Joshua Jacobs was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is 22-years old. He attended a local high school in Tulsa and totaled 5,372 rushing yards while scoring 56 touchdowns. Upon graduation, Jacobs committed to playing at the University of Alabama. While there are limited details about his upbringing, he was reportedly homeless when he was in middle school; it’s impressive how far he has come.
As a freshman at Alabama, he split time with Damien Harris, now on the New England Patriots, and Bo Scarborough, now of the Detroit Lions. He rushed 85 times for 567 yards and four touchdowns. In his sophomore year, he regressed significantly and only had 46 carries and one touchdown. His down season had to do with playing the entire season on a broken ankle.
His junior year, he was named MVP of the 2018 SEC Championship game after rushing for 83 yards and two touchdowns capping a mediocre football season with 120 attempts, 640 yards, and 11 rushing touchdowns. Jacobs did average an impressive 5.3 yards per carry. Additionally, he caught 20 passes for three touchdowns.
At the NFL Combine, he weighed in at 220 pounds, measuring 5’10” tall. After a crazy trade from the Oakland Raiders to the Chicago Bears involving Khalil Mack in September 2018, the Oakland Raiders then selected Jacobs with the 24th pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
Jacobs’ rookie season was impressive, considering some of the tribulations he went through. He played in a total of 13 games, missing several games with an injury. He rushed 242 times for 1,150 yards with seven touchdowns, a respectable average of 4.7 yards per carry. He also caught 20 passes for 166 yards.
Let’s look into some of Jacobs’ injuries that he has suffered through the course of his short career. In August 2017, he suffered a grade 2 hamstring strain, which required him to miss the first two games of the season. Then in September 2017, he suffered a broken ankle during a game against Old Miss, but reportedly never mentioned it, and ended up playing the rest of the season on it, likely contributing to his subpar numbers that year, compared to other years.
The fact that Jacob was able to still average 6.2 yards per carry after suffering a broken ankle is awe-inspiring. While there are limited details in regards to this specific injury, he likely suffered a fibula fracture that was causing some issues with ankle alignment.
We know that Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden loves to use his running back and gives him traditionally high volume if the player is capable of it. He was drafted as a three-down back and expected to take over as the lead back heading into the season. Unfortunately, Jacobs suffered several injuries throughout his rookie season that prevented him from playing all 16 games, including a minor hip/groin injury in Week 3 in late September. To review the injuries, click here.
To add insult to injury, Jacobs was also sick during this time, and he reportedly had lost 10 pounds, which is very challenging to regain in the course of a grueling NFL football season. Although he didn’t miss any games with this hip injury, it appears that he was also dealing with a groin injury at the same time. There is a lot of criss-cross between these two areas, so it is unclear precisely what he suffered, whether it was an actual groin strain, a hip flexor, or hip bursa issue.
Jacobs suffered an elbow injury in week five, and he was likely still dealing with a groin and hip injury and overcoming his illness. Unfortunately, we do not know the extent or the severity of this elbow injury. Whether it was a simple contusion, but unlikely to be a fracture or elbow dislocation, which even the most hardened individuals cannot return from due to the severity of the injury.
Jacobs continued to power through these injuries posting impressive numbers in week five, rushing 26 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns, as well as catching three passes for 20 additional yards against a stout Chicago Bears defense. If Jacobs can do this with all these injuries imagine, what he can do when he’s healthy?
Unfortunately, Jacob suffered a new injury in week seven that would continue to linger throughout the entire season. This time it was to his shoulder, and this would end up causing him to have difficulties catching the ball and wanting to lower his shoulder.
Reviewing the information on Jacobs’ shoulder injury is annoying because there’s no precise diagnosis ever given. There was reportedly a fracture, but unfortunately, there is no context and no specifics. I discussed the injury (at the time) here. When talking about the fracture in the shoulder area, there are four locations that this could happen.
There’s the clavicle or collarbone, which is a very common bone to fracture. There is the acromion, which is where the clavicle meets the top of the shoulder, which can be fractured, but it’s not common, especially to continue to play through.
You can have an injury to the shoulder where the labrum tears away from the socket, pulling a piece of the bone where it attaches to off with it. It would be something along the lines of an avulsion fracture of the humeral head, and while possible, it is unlikely that he would be able to continue to play through without really missing any time.
The final possibility is the shoulder blade, where the rotator cuff muscles directly insert into the scapula (shoulder blade bone). So if one of the rotator cuff muscles pulls hard, you can technically pull a small piece of bone off of the blade. While this is not very common, it can still happen. These can be uncomfortable because the rotator cuff is an integral part of our daily life.
Let me explain to you the importance of the rotator cuff in everyday life. A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that make up the front and back of your shoulder. They serve as the actual muscles and strength for any time you reach out in front, overhead, and even behind you like you’re trying to scratch your back. The issue with the rotator cuff is that it injures very easily but unfortunately does not heal as quickly.
I treat rotator cuff injuries every day, and one of the analogies I use is to ‘think of a rope attached to a dock, trying to hold a boat to the pier. The rope in this situation would be the rotator cuff tendon, and the pier would be the bone where the tendon attaches.
Now think of trying to hold that boat to the dock, with that rope, for several years. Now, this is what the rotator cuff tendons have to deal with every time you reach out in front of you (to grab something), and every time you pick something up.
That rope is going to start to fray and, unfortunately, sometimes even tears. That’s what happens in rotator cuff injuries, as the rope begins to fray the body tries to compensate by recruiting some of the other rotator cuff muscles to help out. Unfortunately, they have their responsibilities and are not able to do what the injured tendon can do. It then becomes a snowball effect and starts to cause new issues.
If you have ever injured your rotator cuff, you understand how painful and annoying these injuries are. Try reaching out to open a door in front of you without extending your elbow; you can’t. You will hit yourself with the door. The act of reaching forward is what the rotator cuff does. We use the rotator cuff for nearly everything we do, it is an extension of our hand, and used anytime we extend our elbow. When our hands are close to our bodies, we have back and core, but once that arm extends, it is all rotator cuff.
It is impressive that Jacobs was able to play in seven consecutive games, while still being relatively efficient, despite having a potentially significant injury to his shoulder. Finally, in Week 14, the decision was made to have him rest, as he was inactive. Jacobs finally got his shoulder appropriately evaluated. He had an MRI of his shoulder, which reportedly came back clean.
However, this needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because the team’s medical staff and front office are not going to tell you everything on that MRI. I (Dr. Morse) can say to you with a high level of certainty that it was not 100% clean/negative. Exactly what it did show, we will probably never know.
Just because the MRI was supportive, it doesn’t mean that he was pain-free and that nothing would be done. The statement simply means that based on the imaging, there was nothing that was overly concerning, no red-flags, and conservative measures are in motion (surgery was not vital at this time).
He returned to practice after some time off and returned the following week to his usual workload, approximately 26 touches on 43 snaps. In light of the Raiders standings at the end of the season, the Raiders shutdown Jacobs for Weeks 16 and 17. If they had been more competitive, there is a chance that could have potential he powered through and played critical weeks in fantasy.
Despite playing in about 13 full games, and dealing with a combination of injuries including a groin injury, hip injury, illness that caused him to lose 10 pounds, and then a potentially significant shoulder injury, Jacobs still put up rather impressive numbers. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and rushed over 240 times for a subpar Raiders team.
There have been no comments about precisely whether or not Jacob had any surgery in the off-season regarding his shoulder. Without knowing the specifics of the exact injury, it is hard to speculate beyond what I’ve already discussed.
I would be shocked if Jacobs didn’t at least have a couple of different treatments to try to get the shoulder as healthy as possible. He’s only 22 years old and hopefully has a long career ahead of him. Significantly injuring a shoulder can quickly derail not only a person’s career, but make their day-to-day life very challenging.
Upon their move to Las Vegas, and the several new players, the Raiders have potential firepower this season. In the 2020 NFL Draft, Las Vegas went with Alabama speedy receiver Henry Ruggs (4.27 40-yard dash) with the 12th overall pick. Then picked up another solid WR in Bryan Edwards from South Carolina.
The Raiders backfield (June 9th) now rests behind Jacobs with rookie Lynn Bowden who they chose in the third-round. Bowden is a runner/receiver and more of a jackknife than a true backup. Jalen Richard returns but he is more of a receiver than a bell-cow. Las Vegas also brought in Devontae Booker as a free agent from Denver. Booker is limited and could be a better receiver than runner.
Returning include standouts like Hunter Renfrow, Tyrell Williams, and breakout tight end Darren Waller. The Raiders have also added Nelson Agholor, Jason Witten, and former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota in free agency.
Jacobs’ ADP is at RB13, but he has plenty of ceiling to become a starting running back on many fantasy teams. The path to success is to stay healthy. He is on his way if he can continue to make defenders miss, which they did. According to PFF, Jacobs led rookies over the last several seasons with 69, 8 more than Kareem Hunt, and 12 more than Alfred Morris.
Jacobs was successful when it came to red zone production. He ranked top-five in red-zone touches per game. The primary issue with him is the lack of targets. Jacobs is a good receiver, but he ranked 49th of 50th among all running backs in receptions and yards (20-166). The passing game needs to get better for him, or he will likely be considered a one-dimensional RB (Sony Michel?).
Jacobs’ rushing numbers are quite different, and this is what propels him. He rushed for over 70 yards in all but three games, and this is what will keep him among the top-15 RBs. His per-game rushing yards (88.5) was third among rushers and fifth among yards after first contact (683). These stats signify that he isn’t solely dependent on his offensive line.
The Raiders’ offensive line is an elite group that employs a power gap scheme. Center Rodney Hudson was named All-Pro, and right tackle Trent Brown made Pro-Bowl honors. Richie Incognito continued his Pro-Bowl form but did not make the 2019 team. All five starters will return in 2020, which include Kolton Miller and Gabe Jackson. Las Vegas also drafted John Simpson in the fourth-round from Clemson, as a solid depth piece.
Sports Injury Predictor states that there is a 60.5% chance that Jacob suffers in injury in 2020, which I wholeheartedly agree. They project him to miss almost a total of three games in 2020, which is very concerning.
In light of how many injuries he suffered in his rookie season, a potentially severe and lingering shoulder injury, along with a history of a significant ankle injury that he played through in college, there are some red flags here.
If the Raiders end up getting Jacobs more heavily involved in the passing game next season, which is reportedly the plan, Jacobs could have a breakout season if he can stay healthy. In a Gruden offense, a bell-cow is more prevalent, and I have high hopes for Josh Jacobs’ future.
There isn't much behind Jacobs. The running backs are more of a conglamorate than a threat. What does have me worried is that they all have receiving potential. It is strongly possible that Gruden feels Jacobs skills as a receiver are not adequate enough.
Jacobs can finish the season as a top-five running back if two things occur. First, he will need to stay healthy. Second, Gruden will need to use him in the passing game at a higher frequency. Feel comfortable shopping for Jacobs after the first 12 running backs are gone.
At this time, I am going to give him a 6 out of 10 in terms of the risk score. There is a good chance he suffers one or multiple injuries in 2020. The concern is how significant will they be, and how much will this affect his season.
Injury Risk: Moderate. 6/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Dec 4, 2019||Shoulder Clavicle Fracture||Jacobs was dealing with a shoulder injury since Week 7. He sat out of the Week 14 game vs. Titans. He missed the final two games of the season with the same injury|
|Sep 30, 2017||Pedal Ankle Fracture||Jacobs broke his ankle in a game against Ole Miss. He missed the following game but played through it the rest of the season.|
|Aug 27, 2017||Thigh Hamstring Strain Grade 2||Pulled hammy before season started and missed first two games.|