Though it has fallen out of fashion for teams to draft running backs in the first round, the Raiders went against the grain and took Josh Jacobs early in 2019. It became apparent early on that they made the right call as Jacobs was their most effective offensive player for most of the season. Unfortunately, he got hampered by injuries down the stretch, which ended up killing his chances at winning Rookie of the Year.
Regardless of the injury, a strong argument could be made that he deserved to win the award over Kyler Murray. However, he’s said before that awards don’t matter to him and he could be headed for an even better sophomore campaign.
Jacobs to Breakout in 2020?
No one could argue Jacobs was a star in 2019. He missed three games and still rushed for 1,150 rushing yards. He would’ve had a really good chance of being top-three in the NFL in rushing yards had he played all 16 games. So how is he a breakout candidate if he already had a huge season? Pro Football Focus explained after they named Jacobs among their biggest second-year breakout candidates:
I know Josh Jacobs rushed for 1,150 yards as a rookie, earning an 87.1 overall PFF grade along the way, but where the breakout can come in 2020 is as a receiver. He dropped three of his 26 targets and had just a 55.4 receiving grade. But one of the things that made him look special as a prospect was his receiving talent — not just being able to catch passes out of the backfield, but line up as a legitimate wideout and show wideout skills. Jacobs didn’t show any of that in his first year and was split out wide or in the slot on just 20 of his 460 snaps, but he has the ability to be a true do-it-all back with matchup-problem skills as a receiver in his second season.
One of the things that was most exciting about the Raiders picking up Jacobs is his ability as a receiver. However, he only accumulated 166 receiving yards on the season. There was talk about him lining outside and getting him involved in the passing game, but it never happened.
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Will Jacobs Be More or Less Effective in 2020?
Lucikly for Jacobs, 2020 is a new year and with another season with Jon Gruden under his belt, he should take a leap in year two. Running backs don’t typically have an easy time in their second years. Both Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott put up less rushing yards in their second years compared to their rookie seasons.
Defenses will be more ready for Jacobs and they will stack the box to try and stop him. That’s why drafting Henry Ruggs is a big deal for this offense. If teams key on Jacobs, that could leave them open to getting burned by the speedy wide receiver. Plus, if he can get more involved in the passing game, it will be even harder to stop him. Jacobs won’t be a surprise in 2020, but his overall numbers could be a lot stronger this season.