We continue our Emmy award-winning series on the rookie class with Robert James, who knows how to rock a headband. Here's some thoughts on the pros, cons and likely role for young Mr. James, after the jump.
History: James was Arizona State's MVP on defensive in 2007 and carried around "The Beast" as a nickname. As a smallish linebacker, he nonetheless terrorized quarterbacks, especially during that 2007 campaign. The dude lettered in both track and football. Played in the shadow of others at college until his senior year, when he (repeat) rang up his most excellent campaign.
Pros: Extremely determined to make tackles and is capable of willing himself to bring down guys bigger than himself. Has surprisingly excellent coverage skills, which could make him an option at strong safety. James is highly regarded for his instincts and football intelligence, which keeps him from getting tied up on the wrong side of the field. Fast enough and tough enough to hang with most tight ends.
Cons: His frame is too small to add much more bulk, and at 5'11 and 219 he's likely to bounce off many of the league's bigger offensive linemen. He lacks elite speed and his tackling skills probably won't translate very well to the next level. Because he doesn't have superb size, he's much more likely to play at strong safety in the NFL; with Milloy, Stone and DeCoud possibilities there, he's likely to be buried down on the depth chart. Was basically a one year wonder at Arizona State and missed half of 2006 with a concussion, leaving him on slightly shaky medical ground. James also carries the dreaded "freelancer" label, which isn't great when you're on the small side.
Role: Like Biermann, James was a pretty puzzling pick. Daren Stone is bigger, stronger and a much more punishing hitter than James, and he's likely to be a backup under Mike Smith. Where does that leave James? Probably as depth at outside linebacker and as help on special teams. He doesn't figure to have a big role in either spot. I honestly don't see where James fits in with this team, and unlike Biermann, he doesn't seem to have the explosiveness to be a pure pass rusher, so his utility skills at outside linebacker and strong safety are likely his only shot of making the team. At best, he'll be valuable depth.
Final Thoughts: Probably the single oddest selection of the draft for Comrade Dimitroff. In a team starved at outside linebacker or safety, James could be a decent backup for a good long while. With this team, the coaching staff would have to lose their minds for him to see the field at the beginning of the season. I'm sure he has potential, but I don't know where he fits with the Falcons.