NFL combine: Tackle Ja’Wuan James working to further increase draft stock

 Ja'Wuan James

Tennessee offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James. (Wade Payne/Associated Press)

Despite boasting terrific size at 6 feet 6 and 312 pounds, and with a college resume that featured 49 starts in 49 games played over four years, Tennessee right tackle Ja’Wuan James doesn’t rank as his school’s most highly touted offensive line prospect.

That distinction belongs to junior left tackle Antonio Richardson, a projected second-round pick. But this offseason, James has set out to prove that he too deserves early-round consideration, and that he can develop into a quality NFL player. He said that he and Richardson have a friendly competition over who can market himself the best and get drafted highest.

James helped his draft stock after a solid showing during the week of Senior Bowl practices last month. He currently projects as a third- to fourth-round pick. He hopes that quality performances in all of the skills evaluations and interviews this week at the combine help him further.

James feels well prepared both for the rigors of this week of scrutiny at the combine and for the NFL game.

He interviewed with representatives from many teams at the Senior Bowl and knows what to expect this week. During his college career, he played for three different coaches with varying offensive line schemes. After playing more of a man scheme, the Vols switched to a zone-blocking scheme this past season.

James also believes the competition he faced in college will help prepare him for the speed of the NFL.

“I faced great pass-rushers all the time in the SEC,” he said. “I can pass block and I can run block. … We were predominantly zone this year, doing the spread zone, and read option. But at the end of the day, zone is zone.”

Further explaining what he deems as his strengths, James said, “Definitely my ability to move. My ability, my strength, and I pick up things quickly. Playbooks, we had three different coaches, and so that’s three different playbooks. That definitely helps put you ahead of the [curve]. I feel like I have the skill set to do a lot of different things.”

After starting in every game he played in college, James aims to continue the streak. He knows that could prove challenging. But he welcomes it.

“You have to come in with the mind-set as a starter, but try to learn from the older guys,” he said. “All you do is go out to compete.”

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