If anything has become perfectly clear during the earliest weeks of fantasy draft season, it's this: We cannot wait to not pick Josh Jacobs. We are aggressively not drafting Jacobs across all platforms. In fact, he's currently falling outside the top-20 running backs at both Yahoo and NFC despite having never finished worse than RB16 in any season. He's been mentioned in pretty much every bust, fade and must-avoid article published this summer.
Jacobs, we've decided, is just another committee back. Collectively, we're out.
On a related note, Jacobs now seems like an absolute screaming draft value. His ADP crash, coming off a season full of positive developments, is wild. All the downside risk is accounted for in his early draft cost, but none of the obvious upside.
It's possible this is a case in which familiarity leads to indifference. Let's review a few key details about an un-hyped and undervalued player ...
The next bad fantasy season from Jacobs ... will be his first
Jacobs has gained over 1,200 total yards in each of his three NFL seasons, he's reached the end-zone 28 times in 43 games and he's coming off a year in which he caught a career-high 54 passes. Only four running backs finished with more receptions than Jacobs last season. His fantasy profile had exactly one weakness entering 2021; it now has none.
Still, summer drafters seem unmoved. It's not as if we have any reason to expect a performance decline either, because ...
Jacobs is younger than you might realize
He's 24 years old, you guys. That's it, that's all.
Jacobs is just three months older than Elijah Mitchell and A.J. Dillon. He's one month older than Najee Harris. He's two weeks older than Rhamondre Stevenson. We are not talking about an aging player in decline. Jacobs has averaged 280 touches per season in the NFL, a substantial but not ruinous number. He never handled more than 120 carries in any of his three years at Alabama, so it's not as if he entered the league with excessive mileage. He's missed six games for the Raiders over three seasons, all related to minor injuries. There are simply no red flags here in terms of age or health history.
Jacobs is verifiably, irrefutably good
OK, here's where we really begin to lose people — particularly anyone hung up on yards-per-carry as a measure of rushing talent. We regret to inform you that Jacobs is actually very good, distinctly better than the various other runners on his team's backfield depth chart. He may not be a burner, but he's one of the league's most gifted escape artists:
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 16, 2020
As a rookie, Jacobs led all NFL rushers in missed tackles despite missing three games. He forced 57 missed tackles on just 217 carries last year according to PFF, tied with Nick Chubb for the third-most in the league. Only Jonathan Taylor (66) and Javonte Williams (63) finished with more, so he's keeping good company. We're not talking about a ball-carrier of ordinary ability here.
The Raiders offense is going to be a party
Let's please remember that Las Vegas is coming off an unreasonably difficult season, featuring multiple franchise-altering events. And yet somehow the Raiders still made the playoffs and gave the eventual AFC champs a huge scare in the Wild Card round. This year, a better-than-respectable offense replaces Zay Jones with Davante Adams, which just might be the biggest positional upgrade in the NFL in recent memory. Vegas gets a healthy Darren Waller back in the mix, too. This team is gonna be fun, potentially a Death Star offense. Generally speaking, we like featured backs tied to such squads. Jacobs has arguably never had a setup quite as strong as this.
But if you want to fret about Josh McDaniels perhaps choosing to implement a New England-style rotation of backs ... well, fine. Worriers are gonna worry. We'd simply like to remind you that when McDaniels was last a head coach, back in 2009-10, he fed Knowshon Moreno endlessly. Damien Harris saw enough volume to finish as a top-10 fantasy back last season, despite having almost no role as a receiver.
It's fair to think Georgia rookie Zamir White is ticketed for a meaningful future role with the Raiders, especially after the team declined Jacobs' fifth-year option. However, we shouldn't assume a third-day pick with limited receiving credentials is any sort of lock for fantasy relevance in his first season. For now, White is a depth option behind a group of well-established vets.
If you remain unswayed by the Jacobs enthusiasm above, please note that quarterback Derek Carr is plenty bullish. To date, we haven't actually heard a thing from the Raiders organization or any players suggesting that Jacobs will be anything less than the team's featured runner.
If you can snag him in a draft outside his position's top-20, it'll be pure theft.