Josh Jacobs Isn't a Sure Thing, But He Has a Clear Path to Success in Oakland
With the 24th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders made Josh Jacobs the first running back off the board.
Jacobs will now run behind Football Outsiders' 13th-best run blocking unit of 2018. Marshawn Lynch has retired, Antonio Brown adds explosiveness to the offense, and all Jacobs has to do is beat out Isaiah Crowell, Jalen Richard, and Chris Warren for the primary back duties.
It's probably safe to expect him to become a workhorse running back as a rookie.
Jacobs' Lacking Profile
The 2019 running back draft class has been quite disappointing, particularly when compared to the 2018 class. It is riddled with unathletic or unproductive running backs.
Jacobs grades out as both of these. Per PlayerProfiler, Jacobs ranks in the 35th-percentile or lower in each of his tested metrics: 40-yard dash, speed score, burst score, and bench press. His 4.69-second 40-yard dash was quite disappointing.
In addition to this, Jacobs lacks elite collegiate production. In his final season, he only garnered 121 carries and 20 receptions at Alabama, and 141 touches and 887 yards from scrimmage is his career high.
Of the 58 eligible running backs in this draft class, Jacobs' rushing volume ranks 58th. Jacobs' final-season attempt share, attempts per game, and rushing yards per game are all lower than every first-round running back since 2006. His athleticism and production -- or lack thereof -- are legitimate red flags.
Jacobs still sat atop many pre-draft rankings for a reason. Although he didn't get many opportunities, he made the most of them.
His rushing success rate outshined his peers at Alabama in 2018. As a runner, his 0.40 missed tackles per carry is ninth-best over the past four collegiate seasons, and he created five or more yards on 37 percent of his rush attempts, per Graham Barfield's Yards Created.
ProFootballFocus also noted that Jacobs created 4.1 yards after contact per rush and converted a first down or a touchdown on 41 percent of his touches. With only 121 carries, Jacobs forced 33 missed tackles.
In the passing game, Jacobs was most impressive. Per PFF, Jacobs turned 56 targets (in his three seasons) into 48 efficient receptions: 12.4 yards per catch (11.5 yards after the catch), 151 passer rating when targeted, and 21 forced missed tackles.
Barfield also mentioned Jacobs' versatility in the passing game. He wasn't utilized as a simple dump-off running back. Jacobs ran seams/gos, angle routes, out routes, and curls. His 2.4 receiving yards per route run ranks him in the 2019 class.
When not running routes, Jacobs performed well in pass protection. Of his 35 pass-blocking snaps, Jacobs only allowed two quarterback pressures. Whether deployed as a receiver or a pass protector, Josh Jacobs was good.
The Bottom Line
Although Jacobs does not feature elite athleticism or production, there are a lot of things to like about him. His receiving prowess, pass protection, elusiveness, and efficiency are elite. And fortunately for Jacobs, there are unathletic running backs who have had success in the NFL.
Foster, Anderson, and Hyde each gave fantasy owners top-12 and top-24 seasons, while Ware (before he was usurped by Kareem Hunt) also was a top-24 fantasy back.
Jacobs comes with risk. But his draft capital, efficiency, and comparable players should highlight his path to success.
numberFire's editor-in-chief, JJ Zachariason, initially projects Jacobs for 177.5 rushes, 809.3 rushing yards, 4.5 rushing touchdowns, 58.3 targets, 42.0 receptions, 343.7 receiving yards, and 1.5 receiving touchdowns.