Summary: James has been one of the biggest playmakers in college football over the past three seasons, scoring 44 combined touchdowns in his sophomore and junior seasons. He is a speedy scat back who also is a good receiver. James was the feature back the past two years, but in the NFL, he would be best as a change-of-pace runner.
James totaled 5,082 yards rushing with 53 touchdowns on the ground in his collegiate career. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry with 51 receptions for 586 yards and four touchdowns. James also returned punts with an average of 9.8 yards per attempt. James validated his fabulous speed with a 40-yard dash time of 4.37 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. He also looked like a natural in the receiving drills.
Even though James had such a productive career, he is viewed as a second-day prospect. Running backs typically fall in the draft even if they don't have red flags. Because James is undersized and has durability concerns, he doesn't project to break into the top-50 picks. It also doesn't help him that the two best defenses he faced, Auburn in 2010 and LSU in 2011, held him in check. He didn't reach 55 rushing yards in either game.
There is definitely a place for James in an NFL offense. He could be used in a similar manner to the Saints' Darren Sproles or Dolphins' Reggie Bush. Giving him 10 carries and a few receptions per game would probably be the best way to keep him healthy and productive. James should be a good weapon on third downs.
Player Comparison: Jahvid Best. James' speed and playmaking ability is reminiscent of Best. Another similarity is the durability concern. Best has struggled to stay on the field in the NFL, and that could be a hinderance for James. Both players provide a big play element to their offenses with the skill set to rip off yards in chunks. Best was a late first-round pick, but James won't go that high.
NFL Matches: Cincinnati, Denver, Tampa Bay, San Diego, New York Jets, Green Bay.
Cincinnati has a big hole at running back, and James would be a nice weapon in Jay Gruden's offense. The Bucs need a third-down receiving back as LeGarrette Blount has been unable to learn those duties. Blount has stated he'd like Tampa Bay to bring in his former teammate. Denver could use running back help, and James would be a good receiving option for Peyton Manning.
The Chargers missed Darren Sproles after losing him in free agency. James would bring that explosive element back to their offense. The Jets could use a running back to pair with Shonn Greene, and they could consider James on the second day of the draft. Green Bay could use a pass-catching complement for James Starks.