The Raiders swiped up running back Josh Jacobs with the 24th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Considered an early selection by some, it is easy to see why the Raiders were high on the Alabama running back. Drafted for his traits and not necessarily his production, projections for Jacobs are hard to make as his numbers from college don’t paint the full picture.
A perennial ‘back-up’ in the Crimson Tide’s system, Jacobs spent most of his three years sharing snaps with stars like Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough, and Najee Harris.
Despite seeing limited work, the numbers Jacob put up do hint at some trends that should continue as he joins the Raiders. Let’s take a look at both facets of his game and try to predict what he will do in his first year with the Silver and Black.
Jacobs will come in and instantly be the Raiders best running back, as he should being a first round draft pick. Doug Martin and Jalen Richard will push him for carries, but the expectation is that Jacobs will be the three-down back in 2019.
With elite vision and physicality, Jacobs is a perfect fit to replace Marshawn Lynch in the Raiders backfield. With a behemoth offensive line in front of him, Jacobs should have plenty of gaping holes to run through (assuming Tom Cable doesn’t completely ruin the unit).
The right side of the offensive line in particular should be a huge strength in the running game. With Trent Brown and Gabe Jackson mauling defenders, expect Jacobs to churn out a lot of big plays. If Brown and Jackson can get him to the second level, Jacobs is more than capable of making a defender or two miss to pick up chunk yardage.
Jacobs never accrued 1,000 yards in a season while at Alabama, but there is no reason why he can’t at the professional level with more opportunities. Tallies of 567, 284, and 640 yards in his freshman through junior years don’t jump off the page, but with carry totals of 85, 46, and 120 respectively (6.67, 6.17 and 5.33 YPC in those three years) it makes a little more sense why Jacobs never hit the 1,000 yard milestone.
In his junior season, Jacobs had a knack for finding the endzone, tallying 11 rushing touchdowns in 2018. Due to his physicality and vision, he was utilized a lot in goal line situations and made defenses pay by lowering his shoulder and plowing in for the touchdown. With Lynch no longer in Oakland, Jacobs will likely fill in that same role for the Silver and Black.
Facing less competition for carries and running behind a monster of an offensive line, it is not out of the question for Jacobs to put up big rushing numbers, but it is unlikely that he will reach the elusive 1,000 yard mark.
Prediction: 750-850 yards, 8 touchdowns
Aside from his vision and patience, Jacobs’ best trait is hands, making him a dual-threat out of the backfield. While at Alabama Jacobs proved to be a consistent pass catcher, tallying reception totals of 14, 14, and 20 in his freshman through junior seasons. In those seasons respectively, Jacobs recorded 156, 168, and 247 yards, a nice bonus to his rushing totals.
His versatility will be valued and leaned on heavily, but Jalen Richard will surely push Jacobs for a role in the passing game as Richard recorded 68 receptions for 607 yards last season. Possessing pass-catching ability means the Raiders can mix up their looks on early downs and try to catch defenses on mismatches with Jacobs being matched up with slower linebackers.
Don’t expect Richard like numbers for Jacobs, but he will definitely put up a respectable amount of receiving yards in 2019. He projects to add a score or two as well after tallying five receiving touchdowns in his final two seasons at Alabama.
Prediction: 150-250 yards, 2 touchdowns
All in all, Jacobs projects to be productive in the Raiders system. With a huge line in front of him and a coach committed to running the ball, Jacobs will get plenty of good opportunities on the ground.
In addition, his ability in the passing game opens up plenty more opportunities for Jacobs to make an impact. Adding in a solid total in the air, Jacobs will likely reach or surpass the 1,000 yard mark in all-purpose yardage.
Also, keep an eye on Jacobs playing a role on special teams. In 2018 he had 14 kick returns for 428 yards and one touchdown, finishing fourth in the SEC. He won’t usurp Dwayne Harris, but he may see some action in the return game.
He won’t blow the league away like Saquon Barkley did last season, but Jacobs will be a solid play-maker for the Raiders this year.