NFL Draft preview: Oregon's LaMichael James

 
 
Updated 4/15/2012 5:58 PM
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  • Oregon running back Lamichael James added some muschle and weight before he worked out at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

    Oregon running back Lamichael James added some muschle and weight before he worked out at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Associated Press

  • Oregon's LaMichael James enjoyed considerable success in college, but his size and off-the-field legal matters are concerns for NFL teams.

    Oregon's LaMichael James enjoyed considerable success in college, but his size and off-the-field legal matters are concerns for NFL teams. Associated Press

No running back in this draft was as productive as Oregon's LaMichael James, but it's possible no runner faces more hurdles than the troubled and undersized speed demon.

James is just 5-feet-8 and he had to bulk up to reach 194 pounds for the NFL Scouting Combine. He played a lot lighter at Oregon, but it didn't prevent him from rushing for more than 1,500 yards in each of his three seasons, a total of 5,082, and he averaged 6.6 yards per carry.

In addition to size concerns, there are also character issues with James, whose father was fatally shot before he was born.

James was raised by his grandmother, until she died when he was a junior in high school.

He was arrested in high school for disorderly conduct and third-degree battery after a fight with a rival school, but those chargers were eventually dropped.

His problems continued after high school. Following a domestic dispute in 2010 with his girlfriend, James was charged with five misdemeanors and eventually pleaded guilty to physical harassment, served 10 days in jail, was suspended for the season opener and spent 24 months on probation.

But, if he can withstand the punishment in the NFL, James has elite, big-play ability.

He carried the ball 822 times in college and his only serious injury was a dislocated elbow that sidelined him for two games.

He added some weight after the season and still runs a 4.45 in the 40. But he was impressive at a lighter weight.

"The other weight I was before (the Combine) got me this far," James said. "So I don't think I've got to go out there and change too dramatically. Just lifting weights and getting stronger. I added a little bulk. So it wasn't just specifically going out there saying I've got to add a lot of muscle mass and get bigger."

James does not seem like the kind of player who's going to change his game just because someone else says he should. After high school, he took a much different route out of Texas than most schoolboy superstars from the Lone Star state.

After winning state championships in football and in the 100 meters (10.51 seconds, James decided to go halfway across the country to play.

"You just go," James said. "You've got to take a leap of faith. I didn't want to be like everybody else. I always wanted to be different. I didn't want to be like, 'Yeah, he went Texas or he went to OU.' That's what everybody does. So I just wanted to be different."

He will be different in the NFL, where no one his size is a workhorse back for any team. James won't be a first-round pick, and three or four backs could be drafted before he is, but he has home run ability and been compared to 5-foot-6, 190-pound Darren Sproles.

Some team is likely to snag him in the second round.

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