Name: Richie James
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Middle Tennessee State
Year: Redshirt Junior
Some people probably made it all the way to “5’9”, 176 pounds” and just stopped reading. If you’re still with me, that’s great! Richie James is well worth the attention. You may already be acquainted with Richie if you read Rob Willette’s Devy Top 100 series. He ranked Richie sixth out of all future NFL prospects. That’s some high praise. But before you get too excited let’s just get to it.
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As a Recruit
Richie James was hardly recruited at all, really. 247Sports was the most kind, giving James a three-star rating. Rivals game James a solid two-star rating (not good). The two primary schools bidding for Richie’s services were Georgia Southern and Middle Tennessee. At the very last moment Middle Tennessee snatched him up, and what a steal that has been.
Remember that other low-star recruit that ended up breaking the NCAA career receiving yards record? What was his name? Oh yeah, Corey Davis. That two-star recruit did okay for himself (5th overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft).
If you look at his yards per game, Richie James is actually on an even more impressive pace than Corey Davis. Oh, you don’t believe me? Let’s take a look:
Corey Davis Stats via Sports-Reference.com.
Richie James stats via Sports-Reference.com.
Let me save you some time on those yards per game numbers. Corey Davis averaged 105.56 yards per game throughout his time of absolute domination at Western Michigan. That’s crazy. But what’s even crazier than that? Richie James has averaged 113.81 yards per game through two seasons at Middle Tennessee State. And that’s not even throwing in his rushing yards. James has run for 497 yards on 51 carries with five touchdowns too.
*Stereotypical nonsense about how anyone can ball out against small school competition*
Me: *Clears throat*
Let’s take a look at how Richie James has faired against “Power 5” schools in his first two seasons.
@ Alabama – 10 receptions for 95 yards
@ Illinois – 12 receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown
@ Vanderbilt – 8 receptions for 95 yards
@ Vanderbilt – 14 receptions 183 yards and a touchdown
@ Missouri – 5 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown
Average Game: 9.8 receptions, 128.6 yards, 0.6 TDs
Extrapolated over 12-game college football season: 117 receptions, 1543 yards, 7 TDs
ICYMI: That’s ridiculous! Yes it’s a small sample size, but what Richie James has done in his first two collegiate seasons cannot be overstated.
And yes, stats are great. But let’s take a look at a few things that help Richie get those amazing numbers.
On the Field – Strengths
The easiest thing to see when watching Richie play football is that he seems to treat every snap like it’s going to be his last. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, Richie’s going to execute with precision at full speed. That mentality is the very foundation to everything else that makes Richie James one of the best wide receivers in the nation.
James may only be 5’9”, 176 pounds but he sure knows how to go up and get the ball. Whether he’s running a deep crossing route, down the sideline or in the end zone Richie’s timing is phenomenal. Richie doesn’t have to make contested catches very often since he’s so wide open all of the time, but when he does there isn’t any doubt that he’s coming down with the ball.
“How is open all of the time, Travis? You’re just speaking in hyperbole.”
Nope. Richie’s just about always open for business.
It’s cliché to just call someone a great route runner. Richie is more. His jump off of the line isn’t predictable like many college wide receivers. Richie will win early based on where his defender is lined up or leaning and it’s already over. If the defender follows his first step then Richie utilizes his hips and head fakes to sell what needs to be sold. He’s a creative receiver that can create just enough space against virtually any defender.
Route running and tenacity are both super important, but what makes Richie James really fun to watch is what he does with the ball is in his hands. On short routes Richie’s quick decision making helps him elude the first defender with ease. On mid-long range routes he’ll use his body well to protect the ball, and then extend the play with a stiff arm or just keep the legs churning. James has fantastic quick twitch agility that just makes him a joy to watch in the passing and even running game.
He can do it all.
On the Field – Weaknesses
But like any and every college wide receiver it can’t possibly all sunshine and rainbows.
There are definitely smaller wide receivers in the NFL who are absolutely electric. Richie James will simply have to prove that he like Jamison Crowder, Randall Cobb, and others, can in fact compete against the best athletes on the planet. He can beat college defensive backs and linebackers. But if he wants to win in the NFL he’ll have to continue working on a few things that can help him overcome his stature.
As I mentioned earlier he can win with his quickness off the line, but if his first move doesn’t work he can sometimes shuffle and hesitate to try and set up a better second move (which generally works anyway). If he does that in the pros he’ll just get jammed by the better corners. That kind of thing can be cleaned up with improved technique beyond just his feet (could use his hands more aggressively off the line).
It’s really hard to find many things that need improving with Richie, but if he just slightly improves his consistent hand technique on catches he’ll be able to bring the ball down more often in contested situations in the pros. He really does use solid technique most of the time, but if Richie feels like he has space he’ll cradle it instead of catching with his hands. Space can close quick in the NFL.
I had to watch an re-watch several games to find any holes in Richie’s game. Richie James is just simply the real deal. NFL teams are going to have a hard time passing on James for very long next spring if Richie James does indeed choose to leave MTSU after 2017. The size concerns might be the only real question surrounding his future fantasy football season. However, in the right situation Richie James could easily play inside, outside, in the backfield and anywhere else his future NFL team would have him.
Some highlights for the road: