Josh Jacobs Dynasty Outlook
Very few running backs have seen a fall from grace like Josh Jacobs.
Rewind 1 year ago, we saw Jacobs dynasty average draft position peak as the 6th overall running back after a stellar rookie season where he broke the PFF record for elusiveness.
Jacobs dropped nearly 15 spots in running back ADP despite finishing as a top 10 running back in points per game this past season.
The 2020 season didn’t go as planned for Jacobs despite seeing a modest uptick in targets (27>45) and rushing for 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Jacobs's fantasy output left a lot of fantasy owners wanting more.
It probably had something to do with a 25 carry, 6 targets, and 3 touchdown performance in week 1 that had many fantasy owners believing they drafted the next Ezekiel Elliott. Shortly following that performance, the wheels fell off the Raider's offense. In the coming weeks, members of the receiving core became injured as well as two of the Raiders star offensive linemen in Trent Brown and Richie Incognito. The top 5 run-blocking unit in 2019 was reduced to the 26th PFF run-blocking grade and 18th in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards without two of their top guys all season.
Following the 2020 season, the Raiders looked to overhaul their entire offensive line by cutting ties with some of their aging veterans: Rodney Hudson, Trent Brown & Gabe Jackson. This is the current Raiders offensive line:
(Photo Credit: PFF)
While not the star-studded unit in 2019, many are denying the fact that the Raiders line was bad in 2020 and shouldn’t be much different in 2021. If first-round RT Alex Leatherwood can step in and play well early, we could be talking about a unit that’s much better than 26th in run blocking this season.
Mike Mayock discussed the Raiders young pieces on the offensive line in an interview on the Rich Eisen show (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoWShse_CCo) and in that interview Mayock indicated that they liked their young players and wanted to get younger/more athletic. From a long-term perspective that should bode well for Jacobs as we’ve seen a similar type of retooling work recently for the Rams.
While the Raider's new line may take some time to gel, Jacobs should be in for a premier workload. Last year he ranked 6th in the NFL with 20.4 touches per game and 3rd in total touches on the season. The Raiders hopefully should be improved on offense as their receiving core was mainly rookies outside of Nelson Agholor last year. Jacobs is still a talented runner as he ranked top 5 in evaded tackles (12th per attempt) and top 5 in yards created (18th per touch).
His red-zone usage was among the best in the NFL as well, he ranked #1 with 64 touches inside the 20-yard line and #3 in goal-line carries. His primary value has always been as a touchdown scorer.
Should we be worried about Kenyan Drake?
The Raiders offense had 569 running back opportunities in their backfield last year (457 carries and 112 running back targets). Devontae Booker is now gone vacating 93 carries and 21 targets as well. Jacobs had just over 300 touches last year and I expect him to receive a similar share this season. In my opinion, Kenyan Drake is the change of pace back set to see a share of the remaining 269 opportunities available based on last year's numbers. He’s the Devontae Booker/Jalen Richard replacement and is back to his natural role as a change of pace. Josh Jacobs had a 67% opportunity share last year, 64% in 2019, and I expect his share to remain in that 60-70% range.
Even despite the Kenyan Drake signing, I expect Jacobs to be around the RB8-12 range on the season where he finished last year (RB9 in PPG in 2020). The only reason many are down on Jacobs is because of where he was drafted in 2020, even though he still was a top 10 running back.
Despite the short-term concerns of the offensive line, I still really like Jacobs from a dynasty perspective. He’s a 23-year-old running back with plenty of tread left on the tires, three more years of team control (two + fifth-year option), and a featured workload at minimum. Jacob’s talent should help aid his long-term appeal and help secure that he’s an asset who won’t tank in value after one underwhelming season. If you are currently in a dynasty league and need a running back, shipping a late first-round pick in this year’s rookie draft or next year's should be enough to acquire Jacobs from a disheveled owner.
Below are some trades that have occurred (per DLF) involving Josh Jacobs:
The more casual leagues will probably be able to acquire him for cheap given the recency bias people have. I am not sure how Jacobs was traded for the 2.07 but that’s how off him some fantasy managers are. If you do own Josh Jacobs in dynasty, it may be a little unnerving, but he will assuredly outperform his ADP of RB20 this year and going forward.
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