I haven’t been able to go through all or even most of the running back class just yet (I’m about 8 prospects in), but one of the prospects that I have studied a few games of so far is Alabama running back Josh Jacobs. I won’t give a full scouting report on him until I watch several more games and get a better understanding of his background and injury history, but I can already see why so many people are high on his skillset and see him as their RB1. My first impressions of him were very strong, making it very hard to argue against him as the top of the 2019 RB draft class.
At 5’10” 216 pounds Jacobs has about average height and weight for the position, but his skillset is far from average. Overall, he’s as well-rounded of a running back as you’ll see and doesn’t really have any major weaknesses or concerns to his game.
To start, Jacobs’ vision is already outstanding. He can run in either gap or zone running schemes and has a great understanding of how to not only let his blocks develop within the structure of the play but also how to use the correct paths to lure 2nd level linebackers into areas that subsequently create running lanes. You can see that he’s patient when he needs to be but is also very decisive and doesn’t hesitate to hit the hole once it’s available to him. And when he does decide to hit it, he does so with exceptional burst to get to the next level.
Agility, power, and balance; Jacobs has all of them. He drops his hips and plants his feet to make sharp, seamless cuts behind the line of scrimmage and at the second level. He possesses quick feet and lateral explosion to elude defenders. But as agile as he can be, he’s just as powerful in his running style. You’ll see him break tackles with his tremendous strength, showing a fearlessness when taking on contact and lowering his shoulder. And arm tackle attempts won’t often do the trick on Jacobs either, as he has good balance to take on indirect contact and keep going up the field.
— Kevin Brown (@nfldraftnik) February 9, 2019
this is the Bama player Josh Jacobs I need in a Eagles uni he would help Wentz out so much pic.twitter.com/jfBpKD95i1
— Rolando JR (@Rollidude) February 11, 2019
In terms of top-end speed, you won’t mistake him for a burner who is a constant threat to pull away at the 2nd and 3rd levels, but he’s in no way lacking the necessary speed to hit some long runs at the pro level. Once he hits that next gear, defensive backs will need to make sure they do so as well or else he won’t get caught.
Another big aspect of Jacobs’ game that helps separate him from a lot of the other RB prospects in this draft class is his proven ability to be a weapon on passing downs both as a receiver and a blocker. He catches the ball naturally and doesn’t seem to fight the ball in the air. He also has a pretty good repertoire of routes outside of just flat routes and swing passes. He’s run angle routes, wheel routes, and seem routes too. And as a blocker he’s already ahead of the curve compared to most college prospects entering the draft. That fearlessness he has when running with the football translates over to his pass blocking as well.
Josh Jacobs (RB Alabama) is going to be a real problem in the NFL. He’s either going to run over you, or run by you and catch passes like this. How do you stop that?@AlabamaFTBL pic.twitter.com/5IeuqmQcpX
— Vincent Rogers, MD (@NFLDraftDoctor) February 12, 2019
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 29, 2019
Oh, and need I add the fact that Jacobs was also used as a kicker returner for Alabama as well, so he can contribute on special teams.
It’s still very early on in the draft process, so it’s difficult to project if Jacobs is the type of running back that’s deserving of a high 1st round pick or is more of a late 1st / early 2nd round selection. A lot of people assume he’ll be gone by the time the Philadelphia Eagles pick at 25th overall, but I don’t think that’s an absolute certainty just yet.
A lot of people will also argue that Howie Roseman will never use a day 1 or day 2 pick on a running back. However, if people remember back in 2017, it was reported that Howie and the Eagles were indeed targeting Dalvin Cook early in the 2nd round but the Minnesota Vikings were able to get to him before they could. So, I still believe that if there’s a running back that Howie and Joe Douglas like a lot they’ll have no reservations about taking him early if they need to.
It’s hard to see Josh Jacobs not being the first running back taken in the 2019 draft, but it’s only February and there’s still 2 ½ months before that decision is made. But barring any serious injuries or off the field issues arising, Jacobs’ talents are too good for any team not to be enamored with.