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2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Josh Jacobs, Alabama

Davis Mattek March 15, 2019 11:48AM EST

Josh Jacobs 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Profile Scouting Report

Josh Jacobs is not an easy prospect to evaluate. For most NFL scouts and self-styled NFL Draft analysts on the internet, he is either the best running back in the 2019 NFL draft class or at least in the conversation. I have a distinct feeling that there will be more running backs like Josh Jacobs in the future who have limited college production but are highly drafted based on what they put on “tape”. Alvin Kamara and his massive success in New Orleans is definitely funding the hype behind Jacobs. Kamara had only 284 college touches for 1,977 yards and 23 touchdowns while splitting work with future Baylor wide receiver Jaylen Hurd.

So why is Josh Jacobs, a college running back with 299 touches, 2,062  yards and 21 touchdowns in three seasons being debated as a potential first-round draft pick?

It is worth noting that Josh Jacobs’ teammate Damien Harris was the more productive and more used running back while both were at Alabama. Harris is not being discussed as a first-round draft pick but is likely to go on Day Two of the NFL Draft, so I am willing to cut Jacobs a little bit of slack. In their final season at Alabama, Jacobs had 120 carries while Harris had 150. Harris added 22 receptions and Jacobs added 20. In 2017, Jacobs had the fifth most total carries on Alabama but was actually tied for third on the team in receptions. The fact that Jacobs played on such a good college team that produced NFL players like Calvin Ridley, Bo Scarborough, Gehrig Dieter, Ardarius Stewart, Robert Foster, and Irv Smith Jr does lead me to give him some level of a “pass” for not being heavily used. The fact is that it is difficult to project a running back who had so few touches in college.

If we want to put him in the same bucket as Alvin Kamara, the fuzz from the first-round picture starts to crystallize. Both were underutilized speed backs who demonstrated a solid ability to catch the ball. In some of Alabama’s biggest games against Oklahoma and Auburn, Jacobs had eight total receptions and scored in each game. That lends some credence to the idea that very good football coach Nick Saban knew how talented Jacobs was and saved him for big moments.

It is even harder to discuss Josh Jacobs with analytical data because he did perform any of the drills at the NFL scouting combine. Jacobs was suffering from a groin injury and did not want to put bad times down that were not reflective of his true athletic abilities.

In just watching various games and highlight reels, Josh Jacobs does clearly seem like a running back who is capable of doing well in the NFL. He is able to change direction better than almost all of the running backs in this class (which makes me wish that he had been able to do the agility drills at the NFL combine). His running style while behind the line of scrimmage can only be described as “patient”, something that scouts have frequently praised Le’Veon Bell for. Something that does seem a bit amiss, even on highlight reels, is that Jacobs does get caught from behind fairly often. He gets open and accelerates well as a receiver but there are few long, galloping runs where he explodes past the last defenders.

Josh Jacobs Final Verdict

Would I want any team that I root for to take Josh Jacobs in the NFL Draft? It depends. If Josh Jacobs went to Nevada and was a 3rd round projected draft pick, absolutely. However, he went to Alabama and had massive games under the lights in the college football playoffs. He also has the hype of being compared to Alvin Kamara (though he reminds me much more Deangelo Williams than any other running back) due to the fact that both didn’t play much in college. Draft stock is the most important variable when projecting NFL success, especially for fantasy football. If Josh Jacobs goes in the first or second round, he is almost destined to several years of being a good running back for fantasy football but I do not see the same impending stardom that other NFL Draft analysts are projecting. That is not to say that the traits that scouts praise aren’t evident; they are. However, Jacobs does not seem to be a Saquon Barkley-level prospect and certainly doesn’t have the production or combine measurables to generate those comparisons. Jacobs is mostly a Rorschach-blot prospect and what I see is a good running back who can catch passes who is likely to be drafted highly and be a fantasy football asset in the future.

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