San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James is a prime candidate for a breakout season in 2013.
The second-year running back out of the University of Oregon didn’t see the field until Week 14 of his NFL career, but showed what he can do when he finally got the opportunity. In the seven games he was active for, including the 49ers’ three playoff games, James had 38 rushing attempts for 190 yards and scored his first touchdown in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons.
A smaller back, James works best in open space. He can catch the ball out of the backfield and gets involved in the game by returning kicks. But heading into 201,3 he plans on being a better all-around ball carrier.
Coming out of college, many teams didn’t have him high on their draft boards because they didn’t think his small frame could hold up against the bigger and stronger NFL defenders. He answered those criticisms by putting on 10 pounds this offseason, heading into the season at a respectable 205 pounds.
The backfield in San Francisco will still be crowded again this year. Frank Gore will be the no. 1 back and third-year man Kendall Hunter will demand carries if he comes back healthy from the torn Achilles injury that opened the door for James last year.
But in the end, you can’t keep talented players on the sidelines for long. The San Francisco coaching staff is one of the more progressive in the league, and they will find ways to get the ball in the hands of a playmaker like James. Whether it’s as a running back, a receiver or a kick returner, look for LaMichael James to have a breakout season in 2013.