This month, we're conducting an in-depth breakdown for each of the Jets' undrafted free agent signings. Today we're concluding with a look at offensive lineman Darius James.
The 24-year old James, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 324 pounds, was a two-year starter at Auburn, having previously transferred from Texas.
James was a five-star recruit after having played center, guard and tackle in high school, as well as on the defensive line. As a sense of how rare it is to be a five-star recruit, Quenton Nelson was the only five-star offensive line recruit drafted in 2017.
James was recruited to Texas in 2013 by Mack Brown but redshirted his first year and then Brown left the program before he got a chance to play. As a redshirt freshman, James played in six games, which included two starts. However, he then tore his ACL.
At the end of the season, James announced he would be transferring and ended up going to Auburn instead. Under NCAA transfer rules, he was required to sit out the 2015 season, but he was rehabbing his knee injury anyway.
He started off as a reserve in his junior year, but moved into the starting lineup at left tackle due to an injury. In 2017, he started the spring as the left tackle but got beaten out, although he ended up starting 12 of 13 games at right tackle anyway.
James was not invited to the combine or any high profile all-star games, but the Jets signed him shortly after the conclusion of the draft.
Now let's look at what James brings to the table, divided into categories.
James' pro day numbers across the board were below average to poor, other than his strength numbers, as he managed 30 bench press reps. He has good size though and appears to have good length, although he may need to get into better shape to compete at the NFL level.
James has good experience at all five offensive line positions, although he only played at tackle with Auburn (on the left in 2016 and on the right in 2017).
At Texas, his two starts were at right tackle, but he also had one game where he rotated with another player at right guard.
Most draft experts project James to guard, so his experience as a pass protector on the outside in college could serve him well there. He only gave up one sack as a left tackle in 2016, but was beaten for four sacks last year.
At left tackle, James (#78) showed an ability to mitigate outside pressure by moving his feet well enough and using his strength to redirect his man upfield:
However, he could still be susceptible to inside quickness:
In his brief action at guard, James (#52) showed a similar issue with quickness inside. He was easily beaten on this spin move, although he did battle back to keep his man on the ground after he tripped over:
James is a better run blocker than pass blocker at this stage of his career, although the book on him is that he is much better at the point of attack than he is when required to block on the move.
Here's a good example of him working at the point of attack, driving his man off the line and sealing him to the outside to create a big lane:
In space, he looks less comfortable, taking inconsistent angles and often struggling to engage cleanly. However, on this play, he just about did enough to keep on the block long enough to prevent his man from getting outside:
He shows good promise on this play, showcasing some power to drive his man off the line on a combo block and then peeling off to pick up a block at the second level:
Again, he can struggle with quickness though, as he does here:
James has had some success in short yardage situations when setting the edge or driving his man off the line, but is again less effective when required to block on the move:
Although James is strong at the point of attack, he still has room to improve there. He initially controls his block well on the outside here, but then fails to sustain it once the runner bounces outside:
Here's an example of him badly lunging into a block and losing his balance so his man can get around him and in on the tackle. Again, this points to the fact that he can anchor and play with a wide base, but doesn't look as comfortable in space or on the move:
James had five penalties last season, including two against LSU (a hold and a false start). Prior to that he had no penalties in his junior year and only two at Texas.
James hasn't made any meaningful contributions on special teams and you can probably only expect him to contribute as a blocker on the placekicking unit.
Despite many personnel changes on the line at Auburn, James didn't seem to blow many assignments. However, he showed an inability to deal with a stunt earlier on in his career:
Before he transferred, there were reports that James was unavailable due to academic issues, but it's unclear whether that was anything significant.
James picked up a reputation for having a questionable work ethic while at Texas. He apparently had a habit of skipping workouts and didn't work as hard as he could have to earn a role there.
On his arrival at Auburn, he admits he struggled to keep up in workouts, but he seems to have dedicated himself more in his senior year and hopefully improved his conditioning and maturity.
James made his return from his ACL injury in 2014, but it's unclear whether that has compromised him in any way physically. Prior to attending college, he'd missed time due to breaking each foot in separate incidents.
Last year, he suffered a scary neck injury where he was stretchered off on a board, but fortunately that did not prove serious.
Scouting reports indicate that James might be better suited to a power running scheme. However, Auburn did have some zone blocking plays in their playbook.
His teammate, Austin Golson, was also signed as an undrafted free agent, although James is actually rooming with the other undrafted rookie lineman, Dakoda Shepley. (Note: On the gif above where James peels off the combo block, it's Golson that he initially helps out on the double team).
Elite high school prospects who underachieved at the college level seem to fascinate Mike Maccagnan, so it's not surprising to see them take a look at a player like James.
He's obviously an imposing physical specimen with some rawness to his game, but he'll have to improve upon his athletic ability to have a chance of succeeding at the pro level.
James will look to show enough potential over the course of the preseason for the Jets - or perhaps another team - to carry him on their practice squad and continue to develop him.