Jan 2, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James (21) carries the ball in the 2012 Rose Bowl game against the Wisconsin Badgers at the Rose Bowl. Oregon defeated Wisconsin 45-38. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

LaMichael James NFL Draft

This week, the site’s Q&A session is all about the Oregon Ducks who will be leaving for the 2012 NFL Draft, so the focus will be on guys like LaMichael James and Darron Thomas. As always, there are three questions, and this edition is a special one. Kyle Casey of The End Zone Report is a smart football guy who knows his NFL Draft prospects as well as anyone. The self-proclaimed second coming of Mel Kiper Jr. is, in my eyes, better than the ESPN persona. Check out his answers and start thinking about the future of Ducks football- and LaMichael James- in the NFL.

1. LaMichael James is the greatest running back in school history, and I view him as a second round pick. However, there are some who are not as high on James due to concerns over his size. Do you see his size being a negative factor for him and where do you see him in an NFL offense? Which team is the best fit for LaMichael James?

The thing about LaMichael James is that his height isn’t quite an issue, but rather his weight. He will need to add 10-15 pounds of muscle to his frame before he heads to the NFL, otherwise he will find himself in a very limited role with an offense, much like Jacquizz Rodgers with the Atlanta Falcons in 2011. But, LaMichael James can also try to use his size to his advantage. We’ve seen the likes of Ray Rice and Darren Sproles become the centerpieces of offense because they can use their small size to fit through smaller gaps than other backs that are bigger in size can.

As for the team that he best fits with, I think it is the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers offense was certainly not as good in 2011 as it had been in past years in terms of diversity. Quarterback Philip Rivers relied on mainly his receivers as options to throw to, but didn’t have that security option as a check-down. That’s where James would come into the picture. He would fill the void that the previously mentioned Darren Sproles left in the Chargers offense when he signed with the New Orleans Saints. LaMichael James could find an immediate role in the Chargers’ offense as a backup to Ryan Matthews, moving Mike Tolbert to mostly red zone opportunities. Getting James in the second-round would be a reach in my opinion, but if the Chargers or any other team could get James in the third-round, it would be a solid pick.

2. Although Darron Thomas had a successful college career with the Oregon Ducks and won a Rose Bowl and went to a Championship game, people don’t buy the 23-3 record and the solid numbers. I am with them and view him as a seventh round pick, and where do you have him going? What do you think he ends up being in the NFL and which team should take a flier on him? It is frustrating to see some people say that Thomas isn’t a true  quarterback and such, because anybody who has watched him in college and seen his arm will agree that he is a QB.

If a team drafts Darron Thomas in this year’s draft, it won’t be to get a new starting quarterback. Thomas is still developing as a passer and needs a year to bulk up before taking repeated hits from NFL defensive linemen. But, that doesn’t mean that he can’t be a starter in the future. He is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the draft and could find a home with a team that is willing to develop a spread offense, much like what the Carolina Panthers did with quarterback Cam Newton.

To be honest, Thomas would fit well with any team for now, as he will just be utilized in special packages for his first year at least. Look at what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done with Josh Johnson, a guy whose style of play is quite similar to Thomas.

The Buccaneers have utilized Johnson in special wildcat packages, as well as some passing situations. That is the type of role that Thomas will have to live with for the time being, before having a chance to fight for a starting job in either 2013 or 2014.

If I were to choose one team that would work best for Thomas, I’d oddly enough have to say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Thomas has a much brighter future than the previously mentioned Josh Johnson, and if the Bucs want to have a player like Johnson but better, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a late-round pick on the former Oregon quarterback.

3. Eddie Pleasant and David Paulson were both Co-team MVPs for the 2011 college football season. Which of them is the better NFL prospect? I think it’s obviously Pleasant, and which round will Pleasant go in? Where does Paulson fit in the NFL?

It’s hard to compare two prospects that play on different sides of the ball, but I’d have to say Pleasant is the better prospect. Especially with this year’s weak safety class, Pleasant could get drafted as early as the beginning of the sixth round. Pleasant is an intriguing prospect because he is a bigger bodied safety, so he could also be used as an outside linebacker in some run situations for a defense.

As for Paulson, he is one of those guys that’s a safety pick. He’s not athletic enough to become a No.1 tight end in an NFL offense, but he is a reliable receiver who has great hands and catches well in traffic. For that reason, he will certainly have an opportunity to find a role in an offense as either a No.2 or No.3 tight end. It’s hard to see him getting drafted this year, but he will certainly get a phone call from an NFL team looking for his services. One team that may be interested in signing him as a third tight end would be the Pittsburgh Steelers. Paulson isn’t as big as the Steelers’ current tight end Heath Miller, but his style of play is similar. Much like Miller, Paulson isn’t going to put up 6 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown each week. Rather, he’ll be reliable on third downs and give a team two or three important catches each game once he gets acquainted with the NFL.

You can follow me on Twitter @SorianoJoe and Autzen Zoo @Autzen_Zoo.

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Tags: Atlanta Falcons Cam Newton Carolina Panthers Darren Sproles Darron Thomas David Paulson Eddie Pleasant End Zone Report Heath Miller Jacquizz Rodgers Josh Johnson Kyle Casey LaMichael James Mike Tolbert NFL Draft Oregon Ducks Football Philip Rivers Pittsburgh Steelers Ray Rice Ryan Mathews San Diego Chargers Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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