September 17, 2011; Gainesville FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers offensive linesman Ja

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Ja'Wuan James, OT Tennessee

In talking about the Tennessee Vols offensive line, Antonio Richardson and James Stone are both talented and will play a huge role for the Vols this season.  The most intriguing member of that line and one of the more interesting offensive linemen in all of college football is their right tackle, Ja’Wuan James.  James is a terrific right tackle in Knoxville, but he has more than enough ability where he would be playing left tackle for a significant number of teams in college football.  As a result, Tennessee has a pair of enormous bookend tackles that are in the conversation as the best pair in the nation this year.

James has great size, strength, and athleticism to play tackle as well as a mean streak that will show up in the running game.  In pass protection, James offers significant ability but will occasionally just stop his feet and give opponents an opening to work around the edge against him.  James looks like a top 100 pick and it would not be a shock if he was mentioned as someone who could move to left tackle in the NFL but he makes for an extremely talented right tackle prospect as well.  With more consistency and strength, James could make a push for the top 75 and maybe even the top 50 as a great plug and play right tackle that could potentially make the move to left tackle or at least be a backup option there.

Vitals & Build

James is listed at 6’6” 318lbs with a terrific build.  It will be interesting to see just where he measures in as he is remarkably svelte for the position.  He has good functional strength and terrific feet and agility.  James has a pretty good motor but appears to have an extra gear when he feels challenged by the guy across from him.  So much will depend on the advice he gets going forward but if he is looking to maximize his ability at right tackle, he could easily add more weight and strength without sacrificing a problematic amount of athleticism.  Should he want to try to make the move to left tackle going into the NFL, he will obviously want to add strength but he might be more careful with his overall weight as he wants to maximize his feet and ability to slide.

Athleticism

James has impressive athleticism for the tackle position.  Not only does he have the capability to slide and mirror with opponents well, but he is able to get up to the second level with relative ease.  James is able to do these things while maintaining his balance and under control, though he will get out of control on occasion.

Run Blocking

James is not always consistent but he shows the ability to be a force in the running game.  When he locks on, he drives his feet to push the opponent down the field and often times looks to finish and dominate his opponent, displaying a nice mean streak.  There are situations when James will make multiple efforts on the same opponent and just keep pushing the player down the field.

James is also able to make multiple blocks on the same play and has the ability to get up the field and make a block at the second level.  There are times when he will get lost in the woods and maybe he is tired, but he will not be blocking anyone as the play matriculates down the field.

James is able to get to the second level, but he needs to avoid lunging at opponents.  For the most part, he is comfortable in space and able to contribute when he gets there.  He is also natural at kicking outside and leading toss plays.  James gets out of his stance comfortably and accelerates well going forward, looking natural and fluid in the process.

Occasionally, he will have lapses where he lets someone beat him with a quick move but he is usually able to make up ground and correct the issue.  When he locks on, he usually stays locked on but there are certainly times when he will fall off of blocks.  He will also occasionally get caught lunging and miss.

While more strength would help him, especially going to the next level, the only real issues that stop James from being a great run blocker are consistency and occasionally wearing down and getting tired.  Beyond that, he looks like a terrific asset as a run blocker at either left or right tackle.

Pass Protection

James is more than capable of being a great edge pass protector but he runs into issues with effort at times.  When opponents attack inside or attack right at him, he is extremely effective and holds up well to strength and stops opponents attacking the B gap.

James certainly has the ability to protect the edge and mirror against opponents but there are times when he just stops his feet too early and more or less leans on the opponent to force them outside of the play.  For the most part, he is able to get away with it but more talented pass rushers are going to take advantage and his attempts to take the easy way out will get him in trouble.

There are a few examples where James will get beaten by an opponent or faces a talented opponent and he has another gear.  Stepping up to the competition, James will play at an even higher level and his feet are extremely active and he is looking to send a message to the opponent.

Occasionally, he will lunge to cut with inconsistent results.  While it may work to keep the opponent honest and keep them thinking about protecting their legs, James is more than capable of just beating them without it and when he misses, it puts his quarterback at risk.

James has the ability to be a great pass blocker and it will all come down to effort and how bad he wants to be great from week to week to even play to play.

Technique

James has a pretty good punch and is not afraid to use it more than once in the running game.  He is able to knock opponents backward and drive them off the ball.  When he is able to lock on, he is rarely shaken off and really shuts down the opponent from there.  When he stops his feet on pass protection, he is able to use his length and shove opponents outside of the play.  James can continue to work on hand placement but he does a pretty good job of using his hands to win at the line of scrimmage.  There are times when he gets beaten when it comes to hand fighting but not often enough to be a huge concern.

Footwork

James has the feet to be great but his footwork, but he does not always make the effort to use it, especially in the passing game.  When he is motivated and fresh, he is terrific and can mirror extremely well.  He is efficient with his feet in the running game when it comes to getting outside or to the second level.  James is not really limited athletically for what he can do with his feet in college or the NFL, so this year could really see him put the finishing touches on a great career and propel himself to a good start to his NFL career.

System Fit

The most obvious fit is as a right tackle and he is strong enough and athletic enough to play in just about any scheme.  In addition, he can add weight if they need him to be bigger and stronger, but he really should be an attractive fit for most any team in the market for the position.  If he ends up being a right tackle, he should also be adequate enough to kick over to the left side should there be an injury.

The question with James is whether or not there will be teams who look at him as a left tackle.  He appears to have the athleticism to do the job in a number of schemes, but consistency and his ability to protect the edge will be the question.  He might be a player that is drafted to a handful of teams and he can be the team’s right tackle but if he can get to camp and show he can take the left tackle job, that is a huge bonus.

Schedule

Sat, Aug. 31 vs. Austin Peay
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. Western Kentucky
Sat, Sept. 14 at Oregon
Sat, Sept. 21 at Florida
Sat, Sept. 28 vs. South Alabama
Sat, Oct. 5 vs. Georgia
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. South Carolina
Sat, Oct. 26 at Alabama
Sat, Nov. 2 at Missouri
Sat, Nov. 9 vs. Auburn
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Vanderbilt
Sat, Nov. 30 at Kentucky

Notable Games

Oregon provides an intriguing matchup depending on how often he faces Taylor Hart.  Hart is an extremely gifted athlete who has power.  The two going head to head is a great matchup of giants who can move.  The following week, the Vols go to Gainesville to play in the Swamp.  Florida’s Dominique Easley was a good head to head matchup for James and really seemed to inspire James to take his game to another level and take it to Easley as the game progressed.  South Carolina has Jadeveon Clowney, but he will likely spend most of his day going against Antonio Richardson.  Still, Chaz Sutton has the speed that could test Stone and if he takes the easy way out on pass protection with his feet, Sutton could make him pay for it.  Lastly, the game in Tuscaloosa against Alabama should have a good amount of James against Adrian Hubbard.  Hubbard is a freaky athlete with length and explosion and he should make a big step forward this year.

NFL Comparison

James’ game might end up similar to that of Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens.  After playing left tackle for Ole Miss, the Ravens picked him and put him on the right side where he was terrific.  Although they have tried to move him to left tackle a couple of times, he has not been able to make the move effectively and ultimately moved back.  Oher himself says he is more comfortable at right tackle.  Stone has the athleticism to play left tackle but might just be a great right tackle, which seems to come with more value by the year.

Draft Projection

Ja’Wuan James might end up as one of the most intriguing tackles in all of college football because he is more than capable of being a high level left tackle for most of the nation.  He has terrific physical skills and a mean streak that makes him a terrific run blocker with the tools to protect the edge.   James should only get stronger entering his senior year and if he works from start to finish to be consistent.  He enters his season as someone who should go in the top 100 as one of the best pure right tackles heading to the NFL Draft but he might get some looks as a potential left tackle and consistency with the potential to move to the left side could ultimately allow him to get in the top 75 or perhaps the top 50.

Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft Ja'Wuan James Offensive Tackles Tennessee Volunteers Football

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