With the NFL draft inching closer by the day, we continue our series of evaluating prospects who may be available for the Oakland Raiders in the first round. If you’ve missed the previous pieces, be sure to check out the write-ups on DK Metcalf, Marquise Brown, Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson.
As you can tell, thus far our emphasis has been on of the offensive side of the ball — but as we get closer to April 25, I can assure you that this space will trend defense! Before we do though, we’ve got one more skill player to evaluate — Alabama running back Josh Jacobs.
Weight: 220 lbs
40-yard-dash: 4.60 (pro day)
Bench Press: NA
Vertical jump: NA
Broad jump: NA
College stats: 40 games, 251 carries, 1491 rushing yards, 48 receptions, 571 receiving yards, 21 total TD
Josh Jacobs is a fascinating case study on what, exactly, college performance really means. Yes, Alabama is perpetually loaded with talent everywhere — including running back (Jacobs isn’t even the only Bama running back projected to be off the board by the end of Day 2) — but what do we do about a guy who never led his college team in carries or rushing yards?
Some want to write it off as a good thing — “hey, less tread on the tires!”, but I struggle to embrace that entirely. If Jacobs was all that NFL Draft Scouts think he is, then why didn’t Nick Saban use him more?
Best case for Jacobs? It’s because Damien Harris is more suited for the college game and what Saban was looking for.
Worst case? Saban didn’t see what everyone else does.
At the moment, we’ll have to wait and see — but let’s talk a bit more about what scouts are saying.
After Bama’s pro day, Gil Brandt had this to say:
When I ask my scouts on the ground at pro days about player workouts, they classify them this way: great, very good, good plus, good, average, ok.
My scout at Alabama’s pro day yesterday added another category for RB Josh Jacobs: EXCEPTIONAL. Jacobs cemented his 1st-round status
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 20, 2019
Mel Kiper has Jacobs as his No. 22 prospect overall, and you’d be hard pressed to find a mock draft that doesn’t feature Jacobs as both the top running back on the board and a first round pick.
Which brings us to the most important question: should the Raiders be thinking about Jacobs at picks No. 24 and 27? Obviously, their greatest needs remain on the defensive side of the ball, but would Jacobs’ potential be too tempting to pass up?
While the Raiders recently added Isaiah Crowell to their backfield, they still lack a true No. 1 guy. For me, that’s the biggest argument in Jacobs’ favor: the Raiders could use someone of his potential — and they’ve got the draft capital to justify using a pick on a running back.
On the flip side, I think an argument could be made that the depth of running back talent in this draft means the Raiders could wait on the position. Even without a third-round pick, isn’t it possible that a high-end back is still on the board at pick No. 106? (Especially with the devaluation of the running back position still alive and well).
In the end, despite all the questions surrounding his usage at Alabama and the depth of the position, I think the Raiders would struggle to pass up a guy with as much offensive potential as Jacobs. The NFL is moving towards a league of offense more and more, and needing to outscore teams like the Chiefs and Chargers on a regular basis will require all the weapons Jon Gruden could amass.
Of all the decisions in this series, this one is probably the most difficult for me. The Raiders needs on defense are so great that it’s hard for me to justify not picking four defensive players in the top 35 — but if they are going to lean offense, I think Jacobs would be my top choice at the end of the first round.