The year is 2019. David Montgomery, Miles Sanders, and Josh Jacobs are all about to enter the league on their new perspective teams. Most have crowned Josh Jacobs as the top running back from this class. His hype was centered around the infamous Jon Gruden system and how much volume he was going to get as the Raiders’ bellcow running back. Does that hold true today?
Before we can look into Josh Jacobs’ 2021 projected season, a retrospective look must be done first. Jacobs’ rookie season, he played in thirteen games, scoring 190.6 fantasy points finishing as running back 21 in point per reception scoring. In 2020, Jacobs’ sophomore season, he played in fifteen games, scoring 229.3 points. This total had him finish as the running back 8 on the season. Two seasons, and very dramatically different finishes.
2019 (13 games)
1,150 Rushing Yards
166 Receiving Yards
7 Total Touchdowns
2020 (15 games)
1,065 Rushing Yards
238 Receiving Yards
12 Total Touchdowns
At surface level, Jacobs’ Top-10 performance can directly be correlated to an additional two games and also nearly doubling his previous years’ touchdown rate. He also saw a 1.65% uptick in his receiving production in his second year. Box score scouting may be enough for some, but I want to dig deeper into Jacobs’ 2020 season from an efficiency perspective.
Josh Jacobs 2020 season Pros
No.11 Red Zone Touches (3.4 per game)
No.7 Rush Yards (1,150)
No.9 Yards Created (35.6 per game)
No.3 Breakaway Runs (1 per game)
No.8 Evaded Tackles (6.2 per game)
Josh Jacobs 2020 season Cons
No.46 Targets (2.2 per game)
No.22 Weighted opportunity (14.6 per game)
No.47 Receptions (1.5 per game)
No.49 Receiving Yards (12.8 yards per game)
No.29 Run Block Efficiency
No.90 Fantasy Points Per Opportunity (0.71)
Josh Jacobs did an outstanding job making the most out of the little opportunity that he was given by the Las Vegas Raiders’ organization. The reason he was able to finish Top-10 in total rushing yards was because he was able to stay Top-10 in yards created and evaded tackles. He was also able to convert that extensive red zone usage into double digit touchdowns. Jacobs’ upside as a receiver has been largely ignored thus far in his career. Beyond that he was working with a Bottom-5 run blocking offensive line and lacked opportunity as a running back. Josh Jacobs is clearly a good running back by the numbers, but that isn’t the issue at hand.
The 2021 Outlook
While creating this projection for Josh Jacobs I am going to be operating under a few assumptions. The Raiders ranked 14th in plays per game, adding an additional 3 plays per game from 2019 to 2020. I am going to be projecting the Raiders to run 66.5 plays per game, which is another 1.7 plays per game bump. This is largely due to just how dysfunctional that I am projecting the Raiders’ defense to be. The defense finished the 2020 season ranked No.21 in total defense. They added Yannick Ngakoue, Solomon Thomas, and Rasul Douglas in free agency. They also spent five of their seven picks on defense in the draft. I am also going to be projecting Josh Jacobs to be getting 65% of the rushes. He had 59.73% in 2020, and the addition of Kenyan Drake is going to impact his targets more than his rushing attempts. The Raiders averaged 28.56 rushing attempts per game in 2020. I am going to slightly increase that projection to 29.92 rushing attempts per game, because I believe that the majority of the Raiders’ games will be spent in a negative game script. I am also going to be giving Jacobs 30 receptions, which boils down to 1.76 receptions per game. In addition, I will give Jacobs 7 yards per reception, as he is not the most dynamic receiving running back. Given Jacobs’ efficiency last season I am projecting him to have 4.0 yards per carry average. Jacobs has yet to play a full slate of games, so I am projecting Jacobs to play 14.5 out of the 17 games this season. Lastly I am projecting Jacobs to finish the season with 9 touchdowns.
So how do these numbers pan out for this season?
29.92*0.65 = 19.45 (carries per game)
19.45*14.5 = 282.02 (season carries)
282.02*4.0 = 1,128.08 (total yards)
1,128.0/14.5 = 77.79 (yards per game)
30*7 = 210 (season receiving yards)
30/17 = 1.76 (receptions per game)
Season Fantasy Points: 217.8
Fantasy Points Per Game:15.02
For reference here is how the RB1, RB12 and RB24 would project out on a 17 game season, using last year’s fantasy points per game average.
RB1: 428.8 fantasy points
RB12: 234.6 fantasy points
RB24 :190.4 fantasy points
*It is of note that this is assuming that these players play a full 17 games.
Josh Jacobs is being hurt by three large things in my eyes. First, his inability to play a full season without missing time. If Jacobs is able to play a full 17 games at that average points per game, he would score 255.34 fantasy points. That would project him to be around the RB 8 region again. The second detractor from Josh Jacobs is that he just has no upside in the receiving game. As we all know, in a PPR format, receptions are far more valuable than carres for fantasy purposes. The last issue, and possibly the most important , is the Kenyan Drake signing. Gruden brought him in for a $14.5 million/ two year deal and he claims that Drake will be used all over the field. While I don’t expect Drake to impact Jacobs’ rushing share If he does that running back 15 projection is now closer to running back 24.
If I have Josh Jacobs on my dynasty team, I am going to use the advice that I gave here in a previous article and will use Jacobs to acquire Swift or Gibson. If you can’t find any pre-season buyers, then I am selling Jacobs after his first big game. Josh Jacobs has jumped the shark, don’t be left holding the leftovers.