Terrell Davis, Benjarvis Green-Ellis, and more recently Arian Foster and Afred Morris of the Redskins. All were late round or “no round” draft picks. All started at running back, and they all did a pretty decent job from the day they entered the pro world. As I write this there are rumors circulating about New York possibly trading with New Orleans to get hard running Chris Ivory to bolster the backfield. The roster currently boasts a trio of talented but light weight backs in Joe McKnight, Mike Goodson, and Bilal Powell. The Jets lack that consistent 20+ carry a game power runner that is durable and won’t wear down. In short, a possible feature back.
Enter Mike James. Senior running back, from the University of Miami. Mike James can be the next coming of the aforementioned backs. NFL, ESPN, and CBS have him rated as a 6th round- rookie free agent type of back. I think he’s at minimum a great rotation back on this current roster, and possibly a feature back. He has all the things you want in a guy to carry the ball 250+ times a year.
Positives include, he played every position from running back, to full back, to kick returner for Miami in the last 4 years. The problem was never talent where he backed up Lamar Miller and Damien Berry. The problem was that he was the biggest back they had, and he had great hands so they used him as a fullback, and a part time running back. He never complained, and placed the team over his own success. Because he was never featured, and he never put up gaudy stats ala Monty Ball or Eddie Lacy, the NFL scouts are putting him as a fringe draftable player. The same thing happened to Peyton Hillis at Arkansas who was used as a fullback for Darren McFadden. The loss for the rest of the league this time could be New York’s gain.
Last season alone he caught 30 passes out of the backfield for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also ran it 147 times for 621 yards and six touchdowns. Bear in mind that he did this while splitting carries at tailback and running it as a fullback. He has been all over the field and has experience, catching, blocking, and running.
Measurables-wise he is a well built 5’11″ and 222 pounds. He has a relaxed running style with great forward lean. His combine numbers included a 4.5 40, which for a big back is excellent, 28 bench reps, and a 1.57 second 10 yard split which is on par with much smaller and lighter backs like Jonathan Franklin and Giovanni Bernard. If you look at his workout numbers he gives the best bang for the buck in terms of strength, straight line speed, and initial burst. He has also played in every game in his college career despite having turf toe one season. In about a half dozen clips I’ve seen of him he is not a cutback, juke type of guy. He is more of a patient, find the lane, and let the play develop type of runner. He also outran defensive backs in every clip I saw, or bowled players over and kept running. While he might not do that at the pro level, he has more breakaway speed than Greene who toted the rock last season. He reminds me somewhat of Arian Foster (Houston Texans) in his patience to hit the hole and get positive yardage. I think he could be NFL ready as well.
Because he was never used as a feature back, his stock has never had a chance to climb because he’s never had a chance to showcase his talents. I’ve read about a dozen articles about this guy, and they all say similar things. He is a film junkie. He’s a student of the game. He has always put the team performance above individual stats. He’s mature, and a leader. As of now, I haven’t heard the Jets linked to him in any way, but in my mind this is a no brainer 6th or 7th round pick up. If he goes undrafted (which to me would be a travesty), New York better have his number on speed dial. Otherwise next year we could be saying Terrell Davis, Arian Foster, and Mike James, if only…