2017 NFL Draft

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James Cleveland

| | College: Houston
Copyright NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange

Cleveland is a talented receiver who NFL teams may be willing to gamble on if he sufficiently answers questions about his off-field troubles.

After a strong start to his career with the Iowa Hawkeyes, earning Freshman All-Big 10 honors by posting 36 catches for 464 yards, he was dismissed in the spring of 2008 after pleading guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs.

Rather than redshirting at a major program as a transfer in 2008, Cleveland attended Trinity Valley Community College as a sophomore, accumulating 23 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns.

Houston took a chance on his talents in 2009, and was rewarded. Cleveland didn't take long to adjust to Houston's high-flying offense, earning Conference USA Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-conference honors after ranking among the nation's top 10 in receptions and receiving yards per game (104 receptions, 1,214 yards, 14 touchdowns), including 19-241-3 in the team's C-USA Championship Game win over East Carolina.

Cleveland's production dropped as a senior, however, catching 57 balls for 800 yards and six scores while earning honorable-mention all-conference honors. He was also suspended for the Mississippi State contest because of team rules violations, which was uncalled "uncharacteristic" by head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Although his hands are inconsistent, there is little question that Cleveland possess some NFL-caliber physical tools. If scouts believe he can mature and shows better speed than expected in offseason workouts, he may wind up a mid-round selection in April.


Strengths: Shows a good burst off the line of scrimmage. Uses his large frame well to shield away defenders. Used primarily on intermediate throws over the middle of the field, has superb awareness and always seems to find the open holes in the defense. Creates separation when he deciding to be physical at the line. Displays exceptional hand-eye coordination and concentration when catching balls along the sideline. Looks the ball all the way in to a tuck. Uses strong hands while catching the ball in traffic. Shifts down on routes over the middle and finding an open pocket in the defense. Sinks his hips on comeback routes. Uses head fakes well to separate from quicker defenders. Smooth runner who runs with a low base. Effective catching balls on fade routes in the red zone. Very strong runner after the catch. Is not afraid to lower his shoulder to fight for extra yards. Protects the ball well when catching in traffic. Willing downfield blocker for his teammates, very aggressive and will fight hard on blocks until the whistle blows. Team captain in 2010.

Weaknesses: Does not possess great speed. Tends to catch with his body rather than his hands. Does not use his hands aggressively to beat the jam at the line. Hands are inconsistent, as he will lose concentration and struggles to flip his hips to adjust to balls thrown behind him. Takes a false step at the line of scrimmage. Does not have a great pressure step and tries to run around defenders. Tends to round his routes. Shows limited creativity with separation moves. Will not blow by anyone when running with the ball in space. Carries the ball loosely when running after the catch. Missed part of 2010 spring practices due to January surgery to repair a torn right labrum. Suspended in October 2010 for team rules violation. Has shown the propensity to push and shove after the whistle.

--Jackson Boyd

2009 Season

Team leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions … ranked among nation's top-eight receivers in receptions and receiving yards per game … made his Cougar debut against Northwestern State during the season opener … posted two receptions for 18 yards against the Demons … hauled in six catches for 62 yards at No. 5/6 Oklahoma State … finished with eight catches for 85 yards and a score against Texas Tech … scored the opening points of the game with a 6-yard touchdown reception against the Red Raiders … led all players with 14 catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns at C-USA rival UTEP … enjoyed touchdown receptions of 18 and 19 yards against the Miners … led all players with 11 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns at Mississippi State … caught a 6-yard touchdown pass at C-USA rival Tulane.

Finished with four catches for 31 yards against the Green Wave … hauled in 13 catches for 190 yards and two touchdowns against C-USA rival Southern Miss … led all players with 12 catches and three touchdowns and added 167 receiving yards at C-USA rival Tulsa … recorded scores of 4, 36 and 1 yards against the Golden Hurricane. C-USA Championship Game: Set numerous title game marks with 19 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns at East Carolina … scored the Cougars' first points on a 57-yard touchdown reception and added scoring catches of four and 24 yards … tied a Houston single-game record with 19 catches … became only the 10th player in Houston history to record at least 200 receiving yards in a game.

2007 Season

Named to Freshman All-Big Ten Team at Iowa … had 36 catches for 464 yards in one season for Hawkeyes … top game was seven-catch, 101-yard output at Purdue … led team with 61 yards on three receptions, including a long of 40 yards against Northern Illinois … finished with four receptions for 77 yards at Wisconsin.

Off-Field Issues

2010: Suspended for the Mississippi State contest because of team rules violations, which was uncalled "uncharacteristic" by head coach Kevin Sumlin.

2008: In February 2008, police found non-prescribed 21 units of Oxycodone and 24 doses of carisoprodol in Cleveland's dorm room desk. Pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs. Was fined, received probation and a deferred judgment.

Junior College

Named to the SWJCFC All-Conference First Team … had 23 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns at Trinity Valley Community College.

High School

Two-time First Team All-Greater Houston and All-District … Honorable Mention All-State as a senior … recorded 135 receptions for 1,928 yards and 16 touchdowns in high school career … led 7-on-7 team to a state championship as a senior … recorded 135 receptions for 1,928 yards and 16 touchdowns … had 46 receptions for 719 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior … posted 73 receptions for 985 yards and four touchdowns as a junior.


Full name is James Lee Cleveland … born March 7, 1988, in Baytown, Texas … son of Anne Cleveland and James Eggleston … majoring in sociology.


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