid. He's too small to be a three-down running back in the NFL, and the possibility of him getting injured is likely increased due to his small frame. 

But despite those worries, I wouldn't count out James as being a guy that can be an impact player very soon in the NFL. 

For an example of how he can work at the next level, take a look at New Orleans Saints back Darren Sproles. 

While Sproles is a little better built (5'6", 190 lbs.), the size comparison here is close, and each player has been regulated to a specialized role because of that size. 

However, there's not a football person out there that would tell you Sproles isn't a huge part of the Saints offense. In fact, he broke the NFL record in 2011 for yards from scrimmage in a single season with more than 2,600. He ran for 603 yards on just 87 carries (6.9 yard average) and caught 86 passes for 710 yards , plus Sproles added more than 1,300 returning yards in the 2011 season. 

If James can add a few pounds at the start of his career, is there any reason why he can't be a similar type weapon in the right offense? You certainly won't run him 200 times a season, but he can give you the same kind of options Sproles currently does in New Orleans. 

And if James is scheduled to go anywhere from the third to sixth round, isn't he worth that risk? 

Given the right opportunity, James can be an impact player. He might not be Sproles right off the bat, but that kind of potential certainly exists for a guy you don't have to spend a high pick on.