If you have listened to any of the Draft Insider podcasts, which air Tuesday nights at 9pm, you will know that I have a prospect man crush on Tennessee’s Ja’Wuan James. I see an offensive tackle with excellent size and underrated athleticism.
Heading into this season, I had James as a potential first round prospect based on his upside. His well-rounded game made it easy for me to stick him in the top part of my offensive tackle rankings. This is a player who not only looks the part, but also plays with excellent balance and awareness. I especially love his aggressive style of play in pass protection. James isn’t afraid to initiate the contact and immediately Velcro to his assigned defender. In other situations, he uses his long arms and wide base to protect the edge.
James maintains good leverage throughout the play because of his commitment to keeping his pads down and his natural bend.
This year I wanted to see if he regressed or continued to hold up against the top-level competition he faced in the SEC. It was also important to note that his teammate, Antonio Richardson, is also seen as a top-end prospect. From the games I’ve watched, I have no problem saying that James has been the more consistent of the two Tennessee tackles. He always plays under control, with balance and uses sound technique.
The one thing James really needs to do is show good workout numbers throughout the draft process. Many will look at his size and the fact he played right tackle at Tennessee and want to pigeon hole him as a right tackle only. However, he shows the movement ability and foot speed to play left tackle at the next level.
James could be one of the prospects that really gains traction as we go through the draft process. Coming off the board after the second round seems like a long shot to me, and I actually have him rated as my No. 3 offensive tackle behind Michigan’s Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews.