STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE: JOSH JACOBS
In Dynasty Leagues, one of the key components to short and more importantly, long term success is to stay ahead of the curve and one step ahead of your league mates. There are several different strategies you can employ to achieve this.
One part of the strategy under the spotlight in this series, is looking at how we can exploit their impatience and use that to acquire studs prior to their ‘breakout’ at a cost far below the value they will eventually return.
On the flip side, we will identify players that we should be looking to build up the courage to ‘sell high’ either on the basis that a true breakout will never come to fruition or simply because their current market value is so astronomical that the right move is to get a treasure trove in return for them right now.
A perfect example of this in action is a look-back at the 2019 Rookie Class. Many Dynasty Owners will have looked on longingly as Kyler Murray, Josh Jacobs, A.J. Brown, Miles Sanders, Devin Singletary and Terry McLaurin exploded on to the scene and experienced a breakout during their rookie season whilst they grew frustrated with their own draft selections for not having close to the same impact.
What is often overlooked is that these breakouts are more the exception than the rule and many young players take time to acclimate to the rigours of the NFL, whether it’s the speed of the game or the more complicated schemes they need to pick up before they can be unleashed. The more this is overlooked by frustrated owners, the more we can take advantage by approaching them and stealing these players from under their nose for a much lower price than they were acquired.
For the players that do break out immediately, it will be a sign of things to come and the start of a highly successful career in the NFL. For others, the hype will far outweigh their value meaning their market cost will never be higher than it is right now.
Without further ado, lets take a look at our second player on the slate.
Josh Jacobs RB – Las Vegas Raiders (Drafted Twenty Fourth Overall)
If there was any player coming out of the 2019 Rookie Class who football fans could root for, it was Josh Jacobs. During Super Bowl LIV he was featured on a commercial where he reflected on his experience of being homeless whilst in middle school.
Jacobs went on to play High School football at McLain High in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During his career with the Titans, he amassed 5,372 yards and 56 Touchdowns.
There was initially, very little fanfare for him coming out of High School as a 3 Star prospect despite him leading the state in rushing and at the time that Alabama was winning another National Championship in early January 2016, he had not received any Division I Scholarship offers.
There seemed to be no simple answer on why he was overlooked for so long, something neither he nor his Head Coach, Jarvis Payne, could understand. Mitigating factors that may have worked against him included only playing in six games as Junior and then as a Senior, he was often required to lead the offense. His soon to be Head Coach at Alabama, Nick Saban explained ‘He played a lot of, I guess people would be able to relate to Wildcat quarterback, where he did a lot of quarterback runs’.
Scout.com ranked Jacobs (5’10”, 195 lbs) outside of its top 300 players and he was listed 32nd amongst running backs. Jarvis Payne had been sending out game tapes since September 2015 yet there were still no calls or visits. That all changed when a recruiting expert recommended posting his highlights on Social Media. Finally offers started to pour in and a week or so before signing day the big guys came looking, including Nick Saban and Alabama. Saban had already recruited red hot prospect B.J. Emmons but with Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake leaving for the NFL, he wanted to bring in an additional running back.
Saban watched Jacobs on film and saw for himself his quickness, speed and hands. From there, Alabama moved fast, getting Jacobs in for a last-minute visit and he committed to them ahead of Missouri and Oklahoma.
Jacobs would spend three years in Alabama before declaring for the NFL Draft after his Junior season. During his three-year college career, Jacobs never once broke the 1000 yard mark either in rushing or in total yards from scrimmage however the raw numbers didn’t tell the full story.
Additional Performance Metrics
As a freshman in 2016, he split time in the backfield with Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough, rushing 86 times for 564 yards and 4 touchdowns (6.6 YPC) and compiling 166 receiving yards on 14 receptions (11.1 YPR)
On paper, his sophomore season was underwhelming rushing 46 times for 284 yards and 1 touchdown (6.2 YPC) as well as putting up 168 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns from 14 receptions through the air. He was incredibly efficient once again in 2017 on a limited amount of touches despite news surfacing at the end of the season that he had played the majority of it on a broken ankle.
He returned to full health during his Junior season, playing in all 15 games and rushing 120 times for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns (5.3YPC). He put together his best college numbers in the receiving game in 2018 with 20 receptions for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns (12.4 YPR). He sizzled in the SEC Championship Game rushing for 83 yards and 2 touchdowns earning the MVP award. His impressive play on limited touches led to many draft analysts projecting him to be the first running back off the board in the 2019 NFL Draft despite never topping 1000 yards and being the Crimson Tides third leading rusher in his final season behind Damien Harris and Najee Harris.
In the lead up to the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine, Jacobs drew comparisons to New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara however not for a similar game style and more for the fact that neither of them had topped 1000 yards in a season during their college career. Whilst Kamara had glided through defenses leaving defenders in the dirt whilst catching 74 passes in 2 seasons, Jacobs preferred to bulldoze his way through would be tacklers. In two College seasons, Kamara caught more passes (74) than Jacobs had managed in three (48). This is where we start to take a look how this affects both players from a fantasy perspective. Though both are very talented and effective running backs in real life, the concern around Josh Jacobs from fantasy players centred around his lack of receiving work and if this didn’t increase at the NFL level he would severely lower his week to week floor in PPR Leagues (If you’re still playing in standard scoring leagues in 2020 you belong in a museum).
After being unable to take part in the Scouting Combine due to injury, he was still, as projected, the first running back off the board going 24th overall to the Oakland (ahem) Las Vegas Raiders. Playing in 13 games during his rookie season, Jacobs began to pay back the Raiders immediately in Week 1 prime time on Monday Night Football gashing the Denver Broncos for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 rushing attempts. His red hot start continued in Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs, rushing 12 times for 99 yards. Further excellent performances followed over the first half of the season and by the eighth game of the year he had set the Raiders rookie record for rushing yards with 740, surpassing the previous record set by Marcus Allen with 697 yards. Despite missing three of the last four games due to a shoulder injury and a skin infection, he finished his rookie season with an impressive 1,150 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. So the big question is, how did that look from a fantasy perspective?
2019 Season Stats
2019 Fantasy Performance
2019 Positional Rank (Via Rotoviz.com)
By almost all metrics, Josh Jacobs had an impressive rookie season which sets him up for a highly successful career in the NFL and the Raiders lead back for years to come. However from a the point of view of his fantasy owners, prior concerns around receiving production remain, admittedly in a small sample size of one season.
From a rushing standpoint, he made the post of his touches with 4.8 yards per carry, 7 touchdowns and he averaged 1.35 Fantasy Points Over Expectation Per Game. He finished as an RB1 five times winning weeks for his owners. Concerns do arise in his receiving production where he needs to improve if he is to reach the next tier of running backs. He had only 20 receptions for the season (1.53 per game) and was slightly inefficient with the touches he did have out of the backfield (He was 0.24 below Fantasy Points Expected P/G as a receiver).
In terms of positional rank, his yards per carry (14th), opportunities (15th), rushing attempts (13th), rushing yards (7th) and total touchdowns (17th) are all impressive considering he missed three games through injury.
By now I’m sure I sound like a broken record, but his receiving numbers left a lot to be desired which will cap his PPR ceiling unless he and the Raiders can work it out.
Perhaps his closest rookie comparisons since the 2000 NFL Season can provide us with more optimism? As well as the performance metrics detailed, comparisons are based also on age during rookie season & weight (215 – 225 lbs).
Other than Isaiah Crowell, Josh Jacobs couldn’t possibly be keeping any better company with Marshawn Lynch, Ezekiel Elliot and Todd Gurley. Based on these comparisons, what sort of leap could we expect from him in Year 2? Let's take a look at how his closest comparisons performed in their sophomore season.
All players took a leap in receiving production and receiving yards in their second season and in the case of Zeke and Todd Gurley, (despite a relative down year for Gurley in 2016) they both went on to dominate fantasy football whilst still on their rookie contracts and this gives me cautious optimism for the future of Josh Jacobs as fantasy stud.
When I started the planning for this article, I was certain I would be recommending Josh Jacobs as a sell based on the receiving concerns alone and this proved to be a narrow-minded view and something that may come across in parts of this article. But taking all evidence in to account (which I’ve summarised below) I’m performing a handbrake turn and cannot possibly recommend selling him based on all of the signs that point to a promising future in the NFL and if he can work it out in the pass game, he has the potential to be an elite running back. He has shown enough promise at a very young age to be worth the risk in Dynasty Leagues with only one negative aspect of his game to hold against him to this point. Capitalise on any owner concerned by lack of work in the passing game and reap the rewards when he takes a major leap in Year 2.
JOSH JACOBS – BUY
· Three years left on rookie deal (Plus fifth year option)
· Broke the Raiders rookie rushing record in eight games
· Achieved this at just 21 years old
· Highly efficient in Year One as a runner
· Awesome player comparisons
· Would have been on the cusp of an RB1 in his rookie year if not for injury and this despite the lack of work in the receiving game.