Oakland Raiders: How Josh Jacobs could win Offensive Rookie of the Year

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images /

Over the last decade, the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year has been awarded to just four running backs. Oakland Raiders rookie, Josh Jacobs, has a chance to join these ranks; but it’s going to take more than just a career year.

The Competition

Oakland Raiders rookie running back, Josh Jacobs has a real shot at winning the Offensive Rookie of The Year (OROY). He isn’t the runaway favorite, but he has the tools and the right offense to make a run at the coveted award.

The stiffest competition in the race for the OROY, year-in, and year-out, has always been between running backs and quarterbacks. In the last decade, only two wide receivers have won the award.

While they’re a formidable position group, they don’t generate the buzz members of the Associated Press (AP) look for at the end of the season.

The 2019 NFL Draft produced 11 quarterbacks and 25 running backs through seven rounds. However, this analysis will focus on the first round only, narrowing the sample size down to just three quarterbacks and one running back.

If Jacobs is to win the OROY, he will have to compete with Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones, and Dwayne Haskins — all of whom have a better-than-not chance of being first-year starters.

Of the three quarterbacks listed, Murray represents the biggest obstacle in Jacobs’ path to the OROY. Murray is a true dual-threat athlete with a rare combination of speed, agility, arm strength, and accuracy.

As the signal caller for the Arizona Cardinals — a team devoid of offensive talent — Murray is going to be asked to do a lot, creating an opportunity to put up the stats AP voters like to see.

The Cardinals may not win many games this year, but the offseason buzz surrounding Murray, combined with his electric playing style may be enough to sway voters. If Jacobs is to have any hope of beating Murray, it’s going to take the production Raider fans are hoping for and a lackluster performance from Murray.

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Jacobs Will Need Opportunities

Jacobs is going to need opportunities, lots of them. If he can’t get them, then he will need to be efficient with the ones he gets.

Of the four running backs that have won OROY in the last decade, none had less than 200 total touches. Alvin Kamara had 201 total touches in 2017 when he won the award. Saquon Barkley had 352 the following year on his way to the crown.

These two formidable runners represent the highest and lowest touch totals, respectively, of the four winning backs since 2009.

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In 2017, Kamara led the league in average yards per carry (YPC) with 6.1 and accumulated an astounding 10.1 yards per reception (YPR) for a combined total of 1554 yards from scrimmage. Last year, Barkley finished the season with 2028 total yards from scrimmage, averaging 5.0 YPC and 7.9 YPR.

These stats represent an efficient use of opportunities.

Jacobs is a hard runner and a prolific pass catcher. His skill set will keep him involved in the offense regardless of game-flow. However, established pass catcher, Jalen Richard, will undoubtedly cut into Jacobs’ opportunities in the passing game, but as the season progresses, he should take over the role completely.

Skill Set and Production

While playing second — and at times — third fiddle in the Crimson Tide offense, Jacobs managed to display an amazing ability to catch the ball and run with power. He doesn’t have “off the chart speed,” but his agility and size make him a weapon at both the first and second level.

Jacobs ran for 640 yards on 120 carries in 2018. He also added 20 receptions for 247 yards. That’s an average of 5.3 YPC and 12.4 YPR; certainly, efficient in both categories. But is it enough? Can he become a full-time, three-down back in the NFL and still be productive?

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The simple answer is, yes. Jacobs has all the tools to be a productive running back at the pro level, and he has the luxury of playing in an offense that will take advantage of his talents.

Look for head coach Jon Gruden and company to employ a Charlie Garner type approach to his workload, exploiting mismatches and capitalizing on his ability to make plays in the passing game.

Is It All Enough?

Various oddsmakers have Jacobs ranked third overall in their OROY spread behind Murray and former Ohio State quarterback, Haskins. An example of the running back/quarterback dominance of the AP vote.

The Oakland Raiders will give Jacobs plenty of room to run with Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams lining up outside. Teams won’t be able to stack the box, giving the rookie plenty of space to display his ability to run between the tackles and catch short-yardage passes from quarterback Derek Carr.

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Jacobs has the skill set, he has the size and speed, and he has the grit to be successful. But is it enough? Can Jacobs carry the weight of Raider Nation and win Rookie of the Year?

Only time will tell.