Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
(Jacobs didn't take part in the NFL Combine due to a groin strain. He's aiming to participate in Alabama's March 19 Pro Day.)
A 4-star recruit, Jacob’s success at Alabama came as a shock to nobody. After all, the Tide routinely pump out NFL-quality rushers.
Jacobs’ rise was simply a steady one, as the Oklahoma native shared backfield duties with other premier talents. He also missed some time with injuries.
In 2017, a bum hamstring cost him the first 2 games. Then in Week 5, he sustained an ankle injury that required January surgery. To his credit, Jacobs played through the pain in a part-time role.
“I’ve never had a major injury, so that was my first one,” Jacobs said of the ankle, via AL.com. “Learning how to come back from that, and practice harder than I ever have is probably the biggest thing. Just learning how to grind in terms of injury.”
2018 would see Jacobs set a career high in touches (140). But as that number suggests, Alabama stuck with a heavy RB rotation. In fact, teammate Damien Harris out-touched him by 32. Third-stringer Najee Harris saw only 3 fewer carries.
The light workload helped Jacobs stay fresh — and injury-free.
"I didn’t have any injuries this year," said Jacobs via USA Today. "After games, I didn’t even have bruises or stuff like that. I felt crazy good so that helps the longevity of RBs all around the league, so I think that’s the wave.”
Jacobs exceeded 15 carries in a game only twice in his career. He reached 20 touches only once.
Still, the 21-year-old carries clear 3-down upside into the pros.
Games Watched: Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi St.,
Jacobs' advanced stats are rock solid. Per Pro Football Focus, he ranks 3rd in the class in percentage of runs not tackled on first contact. He also sits 7th in their Elusive Rating. Unsurprisingly, we see his blend of strength and slipperiness routinely show up.
Let's start with the strength. Jacobs displays a tendency to fight for every yard, even when he's headed towards the boundary.
Jacobs' slashing ability is perhaps even more exciting than his power. Quick feet and smooth change-of-direction skills project favorably to the pros. In this first clip, he totally turns the first DB around. He almost dodges the second tackle but loses his footing.
Here's another example of Jacobs' elusiveness in the hole. The play is blocked perfectly, but as we see in the NFL, beating the unblocked man is what separates the average backs from the good or great ones. Jacobs delivers here -- and frequently did on film -- this time leaving the defender looking silly.
Jacobs recorded a below average drop rate of 9.1% as a junior. While his hands could certainly use some work, he's showed enough at Alabama to suggest there's serious PPR upside. Here are a pair of his most difficult catches, with the second clip again showing his tackle-dodging ability.
Jacobs' pass blocking isn't at the top of this class. But he has experience in the area and more often than not proved up to the task. Alabama also used him as a lead blocker on dozens of plays, and in those cases, you could see his power and aggressiveness. It's another reason to believe that he'll develop into a rare 3-down back.
Are there concerns with Jacobs? Sure. He ran behind an excellent O-line. His college sample size is tiny, never leading Alabama's backfield in touches.
But there's a reason draft analysts frequently compare Jacobs to Alvin Kamara -- and it's not just because they both exited school with limited touches.
Checking boxes for size, elusiveness and receiving ability, Jacobs is widely regarded as the #1 back in this class. He's coming off a healthy 2018, while his overall lack of touches should help his longevity. We'll see how he tests at Alabama's Pro Day, but anticipate strong marks in the agility drills and a 40-time perhaps under 4.50.
A potential 1st-round pick in April, Jacobs looks like a top-3 pick in rookie drafts.