San Francisco 49ers: What Is LaMichael James’ Trade Value?


Dec 29, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James (23) runs the ball in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the 2012 draft, the San Francisco 49ers selected LaMichael James with the 61st pick. Fans of the 49ers have been clamoring to see more of James, claiming that he’s a play maker and could help the team win. Unfortunately for them, their calls have not been heeded.

Through two seasons, James has not been used much. In 2012 he only had 27 carries for 125 yards and in this past year he only carried the ball 12 times for 59 yards. He has been used as a kick returner and recently a punt returner, but his contributions to the offense have been minuscule. And if you believe the recent drama, James isn’t exactly thrilled not being used in San Francisco.

People from all around the web have suggested that the 49ers just trade James for a draft pick. But how high of a draft pick? I’ve seen people suggest anywhere between a second rounder and a seventh rounder.

Now, if you’re expecting to read how Chip Kelly or some other coach will give up a third rounder for James, you’re going to be disappointed. The sad reality is while he hasn’t been given the opportunity to show his full ability, he hasn’t exactly lit up the field when he has been given chances. Just for reference, the 49ers gave up a sixth-round pick for Anquan Boldin last offseason. A sixth-round pick. For Anquan Boldin. The same Anquan Boldin who essentially carried the Baltimore Ravens’ offense to a Super Bowl win.

I understand the situation that was going on with Boldin and the Ravens. He didn’t want to take a pay cut, they were going to cut him anyways, the coaches are brothers, yeah yeah yeah. The bottom line is, very rarely do players get traded for higher-round draft picks. Draft picks are extremely valuable to teams, so it usually takes quite a lot for teams to part ways with them.

Basically, all of James’ best plays have come on kick and punt returns. He’s had a few decent runs including the one in the NFC Championship last year, but if a general manager is going to trade a second- through fifth-round draft pick for a couple of 15-yard runs, then I have a bridge to sell him.

It’s no secret the the 49ers probably don’t use James to his full potential. When he was drafted many people, including myself, envisioned a Darren Sproles-like role for him in the offense. But either Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman couldn’t find a place for James on the field, or James hasn’t shown enough in practice to be featured in the offense. Coaches like Chip Kelly and Sean Payton could probably use James in their systems, but the market isn’t exactly burning for undersized, third down backs.

Unfortunately for James, he was drafted by a team with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon and, later on, Marcus Lattimore. But equally unfortunate for the 49ers, they drafted him with a second-round pick. James is probably never going to see the field enough nor play well enough to warrant a second-round pick and the 49ers are never going to get that pick back.

The 49ers would probably be able to get a conditional seventh-round pick for James. Maybe a sixth-rounder depending on if it’s a good day and if Trent Baalke is his usual deal-selling self. I’m sure both sides wouldn’t mind a trade. The 49ers would get something for James, and James would be able to try to catch on somewhere else. But the most likely scenario is that James will play out the entirety of his contract and sign with another team as a free agent.