With San Francisco 49ers RB LaMichael James on the trading block, the question remains not if but when will he be traded. A running back that has the speed, elusiveness, and scat-back ability to be a home-run threat, he is by far superior than any running back in this year’s draft class making his trading value at an all-time high. And with teams moving toward a dual-threat running back in a pass-happy league you can be sure the 49ers will be fielding plenty of offers as they try and strike the best deal for the third-year running back.
However, which potential trading partners that have a need for a running back would also be the best fit for his skill-set? I have identified five teams with a full analysis on why I believe they would be an ideal fit for the former second-round pick. So without further ado, the teams are:
1. Denver Broncos
Analysis: The window of opportunity is closing for QB Peyton Manning and with RB Montee Ball likely splitting time with RB Ronnie Hillman, there is no question they need more firepower making James a logical choice. A young running back with low mileage on the odometer, James would be an ideal fit in Adam Gase’s offense. An offense that uses screens this would be a match made in heaven for James. Not to mention, Gase has ties to San Francisco as he was the Offensive Assistant in 2008, a deal would not be out of the ordinary, especially in the AFC.
Trade scenario: The Broncos having seven draft picks would likely need to trade away their fourth-round pick (No. 131) if they want James in mile high.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Analysis: The Falcons running game in 2013 was downright awful. And with the Falcons doing absolutely nothing in free-agency to solidify the position, James may be in their plans. Current OC Dirk Koetter loves to use both screens and play-action and would surely love to have a game-changer of James’ caliber as this offense would be that much more dangerous.
Trade scenario: The Falcons own 10 draft picks in this year’s draft. In a straight one-for-one deal, I can see the 49ers receiving one of their fourth-round draft picks at (No. 103) for James. However, if the 49ers want to move up in the first-round and target WR Mike Evans at (No. 6), I can see them packaging James, their first-round pick (No. 30) and an additional third-round pick (No. 94) to grab the second best receiver in this year’s deep draft class.
3. Dallas Cowboys
Analysis: The Cowboys are in dire need of a 1-2 punch in the backfield. And with the uncertain future of RB DeMarco Murray as his contract expires after this season, the Cowboys would be wise to find an insurance policy. Enter James. A player that would play for his hometown team while also playing under OC Bill Callahan makes this a perfect fit.
Trade scenario: The Cowboys currently own the No. 16 pick in the first-round, and if my prediction is correct as I have them trading with either them or the Baltimore Ravens at No. 17 to take WR Brandin Cooks, this deal can be done. A scenario that would now include James, I can see the 49ers parting ways with James, their first-round pick (No. 30) and their third-round pick (No. 94) for the rights to grab Cooks at No. 16 if he’s still on the board.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Analysis: With the uncertain future of RB Ray Rice, the Ravens may need to look for a plan B and James may be the answer. The 49ers-Ravens relationship is as positive as it gets as the Harbaugh brothers strike win-win deals with the first being WR Anquan Boldin. A player that would have been released with no compensation, the 49ers were open to take on the aging but invaluable leader. Now, with the Ravens having a need at running back, James may be the next in line to be dealt.
Trade scenario: Just like the Dallas Cowboys this trade would be very similar as I have the 49ers targeting Cooks. A three-for-one deal, look for James to be dealt along with the 49ers first-round pick (No. 30) and third-round pick (No. 94) as they try and land the electrifying and versatile Oregon State product at pick (No. 17). However, the price could be steeper as that third-round pick may actually be the (No. 77) overall selection.
5. New Orleans Saints
Analysis: The Saints already have RB Mark Ingram and RB Pierre Thomas but none of those players provide the skill-set to replace RB Darren Sproles, James does. He is the perfect H-W-S complement and if there is one player I would compare James’ game to it would be Sproles.
Trade scenario: The 49ers are no strangers to trading with the Saints as they dealt OLB Parys Haralson last season for a 2014 seventh-round draft pick (No. 242). If James is dealt to the Big Easy look for them to do a one-for-one deal as the 49ers will likely field their fourth-round pick (No. 126).