Over three seasons at Middle Tennessee State, Richie James proved to be an offensive weapon in every sense of the word. Listed as a wide receiver, James lined up as a wildcat quarterback, in the backfield as a running back and in the slot as a receiver all with regularity. James ended his college career having averaged an insane 12.5 yards per touch, scoring 28 touchdowns along the way. For good measure, he completed six of eight passes for 80 yards, too.
Undersized at 5-10 and 178 pounds with a history of injuries, James likely won’t ever be a regular starter in the NFL. But he’s a dynamic playmaker capable of breaking off the big play anytime he touches the ball and can be an effective pro touching the ball 6-10 times a game.
When he was lined up at wide receiver, James worked almost exclusively out of the slot. His combination of speed and change of direction regularly won against overmatched cornerbacks. In particular, James has great success with double moves; it’s almost unfair the way he’s able to separate on sluggo patterns.
movement's so smooth pic.twitter.com/u42yqq2LlL— Alistair's Cut-ups (@alistairscutups) March 30, 2018
Defenders have to respect James’ speed out of the slot and he was regularly afforded a cushion that gave him inside position on in-breaking routes as a result.
Nice to see James push up-field immediately, take what you can get pic.twitter.com/CXmzrRFYIO— Alistair's Cut-ups (@alistairscutups) March 30, 2018
Although he won’t win above the rim or on contested catches with any regularity, he will get on top of defensive backs on deep routes and win consistently.
reaches out and SNATCHES it pic.twitter.com/yXfGW00s7p— Alistair's Cut-ups (@alistairscutups) March 30, 2018
Another reason it’s tough to envision James as a regular starter out of the slot: Far too many drops. On short routes or around the line of scrimmage, drops aren’t a huge risk; over the middle of the field, it’s a turnover waiting to happen.
James possesses great burst and ability to change directions getting the ball out of the backfield. Despite being under 180 pounds, he’ll be able to survive getting the ball and running between the tackles a couple times a game simply because of his burst at the line of scrimmage.
Undersized but he'll survive between the tackles a few times a game simply because of his burst at the line of scrimmage pic.twitter.com/tpMYIBZRmy— Alistair's Cut-ups (@alistairscutups) March 30, 2018
the ability to open up your hips and change direction at top speed is an absolute killer pic.twitter.com/iooQ2FuZSh— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 30, 2018
With easy separation out of the slot and outstanding speed to the outside on screen passes, sweeps and outside runs, it comes down to getting James the ball creatively in space and allowing him to do what he does best.
Disrespectful finish that Golden Tate would be proud of pic.twitter.com/hatkWDao3c— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 30, 2018
Glides down the sideline pic.twitter.com/CGcn8L6Y8s— Alistair's Cut-ups (@alistairscutups) March 30, 2018
James’ fluidity in and out of his breaks is outstanding, and he’s able to change direction with ease. However, turning his body around to find the football is an issue on downfield routes and James is best served on deep passes put out in front of him.
That poor LB (don't give James the sideline) pic.twitter.com/BWLSyUVQvG— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 30, 2018
After the catch or on runs, James bounces off tacklers, maintains balance and continues downfield like a natural.
Standard 'what the hell? how??' stuff after the catch from him pic.twitter.com/nVMyLYUfTh— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 30, 2018
Richie James has some J.D. McKissic to his game. Will end up being more of WR, but just get him the ball however and let him takeoff at 100 mph pic.twitter.com/CXAfTtWoSR— Alistair Corp (@alistaircorp) March 30, 2018
Overall, James can give a team a handful of extremely productive touches per game. In the modern NFL, that’s a valuable skill that should get him drafted during the final few rounds of this year’s draft. As long as James ends up in a system that maximizes his ability, he’ll be a versatile, entertaining piece out of the gate.