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Rookie Scouting Report: Running Back Josh Jacobs

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Mar 22, 2019

Josh Jacobs flashes traits that we only see in elite-level running backs

Josh Jacobs, Alabama

Height: 5’10”
Weight: 220 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.60 seconds
Vertical Jump: N/A
Broad Jump: 112 inches
3-Cone Drill: N/A

He didn’t take part in the NFL Combine due to a groin injury that he suffered during training, though he did take part in the drills during Alabama’s pro day on March 19th. In what’s perceived as a weak running back class, Jacobs may have been wise to skip the Combine. While sitting out, there wasn’t anyone who truly stood out to take over as the clear-cut No. 1 running back in this class. However, his 4.60-second 40-yard dash at his pro day didn’t help.

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While at Alabama, Jacobs shared a workload and never saw more than 120 carries in a single season. In fact, he tallied just 251 total carries in his three years combined. Combine that with his 48 receptions and you have a running back with less than 300 touches on his frame. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry during the 2018 season while his teammate Damien Harris tallied 5.8 yards per carry in a larger role. Most are comparing his college usage to Alvin Kamara, but do we put more stock into the fact that Nick Saban was the one deciding the timeshare between Jacobs, Harris, and even Najee Harris?

Vision/Awareness: 2.5 out of 5 stars
He’s not so much a great visionary, but rather someone who relies on his shiftiness and strength to create yards. He doesn’t bounce runs outside for no reason like some running backs, but he’ll sometimes miss cutback opportunities because he stays in-between the tackles. There will be a lot of coaches who like this about him, though, as he’s not likely to lose many yards on carries. He wasn’t used in a large capacity, so it’s difficult to know how well he adjusts his game based on situation.

Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle-breaking): 4.5 out of 5 stars
What he lacks in vision, he made up for with his elusiveness, as it’s never an easy task to bring Jacobs to the ground. He knows how to get downhill in a hurry, a he tilts his shoulders, lowers his hips, and wastes very little time in the process. He’s strong, has plenty of power and not afraid to lower his shoulder into a linebacker. He also has this stutter-step move he does in the open-field, then plants his foot in the ground and bursts forward, creating a difficult combination for the defender, who needs to be aggressive in their pursuit of Jacobs.

Speed: 3.0 out of 5 stars
He’s not fast, but he’s quick for a bigger back. You won’t see that in his 40-yard dash, but I’d rather have someone who’s quick than fast at the running back position. You do have to factor in that he was a part-time player, which kept him fresh throughout the game. He should have never been expected to run a crazy 40-yard dash, as he’s more of a power-back with more agility/versatility than most his size.

Pass-catching/Pass Protection: 4.5 out of 5 stars
He needs to step-up more while in pass protection, as his back is almost right up against the quarterback. He also dips his head when blocking, causing him to lose the rusher at times. When he lines up his target, he has plenty of strength and can hold rushers up, but his pass-protection can use some refinement. Has really good hands, though. It’s rare to find a running back who’s 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds who can catch passes like he can out of the backfield. He can catch balls over his shoulder, which means he can be rolled outside to be matched up with linebackers and safeties, something creative offensive coordinators will take advantage of.

Balance: 5.0 out of 5 stars
Phenomenal balance for a bigger running back. Watched him literally knock would-be tacklers backward multiple times, including one who was launched about three yards through the air while Jacobs remained upright. Most bigger backs have issues losing their stability when they lower their head, almost falling forward, but Jacobs manages to maintain all of his balance while driving through tacklers.

Potential Landing Spots
The biggest concern about Jacobs at the next level would be his ability to perform at a high level while getting the majority of touches for his team, something that didn’t happen while at Alabama. When players are fresh off the bench, it makes them appear much quicker than the others on the field and they often have much more juice to give when trying to break tackles. If he can hold up to a big workload, Jacobs should be a monster in the NFL. Knowing the Raiders don’t have a starting running back under contract, combined with their interest in Le’Veon Bell, they’re the team who makes the most sense for Jacobs. If the Bucs decide to move on from Ronald Jones, Jacobs can play the David Johnson role in Bruce Arians’ offense.

NFL Comparison
It’s tough to find running backs who compare to Jacobs when you factor in his pass-catching talent combined with his size. When looking for running backs like that, you often find elite-level talents like Todd Gurley or Saquon Barkley, though I’m unable to put him in that territory considering we don’t know how well he’ll handle a full workload. Instead of doing that, I’m going to go back in time to find his comparison. He reminds me of Pierre Thomas, a running back who excelled when his name was called upon, though he was mostly involved in timeshares. Thomas refused to go down on first contact, broke plenty of tackles, and did work in the passing game. Some may say Thomas is a low-end comparison, but he was a rock-solid player in the NFL.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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