LaMichael James is one of the most accomplished running backs in NCAA football history. Along with setting Oregon records for all-purpose yards with 5,929 and rushing touchdowns with 53, James also holds the FBS record for rushes over 30 yards with 34.
James was praised for forgoing the draft last season and returning to Oregon to try to help the Ducks earn a berth in the BCS National Championship Game for the second straight season. After dealing with off-field troubles in 2010, James has shown tremendous growth in maturity and leadership.
Often credited for his elusive running style; James was clearly the engine that drove the Oregon offensive machine, averaging over 150 rushing yards per game. Despite his impressive statistics, there is serious concern that he may not thrive in a pro-style rushing attack.
His size (5'9", 195) is also an obvious concern, but as illustrated by Chad Reuter of CBS Sports, this is a scout's take on James in general:
Size will be a detriment between the tackles at the next level, but don't underestimate his toughness. Prefers to run north-south, though, feeling his way through traffic with quick cuts and nice vision. Does not try to take every play outside, as you'd expect given his size and speed, but dangerous once on the sideline.Flashes the ability to break a tackle in the backfield and reverse field for a big gain, but he will lose yardage a times and it's much tougher to accomplish that against NFL defenses.
There seems to be no reason why James cannot find success in the NFL on the same level as someone like Darren Sproles. Like Sproles, LaMichael James can make up for a lack of size with agility, speed and elusiveness.
If James can use those attributes to his advantage, he should easily find his way onto the NFL roster after training camp. From there he will have an opportunity to spell the starter and act as the change-of-pace back for the offense.
As Brian Billick said on the NFL Network, the success of Darren Sproles has more and more teams in the market for an elusive threat to whom you can use in both the passing and rushing attacks. James fits that bill for the San Francisco 49ers where concerns over his size will be somewhat mitigated by the presence of workhorse Frank Gore. The Niners also have Kendall Hunter, who profiles similarly to James, so the path to PT isn't exactly clear for James. Still, this is pick has a chance to pan out for San Francisco, where coach Jim Harbaugh should be intimately familiar with how to use the Oregon product.