The 2018 NFL Draft Prospect series breaks down draft-eligible players, highlighting their college production as well as their NFL potential. It’s important for daily fantasy players to know about NFL rookies before they’ve played a down of professional football because they are among the most misvalued assets in all of DFS. People who know NFL rookies have a significant DFS edge. The draft will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, from April 26-28.
This piece is on Middle Tennessee State wide receiver Richie James, who has declared early for the draft. For the total list of all players leaving school early, see our underclassmen tracker.
For more on all the other receivers in the class, see our 2018 NFL draft wide receiver rankings.
Updated as of Mar. 8.
Redshirt Junior | 5’10″ and 183 Pounds | Born September 5, 1995 (Age: 22) | Projection: Rounds 5-7
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.48 sec | bench reps: 6 | 3-cone: 6.87 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.16 sec | vertical: 35.5 in | broad: 122 in
For a small guy who missed most of last season and played in a non-Power Five conference, James is intriguing. If there’s a Jamison Crowder or maybe even Antonio Brown-esque option in this class, it could be James. A receiver as a junior in high school, James transitioned to quarterback as a senior because that’s what his team needed, but the position change — despite his impressive rushing production as the signal caller (1,044 yards and 15 touchdowns) — hindered his ability to garner interest from major programs as a recruit. As a result, he joined the Blue Raiders and redshirted his first year on campus as he transitioned back to wide receiver.
Once he saw the field as a freshman, James was unstoppable. In 2015 he led the team with 107 receptions and 1,334 yards. The next year he improved upon his production with 105 receptions and 1,625. During this time, he was third in the Football Bowl Subdivision in receptions and yards receiving, and he also chipped in as a wildcat quarterback, turning his 51 carries into 497 yards. In total he had 25 touchdowns in his first 26 games. As a junior, though, he missed a few games in the middle of the season with an ankle sprain, and then later in the year he suffered a broken collarbone and had to miss the rest of the campaign. In total he had only 31 receptions and 10 carries for 347 yards and three touchdowns in five games, but even though he missed time in two of those contests he still managed to capture 26.3 and 50 percent of the receiving yards and touchdowns in the games he played.
Because of his size it’s probable that James will be viewed as a slot-only player, but even if that is his fate he still might be able to find success in the NFL. Minus one 2017 injury-impacted game in which he played only 10 snaps against Minnesota, James played seven games against Power Five opponents in his career: In those contests, he had 67 receptions and five rushes for 870 yards and six touchdowns. With his short-area athleticism and all-around versatility, James has the potential to be a legitimate NFL contributor.
Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports