In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Ja'Wuan James in the first round from the University of Tennessee. James, a four-year starter in the SEC, has gone up against the best competition in college. He is considered someone with high character and intelligent, he is going to make a difference not only on the field, but off it as well.
Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com states that James has outstanding size, girth and overall body mass with good hand placement. He's able to steer and control blockers once he gets his hands on them. He is a very patient pass protector, meaning that he won't rush to fill a gap and end up missing an assignment.
As far as his weaknesses go, he is slow getting to the second level and struggles to cut off and adjust to moving targets. He doesn't roll off the ball with power and has trouble generating strength or movement in the run game.
Nawrocki continues on and says that the bottom line with James is that he is a big, strong and heavy pass protector with good balance, anchor strength and handle use to handle power and speed. He won't affect the run game as much as he does with the passing game but still has instant starter potential.
After the Dolphins drafted James, Mel Kiper of ESPN had this to say:
"There wasn't a steadier right tackle in college football last season than James, and with Branden Albert installed on the left side, the Dolphins can draft James projecting that he can play right away. We've seen tackles come in and struggle some when you add not only the leap to the NFL but also the shift from one side to the other, but James has a chance to succeed early as he stays home on the right side. There are some flashier options on the board, but maybe none that simply make Miami better like this pick would."
It can be argued that the Dolphins lost two games because of the right tackle position - one against the Baltimore Ravens and one against the Buffalo Bills. Had the Dolphins had a quality right tackle in those games, it's very likely that Ryan Tannehill wouldn't have been crushed in the final moments of the game and would've been able to lead the Dolphins to a win. Had the Dolphins won just one of those games, they would've been in the playoffs.
The lackluster right tackle play also goes beyond these two games. Due to the inability of Tyson Clabo and others to play the position at a high level, the Dolphins had to scale back their playbook. This obviously limited them and what they could and couldn't do.
This is why James is such an important part of the Dolphins. Although his weakness is in the run game, that can be helped with a tight end next to him. It also helps that the Dolphins employ a zone blocking scheme where all the linemen work in unison together rather than each individual doing his own thing against his set man. Joe Philbin confirmed that they aren't too worried about him in the run game when he spoke to the media after James was selected.
"I think the one thing we all felt after watching the tape -- and I think that it is the number one job that an offensive tackle in the National Football League has to get done on a consistent basis is -- we felt like he has the ability to pass block, one on one against defensive ends. That's probably the first thing that really stuck out to us. We felt that he was a good scheme fit in the offensive, but I would say that was the number one thing that jumped out," he said.
Indeed, James is no stranger to success. Coming out of North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia, he was selected to play in the 2010 Under Armour All-America Game. He was considered a four-star recruit by Rivals.com and was rated the eighth best offensive tackle prospect in his class and the sixth best prospect from the entire state of Georgia. The seven offensive tackles that were listed ahead of him in order, from first to seventh were: Seantrel Henderson, Robert Crisp, Shon Coleman, James Hurst, Luke Joeckel, Chaz Green and Jake Matthews.
Once he got to the University of Tennessee, he wasted no time locking down the starting right tackle position and throughout his career, he played in 49 games and started all 49 of them. In fact, his 49 starts set a record for career starts by an offensive lineman in Tennessee history, passing Jeff Smith's 48 set from 1992-1995. To make this even more impressive, he shares the record for career starts by any player in Tennessee history, with Jonathan Hefney (2004-07).
In 2010, he was named Freshman All-SEC by the leagues' coaches. In 2012, James was a part of an offense that averaged 475.9 yards per game (20th in the NCAA), had 315.6 yards of passing offense per game (15th) and allowed just 0.67 sacks per game (fourth).
In 2013, he racked up several more accolades. Specifically, in July, he was named to the 2013 Outland Trophy watch list, which is an award presented to the nation's best interior lineman. In August, he was voted Second-Team preseason All-SEC by the leagues' coaches and in December, he was named Second-Team All-SEC by the Associated Press.
In his final three seasons, he was credited with 35 blocks resulting in touchdowns and in his final 29 games, he allowed only two sacks and eight pressures at right tackle.
As the 2014 first round pick of the Miami Dolphins, James will now look to continue his success in the NFL and he has no doubts that he can succeed.
"I'm a tough, smart offensive lineman. I pride myself on being smart and not making many mistakes. I bring athleticism to the table, strength, and a lot of experience too, being able to play that many games at the position and the conference that I did," he said on a conference call after being draft. "This previous coaching staff I had is a big zone blocking scheme team, the spread and also under center. I'm definitely versatile when it comes to playbooks in zone and blocking schemes."
General Manager Dennis Hickey showed a ton of confidence in James by selecting him with the 19th pick when plenty of critics said he could've traded down and still gotten his man. Dolphins fans all over the world can only hope that Hickey's conviction was right and that James will a dominant right tackle in the NFL.
Matthew Cannata is a columnist for The Phinsider. Be sure to follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs