“With the 61st overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers select LaMichael James, Running Back, Oregon Ducks.”
That is what 49ers fans heard Roger Goodell say on the second day of the draft this year, and if you don’t know about LaMichael James (or LMJ as I call him), then you are probably going to need to study up. Allow me to enlighten you about the greatness that has been and will be, LMJ.
I remember where I was, sitting on my couch with a salad (who am I kidding, it was Doritos) and watching day number two of the draft when the 49ers got on the clock after the Ravens picked sure fire bust, Iowa State Offensive Lineman Kelechi Osemele with the 60th overall pick. As I had done with the the 60 previous picks I sat there talking to myself and trying to figure out who the 49ers would take at 61, and I said to my wife (who wasn’t listening), “I bet they take a running back here.” I had actually been saying it for months at that time, that the 49ers were obviously going to start looking towards the future in this draft and probably take a running back. Little did I know that LaMichael James, quite possibly the steal of this draft, would still be available and that Jim Harbaugh, Trent Baalke, and the Yorks would have the smarts to grab him up.
Most people remember LaMichael James from The Rose Bowl this year where he rushed for 159 yards on 25 carries, he was somewhat overshadowed by De’Anthony Thomas’ performance but nothing can overshadow the legacy that LaMichael James left on Oregon Duck fans. In his career at Oregon he rushed for 5,082 yards which makes him the leading rusher in Ducks history. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry over his three years there which is also a staggering number. In 2010, James had undoubtedly his best year by far when he rushed for 1,682 yards and scored 24 touchdowns. He also finished 3rd in the Heisman voting that year behind Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. In case you didn’t know, those two players went number one overall in the subsequent drafts. LMJ also received the Doak Walker Award in 2010 which is presented every year to the nation’s top running back. Some former players to win that award: Garrison Hearst, Bam Morris, Eddie George, Ricky Williams (twice), Ron Dayne, LaDanian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and most recently Trent Richardson who went number three overall in this years draft, 58 picks higher than LaMichael James, so some pretty good company there.
Is it insane to think that LaMichael James could be the best running back to come out of the 2012 draft when it’s all said and done?
All hyperbole aside, if I had told you these things before the 2012 draft, you would think that most certainly LaMichael would be getting drafted in the top 10 first players selected, but unfortunately, at 5’9′ 195 lbs. his size made him drop on most teams draft boards. Think about that, a player that rushed over 230 times in each of his three seasons, finished 3rd in Heisman voting, is 2nd all time in Pac-12 History in rush yards, and 14th in NCAA History and is a Doak Walker Award winner, didn’t even go in the first round because he is too small? Well, other teams blunders are the 49er Nation’s gain.
LaMichael James is a freak, plain and simple, yes he is a little small for a “Prototypical NFL Running Back” to use a Merril Hodge cliche, but I don’t think that will stop him. He is an incredibly versatile player and one who will without question be making big plays this season for the 49ers. Whether it is in the running game, the screen game, wheel routes out of the backfield (a Jim Harbaugh staple), or even in the return game, LMJ will be on some folks highlight reels this year, and you heard it here first. LaMichael’s sheer athletic ability, mixed with his desire to win, and the fact that he is on the greatest team on the planet, make for an extremely volatile mixture, one that every 49er fan should be watching and anticipating with baited breath as this season draws ever so near. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show that LaMichael James is bound to put on for us this year.