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James looks like strange fit for 49ers

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted April 27, 2012 @ 11:37 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

While it would be a gigantic stretch to compare them with the Packers, dare we say the Niners all of the sudden have an embarrassment of riches on offense?

Well, not so fast.

The offense’s lack of consistent firepower last season really was a major problem, and while a lot of fresh manpower has been added via both free agency and the draft, the verdict very much is out on an attack that performed well in spurts but never came close to totally getting its act together, particularly on third down.

But hot on the heels of their first-round selection of A.J. Jenkins — a very surprising pick with higher-rated pass catchers such as Stephen Hill and Rueben Randle still available when the Illinois wideout was selected — the Niners pulled off another major surprise late in the second round for a different reason.

While Jenkins filled a specific need, Oregon State RB LaMichael James seemed like excess baggage in the second round, despite his reputation for being a very legitimate home-run hitter.

Do the Niners really need James in their backfield when they already have featured back Frank Gore, a somewhat similar change-of-pace back to James in Kendall Hunter, newly acquired power back Brandon Jacobs and  second-year back Anthony Dixon?

“I just want to go in there and compete,” James said when asked about the multifaceted arsenal he would be joining. “Those guys are great running backs, and I’m sure I can learn a lot of things from those guys. Just try to be the best I can be and help the team win.”

What kind of skill sets does James believe he can bring to the table?

“Whatever they need me to do,” he said Friday evening. “I feel like I have a variety of skill sets. Returning ability, I can run in between the tackles, I can catch the ball, I can do pretty much everything they ask me to do.”

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock immediately made a comparison between James and Patriots do-it-all Danny Woodhead, which certainly seems valid enough. With his exceptional vision and quick-strike ability, look for James to probably push the underachieving Dixon out the door, at the very least.

At the very most, look for James to become the heir apparent to Gore, who is getting to that age where possible replacements must at least be talked about.

James is certainly no stranger to Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh, who saw enough of the Oregon back when he was coaching Stanford.

Get ready for a 49ers backfield that figures to be in constant motion, shifting gears like Steve McQueen’s character in the movie “Bullit” on the streets of San Francisco.

It could be a wild ride indeed.

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