As the Rookie of the Year hype has mostly fallen on Daniel Jones, Moustache Minshew and Kyler Murray, Raiders’ running back Josh Jacobs is being unjustly slept on.
DraftKings player futures list pegs Jacobs fourth in ROY odds at +1000, behind Marquise Brown (+900), Minshew (+350), and Jones (+200). That makes Jacobs an intriguing bet as soon as the national media catches on to the fact that he’s been debatably the best Raider this season.
Through four games, Jacobs sits among the top ten in myriad rushing statistics. He’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in both rushing yards and yards per carry among qualifying running backs at 307 and 5.0, respectively. And while yards per carry can be skewed by the presence of a dominant offensive line, Jacobs places No. 4 in the NFL in yards per carry after contact of runners with over 30 carries this season at 3.6, per Sports Info Solutions. A sign that the Raiders offensive line hasn’t been run blocking very well.
On average, Jacobs is hit after 1.4 yards and churns out 3.6 extra with his combination of elusiveness, power, and contact balance. The only players that Sports Info Solutions lists above Jacobs include Raheem Mostert, Gus Edwards, and Leonard Fournette, whose numbers have been inflated due to a few breakaway runs.
On 22.6 percent of his carries, Jacobs forces a broken tackle, good for No. 9 in the NFL. And when it comes to missed tackles forced per carry? He sits at No. 4.
Gruden has been trying to pound the rock between the tackles with Jacobs, and the results have been mostly positive. Of his 62 carries, 31 percent have been inside runs and 63 percent have come off tackle, with only four total carries coming on the edge.
He’s had success in every situation, notching 4.1 yards per carry on inside runs, 4.9 yards on off-tackle runs, and 9.0 yards on his limited sample of outside touches. Once Gabe Jackson is back in the fold and the Raiders’ offensive line begins to fully coalesce, Jacobs may become deadly on interior rushes.
Jacobs is putting up impressive numbers to say the least, but the fact that he’s done so without being at full strength for much of the young season should give Raider Nation hope that he’s only scratching the surface. He left Week 2 against Kansas City with a groin injury, and revealed that he had lost 10 pounds due to illness prior to the Week 3 matchup against Minnesota.
There’s almost no chance that he’s at full strength just a couple weeks after dealing with those maladies, but he’ll likely round into form as the season progresses.
Jacobs has never been a featured running back, as he played quarterback in high school and was part of a back-by-committee approach at Alabama. Thus, it is unclear how he will hold up with the constant punishment from NFL defenses. If he was made of steel, Gruden might consider giving Jacobs the ball every play, as 25.8 percent of his carries have gone for first downs.
If you believe in Jacobs’ ability to stay healthy, he’s a solid bet to make the Pro Bowl this season and is a great futures bet at +1000 for the offensive ROY award.