LaMichael James is currently being shopped by the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have 11 picks, including two second rounders and three third rounders, in next month’s NFL Draft. I don’t expect them to use all of those picks, and if the 49ers don’t trade James earlier, he could be used in a packaged deal to move up in the draft. Matt Barrows, who broke the story yesterday evening, of the Sacramento Bee believes just that saying:
“If the 49ers want to maneuver higher in next month’s draft, they could offer another team multiple draft picks in return or they could offer a team picks and a player. That player? According to a league source, the 49ers have been shopping running back LaMichael James, a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.”
James, the former second round pick out of Oregon, was used sparingly in the 49ers offense over the past couple years. He carried the ball only 39 times over the past two years and saw most of his work as a returner last season, averaging almost 11 yards per punt return. Head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman never found a spot for James’ quickness and speed in their power-run offense. With James’ departure imminent, the 49ers are left with a big hole in their return game. It’s likely they will address the position with a late-round draft pick.
There has been no immediate interest in James, but that could change as the draft approaches. Rumors swirled months ago about his fit with the Philadelphia Eagles and former college coach at Oregon, Chip Kelly. Those rumors were squashed when the Eagles traded a fifth-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for running back Darren Sproles last month. With Sproles gone, the Saints could be one team interested in trading for James. The running back has similar qualities to to Sproles and could fill his void in New Orleans.
Another team that could be interested in James is the Kansas City Chiefs. Dexter McCluster did a little bit of everything for the Chiefs, but he left and signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency. The Chiefs traded for quarterback Alex Smith from the 49ers last year. That trade resulted in a playoff berth and a Pro Bowl selection for Smith. They could go down that road once again by trading for James and using him in a similar role as they did McCluster. The Chiefs lack receiver depth, and Smith has always excelled in the short, intermediate passing game. James could step in and be a versatile scat back in Andy Reid‘s offense.
I think the best fit for James could be with the New England Patriots. They lost LeGarrette Blunt this offseason, but more importantly, lost Danny Woodhead last year. Woodhead was second in receptions among all NFL running backs a year ago with 76, compared to the Patriots running backs who combined to catch 70. Along with Wes Welker, Woodhead was a safely blanket for Tom Brady and he missed his services last year. James could fill that role for the Patriots, along with taking over the returning duties.
It’s still left to be seen if the former Oregon star’s game will transfer to the NFL on a consistent basis, but we do know now that it won’t be in San Francisco next season.