After being academically ineligible his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin, Erasmus James burst onto the scene his sophomore season where he managed to record 36 tackles and six sacks. He did that despite the fact he was relegated to a backup role. The following season he claimed one of the starting spots at defensive end where he recorded 52 tackles, four sacks, and 17 quarterback pressures.
For a defensive end to make 52 tackles in 11 games, put him squarely on a collision course to eventually become a first round draft choice. After his impressive junior season, James ended up missing what would have been his senior season in 2003 due to a hip injury that he suffered during the preseason. It took him nearly one full year to rehab the hip injury but he came back to show no ill effects in 2004.
Though his numbers were down last season, he still managed to make 36 tackles, record eight sacks and seven quarterback pressures. That campaign earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Honors and also made him a finalist for the Ted Hendricks, Vince Lombardi, Bronko Nagurski, and Chuck Bednarik awards. Those things happen when you record 124 tackles, 18 sacks, 28 quarterback pressures, and seven forced fumbles in just 36 college games.
Ability- James is a fabulous pass rusher whose quick first step makes him a nightmare for offensive tackles to contain on the outside. Along with his initial burst he does a good job of using his rip, club, and swim moves when rushing the passer. With his long frame he also makes good utilization of his reach to keep blockers off his body until he can shed and make the tackle. He shows good lateral movement that often shadows ball carriers and does not allow them to turn a play up the field on an outside run. Using his quickness he has the ability to string those plays out and force backs to run back to the inside or force them to the sidelines.
But what separates good defensive ends from great defensive end is lower body strength. That's the foundation of every football player's game and James possesses better than average leg strength for a defensive end his size. This allows him hold up against larger offensive linemen on rushing downs and it keeps him from being pushed around when fighting through traffic. His upper body strength could use a lot of extra work but at this point in his career the power of his lower body more than makes up for any deficiencies in his physical abilities.
Forecast- James has struggled with injuries throughout his playing career and this has caused NFL Scouts to questions his durability. But it appears he's fully recovered from his hip injury and his play last season has put him on the list of many teams, including the Chiefs, who are in need of a quality pass rusher. Still he has had to deal with minor injuries to his knees and ankles that seemed to linger around longer than usual. Still those injury ailments will undoubtedly scare some teams away from picking him before the Chiefs slot at #15. He could go as low as the 20th -30th pick depending on the runs of players at other positions.
Some compare James physical tools to a Javon Kearse. NFL Scouts believe he could have a similar impact in the league as Kearse did when he broke in with the Titans. Once he gets under the tutelage of professional strength and position coaches he could quickly turn in to a game changer.
Tale of the Tape:
Position: Defensive End
Arm Length: 33"
40 Yard Dash: 4.75
Bench Press: 325lbs