By: Willie Lovato
- Electric in the open field
- Impressive college production
- Good hands
- Home run potential anytime he touches the ball
- Ability to beat press coverage
Electric in the open field - The game plan for Richie James at Middle Tennessee State was simple, get him the ball in open space and sit back and enjoy the show. Whether it's an end-around or quick throw out to the flat, James turns upfield fast and has great open field vision to complement his 4.4 speed. His agility score ranked in the 74th percentile according to Player Profiler.
Versatility - Perhaps his greatest strength is the ability to move all over the field and contribute in multiple ways. James lined up all over the field at Middle Tennessee State, including receiver, running back, and even played some wildcat quarterback.
Impressive college production - James stuffed the stat sheet in his freshman and sophomore seasons, racking up 212 receptions for 2,959 yards and 20 receiving touchdowns. His versatility as a runner came in the form of 51 rushing attempts for 497 yards (10.5 YPC) and 5 rushing touchdowns. His career stats would more than likely be even more impressive if James' junior season wasn't cut short (5 games) due to a broken collarbone and ankle injuries.
Speed - James' doesn't possess elite burner speed, but his 4.4 speed mixed with his ability to track the ball in the air allows him to get behind defenders for big plays. He is also able to get to top speed quickly in the open field and outrun defenders.
Good hands - There is a highlight reel of James making spectacular catches. He is a natural hands catcher and tracks the ball well in the air and in contested catch situations.
Mismatch - Whichever NFL team drafts James will hopefully understand the true mismatch weapon he can be. Putting James in one-on-one situations against linebackers/nickel corners, whether it be via working as the slot receiver, motion/gadget plays, or lining up in the backfield, will provide an opportunity for him to succeed.
Route running - James is able to run and beat defenders with a variety of routes. His role didn't ask him to do that full-time, but he showed that he is entering the league with multiple go-to routes.
Ability to beat press coverage - A common concern with a receiver of James' size is projecting how they will fair against bigger/stronger competition in press coverage. James more often than not was able to use quick feet and good hand usage to beat press coverage.
- Concentration drops
- Manufactured receptions
Size - A player of James' size (5'10" 183 lbs) is usually projected as a slot guy. I agree that he should play in a primarily slot role on the next level but his versatility makes this less of a concern.
Concentration drops - Along with his highlight reel of difficult catches, is another reel of easy completions being dropped by James. This has more to do with his concentration than his hands. This is merely worth noting.
Manufactured receptions - Many of his receptions were basically handoffs. James ran a lot of flat routes which in turn, meant a lot of easy receptions. This doesn't take away from what he did with those touches but his stats may be a little inflated due to this.
Versatility - Yup, you read that right. One of his pros is also a con. This is only a con in the fantasy world, however, due to the fact that the team that drafts him could easily lock him into a gadget role which could limit his upside.
Richie James is an electric playmaker with the ability to line up and contribute all over the field. He will more than likely be used primarily in the slot with other touch opportunities manufactured for him (screens, end-arounds, handoffs). His ability to rip off a touchdown on any play will certainly draw interest from a handful of NFL teams. James should be drafted in the 4-6 round range.
Let's get this out of the way, Richie James will never be an NFL teams #1 receiver, but that doesn't mean he can't have fantasy value. His fantasy upside will rely heavily on the team that drafts him. As I previously mentioned, the chances of a team's offensive scheme and philosophy capping his fantasy upside are real. On the flip side, given the right offensive coaching staff, James could be a steal in rookie drafts this season. If he is used as a legitimate slot receiver and given the manufactured touches discussed previously, he could be a fantasy weapon. The hype around James has picked up as of late so I'd expect him to be a popular mid-to-late-round pick in 2018 rookie drafts.