40 Time: 4.85
Scout.com Draft Ranking: 17th overall, 4th at position
Projected draft slot: Mid first round
Strengths: James is quick off the snap, plays low with leverage and immediately alters his angle of attack. He is fluid moving up and down the line of scrimmage, redirects to the action and displays great range. Rarely off his feet, James collapses outside-in to defend the run. Good speed to the sidelines and always working to get involved in the action.
Weaknesses: If a blocker engages him, he has a tough time getting free. He also has difficulty if opponents run straight at him.
James is a tremendous pass rusher coming off a terrific senior campaign where he claimed Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. He makes a lot of plays up the field and is tough to block. A history of injuries has raised durability questions.
After missing the entire 2003 season with a hip injury, Erasmus James had a breakout 2004 campaign, both for Wisconsin and for his prospects in the NFL draft. Before he gained first-round status, however, the questions about the hip injury had to be answered. From a Scout.com report:
"The first thing when you get in there and they're looking down your sheet and they see a hip injury," James said. "And when you see a hip injury, that's a pretty big issue. So they looked at it and checked it out right away."An ankle injury forced him to the sidelines for part of the 2004 season. While problems such as an ankle sprain don't tend to linger and create long-term problems the issue of James' overall durability has come into question.
Luckily for James, the trainers walked away confident of his condition.
"They did a lot," admitted James, "but it passed with flying colors."
There's no question that he's a top-flight talent when he's on the field. His speed, quickness, and always-running motor force opposing offensive coordinators to game plan around him. He excels as both a pass rusher and against the run (although, as mentioned, you can run right at him with some success).
James' athletic ability is such that he's being looked at as a potential linebacker in a 3-4 scheme even though he's worked out of a three-point stance his entire college career. While at 270 he's not a classic "tweener", the problem is that James may not have the size to properly defend the run as an end, and may not have the agility to hold up in pass coverage. However, he was quick to eschew such concerns.
"I think I'd be a very good fit in a 3-4," James said. "I think I can be good against the run. I got great hip extension and this past year I've proven to the scouts that I can stop the run. I feel very comfortable."
The question is, given his injury questions, can an NFL team feel comfortable about drafting him?
Fit With Redskins
Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache has let it be known that he would love it if the Skins would add James to his unit. There's no question that James would be a good fit in virtually any NFL system, including that of Gregg Williams. He could have instant impact when it comes to the pass rush and would be all over the field on every play. With a rotation in place with James, Philip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn, James' durability questions would be less of an issue than they would be in a place where he was expected to play every snap.
It would be a terrific reach to take him with the #9 pick, however, if he falls to #25 that would likely mean that, players such as Marcus Spears, David Pollack and Dan Cody are gone. Would they take James, probably the most talented of the three or pass due to the health concerns? It depends on how much of a voice Greg Blache has in the draft room.