USA TODAY Sports
LaMichael James is on very thin ice with the 49ers.
In the 2012 draft, the 49ers surprised many draft experts by selecting LaMichael James with their second-round pick. General manager Trent Baalke hoped that James would become a player much like Darren Sproles.
Unfortunately for James and the 49ers, that has not happened.
In 2012, James did not see action until Kendall Hunter was injured. James got into four games that season.
James hoped to play a more integral role in 2013, but with Hunter back he was largely relegated to kickoffs and punt returns. James carried the ball from scrimmage only 12 times, gaining 59 yards. He also caught two passes for 16 yards.
One of James' problems is his propensity to fumble. He fumbled the ball three times last year, which is far too often considering how seldom he played. In 2013, James had 12 kickoff returns for 321 yards, an average of 26.8 yards. As a punt returner, James had 23 returns for 251 yards, an average of 10.9 yards per return.
Expected to be an explosive threat, James has yet to find the end zone in two seasons. In addition, James is not a strong blocker, which also limits his plays from scrimmage.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has not done a good job utilizing the speed of James and Hunter out of the backfield on pass plays. Even a simple swing pass could turn into a big gain with the speed and elusiveness of these two.
James is now fighting what looks to be a losing battle to make the 49ers' 53-man roster.
The 49ers currently have Frank Gore, Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde and Hunter all ahead of James at the halfback position. In addition, Jewel Hampton has looked good when given the chance to play in exhibition games in prior seasons.
The 49ers also drafted wide receiver Bruce Ellington, who will compete with James for punts and kickoff returns. Ellington, a fourth-round selection, has an excellent chance to win this job.
As reported by David Fucillo of NinersNation.com, Anquan Boldin had high praise for Ellington following the 49ers' three-day minicamp.
If James is sent packing, which is a real possibility, the 49ers' 2012 draft will have been a colossal failure. Only Joe Looney, a reserve guard, would remain from that entire draft.
The lack of players from the 2012 draft has now caught up with the 49ers, as salary-cap constraints, coupled with the fact that nobody is there to make an impact from that draft class, will hurt the 49ers, especially over the next two seasons.
At this point, it would have to be considered a surprise if James makes the 2014 roster.