Dolphins Draft Ja'Wuan James In First Round

Posted May 8, 2014

Tennessee tackle started all 49 games he played at Tennessee.

For Ja’Wuan James, being in New York City for the 2014 NFL draft just wasn’t his thing.

Instead, it was from his couch in Georgia, surrounded by family members who had come down from New Jersey, that James found out he had been selected by the Miami Dolphins with the 19th overall selection in the first round.

“I’m not one of those guys that likes cameras in my face,” James told South Florida reporters via conference call. “I don’t like to be like that. I just like to be around my loved ones. This is cool just being at home on my couch.”

The selection of the University of Tennessee offensive tackle continued the rebuilding of the Dolphins offensive line, which began in the offseason with the signing of Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert.

James, a 6-foot-6, 311-pound offensive lineman, started all 49 games he played at Tennessee, where he was a teammate of Dolphins 2013 third-round pick Dallas Thomas. James, who originally committed to the University of Alabama before changing his mind and going to Tennessee, stepped into the starting lineup as a true freshman in 2010.

“He was always a targeted player for us,” Dolphins General Manager Dennis Hickey. “We’re really excited about the skill set that he brings and the person that he is. We had a conviction for the player and we’re excited to add him to our roster. He was the best player for us.”

James was among the non-local prospects invited prior to the draft by the Dolphins, who also spent a lot of time with him after his Pro Day workout.

“The OL coach (John Benton), he came to my school, talked to me for an hour after my Pro Day and we went over some things,” James said. “I got an opportunity to go down there and it felt right. It felt like a great place to go in and work. Also, I have Dallas Thomas down there. He told me about the coaches and everything. It just felt great.”

James’ 49 starts at Tennessee were a school record for an offensive lineman. James earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2013 when he was the team’s senior captain.

Experience and durability obviously are among the attributes James will bring to the Dolphins.

“I’m a tough, smart offensive lineman,” James said when asked about his strengths as an offensive lineman. “I pride myself on being smart and not making many mistakes. I bring athleticism to the table and a lot of experience, too, being able to play that many games at the position in the conference I did.”

James should go to training camp with an opportunity to compete for a starting job. Veteran Tyson Clabo ended last season as the starter at right tackle but currently is an unrestricted free agent.

One thing that will help James is his familiarity with the zone-blocking scheme the Dolphins employ.

“I was fortunate enough to have three different coaches and we did a lot of different things,” James said. “The previous coaching staff I had was a big zone-blocking scheme team and the spread and under center. I’m definitely versatile when it comes to the playbook.”

James, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Arts and Sciences in December, was one of four Tennessee offensive linemen invited to the scouting combine and the first selected.

“Definitely a lot of pride,” James said. “Our whole O-line was built on pride. We’ve got a lot of great guys. We joke around and say, who’s the best? I really appreciate this opportunity going first, but we’ve still got a lot of good guys there.”

James is the 12th player from Tennessee drafted by the Dolphins and the fourth offensive lineman, after Thomas last year, Harry Galbreath in 1988 and John Boynton in 1968.

James is the first offensive tackle taken in the first round by the Dolphins since 2008 when they selected Jake Long first overall. The Dolphins now have taken eight offensive tackles in the first round: James, Long, Vernon Carey (2004), Billy Milner (1995), Richmond Webb (1990), Jon Giesler (1979), Darryl Carlton (1975) and Doug Crusan (1968). Like James, Carey also was the 19th overall selection.

“I really appreciate this opportunity,” James said. “I’m just going to come in and grind.”

NOTES: Hickey said James was one of 13 players the Dolphins had targeted in the first round. … Head Coach Joe Philbin said the new-look offensive line has started taking shape and the building process soon will go into full force. “We’ve been working hard at it,” Philbin said. “The guys that have been partaking in the offseason program have done a good job so far. When we get the 90 guys in the building, we’ll start working with each and every one of them and see how it comes together.” … One of the returning players on the offensive line is James’ former college teammate Dallas Thomas, who saw action at both guard and tackle as a rookie last season. Philbin said Thomas has made clear progress since last year. “He’s stronger than he was,” Philbin said. “He’s been one of the guys who’s been here since February working out. He’s been doing a good job on the field. He’s a guy that gives us some flexibility and we’re going to get a plan in place for him.” … Hickey said he was excited about what’s ahead for the Dolphins in the second and third rounds Friday. The Dolphins hold the 18th pick in the second round, the 50th overall. “We’re excited,” Hickey said. “We still feel like there’s a lot of good players on the board. We think there’s going to be a lot of good options for tomorrow.” … Philbin said the thing that jumped out about James was his pass-blocking ability. “The one thing that we all felt after watching the tape, we felt like he has the ability to pass-block one-on-one against defensive ends,” Philbin said. “That’s probably the first thing that stuck out. We felt like he was a good scheme fit.”

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