The San Francisco 49ers have surprised folks with their choices in the 2012 NFL draft, and they continued to do so in the second round, picking a home run hitter in the dynamic LaMichael James, running back from the Oregon Ducks, but the question is, why?
Obviously, those watching the team closely know the 49ers need an additional running back to spell Frank Gore. Despite another 1,000 yard season in 2012, it's clear that Gore's body is starting to feel the rigors of what is considered to be an advanced age for many running backs (Gore will be 29 this season).
Despite this, Gore does own the 49ers all time career rushing record.
LaMichael James is 5'8" and 195 pounds. The height isn't that big an issue; a short, stocky running back can do quite well in the NFL due to a lower center of gravity. However, James' weight of 195 means the odds of him being a full-time back are close to nil. In addition, the 49ers already have a back of his type, Kendall Hunter, a 5'7", 199 pound running back who was used as a change of pace during 2011.
The backfield is also crowded, with the 49ers having signed the former New York Giant, Brandon Jacobs. This leaves Anthony Dixon on the outside looking in, but many figured he wasn't going to be with the team in the 2012 regular season, anyway.
After the pick, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said he could see James eventually assuming the role of a featured back, similar to Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowler Ray Rice. Rice is similar in height, 5'9". However, Rice also weighs 212 pounds, which as we mentioned before, could give James a better chance of being a full-time back.
At his current weight, LaMichael James doesn't even weigh as much as the aforementioned Kendall Hunter.
Harbaugh might have been influenced somewhat by James' results in 2010, in the final loss of Harbaugh's college career. In that game, the Oregon Duck running back starred, with a 31-carry, 257-yard performance capped off by a 76-yard touchdown run in a 52-31 shellacking of Stanford.
James was the winner of the Doak Walker Award as a sophomore in 2010. He finished his career as one of only three running backs in the history of the Pac-12 to gain 5,000 rushing yards.
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