I'm not saying James will become a great pro player. I'm not saying James will become a good pro player. I'm not saying James will become anything other than a bust.
What I am saying is that James offers potential far above his reported value of a 6th or 7th round selection. Per Rotoworld:
ESPN's Mark Dominik stated on NFL Insiders that he believes the 49ers could only recoup a sixth- or seventh-round pick for 2012 second-rounder LaMichael James "if they're lucky."
Thomas Dimitroff has made such trades before. He successfully turned a 7th round pick into Domonique Foxworth, who played so well he cost too much for Atlanta. And, of course, less successfully, Tye Hill. I liked seeing Atlanta sign Gabe Carimi, a guard/tackle who flamed out in Chicago after being a first-round pick. Carimi will likely remain a bad player but has the potential to be a good, even great player. The Falcons gave up nothing for a guy with a ceiling much higher than the typical camp body.
Regardless, Dimitroff used to be a bit more willing to surrender a draft pick for a guy with potential. The back end of Dimitroff's drafts have been filled with disappointments. After round four, Dimitroff has hit on Matt Bosher, Kroy Biermann, Vance Walker and a couple of guys who contribute on special teams.
Seriously, the late rounds have been a wasteland of Kerry Meiers and William Middletons. Guys not nearing the talent LaMichael James has.
James is still 24. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound back blazed the combine with his 4.45 40 speed. As an Oregon Duck, he was a factor in the pass game as well as special teams. James was drafted 61st overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 draft. He has averaged some nice yardage but has gotten shockingly few touches behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.
James has obviously turned off whatever Harbaugh coaches the 49ers, don't pretend like you know which one it is. Probably Jermaine Harbaugh? Tito Harbaugh? James has clearly not fit in with the 49ers for any number of reasons. One of the Harbaugh brothers has decided to try to trade James the offseason after trading 2012 first round selection A.J. Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs.
I speak, perhaps not so much as to James as a potential contributor, but to how I think this franchise should be operating in general. While you will get your Tye Hills, it is all worth it when you hit on your Domonique Foxworths.
Whether James has a defined role, is only a spot player, or is quickly cut before playing out the remaining two years on his contract doesn't matter. He is a guy has the potential to be very good, if not great. Not to mention the Falcons could use an infusion of youth and talent at the running back position. The Falcons have three picks in the seventh round, and it would be irresponsibly optimistic to think all three selections will end up on the final roster.
If Dimitroff takes the chance on enough cheap players who can be good or great, the Falcons will push for the top the NFC every year.