The Las Vegas Raiders saw running back Josh Jacobs excel in his rookie season. How do we grade the talented tailback’s first year in the NFL?
Conventional wisdom in the modern NFL says that it is foolish to invest a first-round draft pick on a running back. In a league currently dominated by quarterbacks and pass catchers, many teams are content to use a stable of rushers to lead their offense.
There is also a notable list of players who were busts at the position.
The recent players that hold this unfortunate distinction are quite extensive, including players like Maurice Clarett, Cedric Benson, Trent Richardson, T.J. Yeldon, Felix Jones, Donald Brown, Bishop Sankey, Jahvid Best, David Wilson, Mikel Leshoure, and many more.
In fact, one could argue that quarterback is the only position with more busts. However, running backs offer a similar risk with considerably less upside.
The Raiders’ selection paid immediate dividends. Jacobs burst on the scene with a whopping 1,150 yards and seven rushing touchdowns in just 13 games played.
This mark made the budding star the eighth-highest rusher in the entire NFL in terms of yardage. He proved to have steady hands as well, losing just one fumble in 242 carries.
A deeper dive into the advanced stats continue to tell an impressive story. The Alabama standout had 26 broken tackles (eighth-best in the league), as well as an average of 2.8 yards after first contact (placing him fifth in the league).
These impressive numbers helped earn Jacobs the distinction of a PFWA All-Rookie Team position as well as the PFWA Rookie of the Year.
Performance Grade: A
His presence on the roster completely changed the dynamic of the offense. Jacobs was the franchise’s first 1,000+ yard rusher since Latavius Murray in 2015.
The star gives the team a consistent rusher with Pro-Bowl level skills. His violent and powerful rushing style will give the offense an identity as they transition to the Las Vegas area.
He also gives the entire offense a steady presence in the midst of uncertainty at the quarterback position.
Every team wants its first-round investment to make a major impact on the roster. Jacobs has done so quickly and in a powerful way.
Impact Grade: A
Josh Jacobs’ overall value is also a major benefit to the Raiders’ franchise. Surprisingly, the average salary of an NFL running back is a meager $1.5 million per season (below kickers and punters).
However, the elite talents at the position are still well compensated. Four rushers currently have salaries topping over $10 million, with Dallas Cowboys superstar Ezekiel Elliott leading the position with a commanding $15 million. There are 11 total backs that make over $5 million.
Jacobs on the other hand has a rookie deal paying him between $2.1-3.7 million until the 2023 season. While he will be in line for a much bigger deal down the road, he currently provides excellent production at a bargain rate.
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Value Grade: B+
At the end of the day, Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock accomplished what every team aspires to do — land a phenomenal player with their top draft picks.
Josh Jacobs ticks the boxes in every imaginable category. He is a top-tier rusher who brings value in terms of his age, on-field performance, consistency, potential, and contract.
He should be given all the credit in the world for taking full advantage of the opportunity to display his skills to the world.
Overall Grade: A
What grades would you give to Josh Jacobs after his rookie season?