Josh Jacobs enters rookie season for Raiders with high expectations

Josh Jacobs enters rookie season for Raiders with high expectations

The Raiders will need tons of help from their rookie class if 2019 produces significant improvement over the year before. Even first-round picks can need time to develop, but it's a safe bet running back Josh Jacobs can plug in and play well right away.

The No. 24 overall pick is the best runner in his draft class, and the Raiders have made it clear that he walks in as their No. 1 back. Returning runners have been gracious in helping him along.

Let's break down the possible scenarios for how his rookie season will go, and what's a realistic expectation heading into his first NFL season in our series on the entire Raiders draft class.

Check back in Friday morning for a Johnathan Abram breakdown.

Josh Jacobs

Draft slot: No. 24 overall (First round)
Position: Running back
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 220 pounds
School: Alabama

Skill set

Jacobs was the consensus top running back in this year’s draft class, someone highly coveted by Raiders coach Jon Gruden. He has the size, power, burst and agility to be an every-down NFL back, a diverse talent that should fit well into Gruden’s offense.

He’s solid between the tackles and outside. He’s adept as a receiver out of the backfield and is a willing pass protector. He’s an aggressive, decisive talent who isn’t afraid to mix things up with opposing defenders.

Training camp proving ground

Jacobs was slowed some by a hamstring injury during the offseason program -- he would've practiced and played if the ailment occurred in-season -- but it didn’t hinder him. OTAs and minicamp are all conducted without pads, an important step to see how a running game fits together between blockers and runners in a specific scheme.

We’ll get a look at that during training camp practices, which will be important considering he likely won’t see much action during preseason games themselves.

Best-case scenario

Jacobs is the every-down back Gruden believes he will be during his first professional season, despite the fact he was never a bell cow at Alabama. Durability should provide plenty of touches, which should lock in production as a runner and receiver.

Hitting 1,500 yards total offense is certainly possible, though that seems a high projection but definitely doable. If he can do that, that means Jacobs kick-started his professional career and thrived in an offense with plenty of firepower at the skill positions.

Worst-case scenario

Jacobs struggles to hold up under the rigors of a full NFL season, with high per-game touch totals he didn’t endure with the Crimson Tide. The Raiders need him to carry a significant load, and the offense will be harder to operate without him in the lineup.

There’s also a possibility of diminished returns after early carries, though this part of the doomsday scenario is tough to imagine considering how much he has put into offseason training in preparation for a heavy workload.

Inefficiency could be a concern, but again unlikely considering Jacobs’ skill set.

Maintaining health is a more legitimate concern considering the punishment running backs take from regular NFL carries. Losing him for stretches would be a real blow to the Raiders’ offensive balance.

Realistic expectations

Jacobs will get plenty of opportunities, especially on first and second down. Gruden has historically given chances to several running backs, even with a thoroughbred in the stables.

Jalen Richard will get chances on third down, though backup Doug Martin might act more as injury protection.

[REATED: Jacobs not sure he wants life story going Hollywood]

Jacobs is too talented not to thrive when healthy, and plays a position where instant impacts are common. Pass protection will be key to him staying on the field, and proving capable in that arena could set him up for a solid first season.

More than 1,000 yards total offense should be a certainty, with 1,000 yards rushing a realistic option. Jacobs can play. If he’s healthy, he’ll produce.

NFL rumors: Raiders could be free-agent option for QB Philip Rivers

NFL rumors: Raiders could be free-agent option for QB Philip Rivers

Philip Rivers and the Raiders have locked horns for the last 16 years.

But now that the veteran signal-callers time with the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers is over, could Rivers really turn in his powder blues for silver and black?

When discussing the 38-year-old's free-agent options Wednesday, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport noted the Raiders could be an option for Rivers if the Indianapolis Colts don't bring him in.

Alright, the Tom Brady rumors I understand. He's the GOAT, and if he wants to come, you agree to accelerate the rebuild and make it happen

But Rivers? No shot. Zero. Zilch. Not gonna happen.

First of all, Rivers looked completely and utterly washed last season for the Bolts. Yes, he racked up the yards (4,615) but he also threw 20 interceptions and looked pretty awful in both of his showings against the Raiders, who weren't exactly trotting out the '85 Chicago Bears on defense.

We also seem to forget that Derek Carr is the starting quarterback and is coming off an efficient season that saw the Raiders sitting at 6-4 through 10 games. A lack of weapons and Antonio Brown's preseason meltdown hampered Carr's overall production, but general manager Mike Mayock said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine that he was "pleased" with his quarterback. 

Mayock did, however, say the Raiders would look to upgrade any and all positions.

The keyword there is "upgrade." Rivers, at 38 and way over the hill and rolling into the valley, doesn't fit the description.

The Raiders are a young, rebuilding team hoping to take another step. Not a fully finished product in need of a competent quarterback to take them up a notch. And at this stage, Rivers certainly wouldn't be an upgrade over Carr.

[RELATED: Raiders should do whatever it takes to draft Isaiah Simmons]

If the Raiders do elect to move on from Carr, it will be for Brady. That's the list. They aren't going to trade up for Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. Teddy Bridgewater isn't coming to town.

It's Carr or Brady. Rivers isn't in the equation.

NFL Draft 2020: Isaiah Simmons is answer to Raiders' linebacker problem

NFL Draft 2020: Isaiah Simmons is answer to Raiders' linebacker problem

In the age of wide-open, versatile offenses, the Raiders' defense is being left in the dust.

The lack of premiere talent at linebacker is a key reason why. The Raiders put all their eggs in the Vontaze Burfict basket last season. He played solid for four games before being jettisoned for the rest of the season by the NFL after a questionable hit on Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle. 

Even with Burfict on the field, the Raiders had no one to match up with opposing tight ends. They tried moving cornerback Daryl Worley inside against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13, but he was bodied by Travis Kelce. The linebackers struggled in coverage no matter who it was against. Tahir Whitehead allowed a 150.5 passer rating when targeted, the worst number for an off-ball linebacker in the NFL.

In other words: The Raiders must address the linebacker position this offseason. They can't put it off any longer.

With two picks in the top 19, the Raiders will have a decision to make. Do they trade up to draft Clemson star Isaiah Simmons or do they lay back and choose between LSU's Patrick Queen and Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray at No. 19? Or do they elect to go to free agency to pick up a linebacker and fill other needs in the draft?

Let's take a look at their draft options.

Isaiah Simmons: The Athletic Mutant

Simply put, Simmons is the perfect linebacker for the modern NFL. 

He's 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and can play all over the field. During his junior season at Clemson, Simmons recorded 299 snaps at inside linebacker, 262 at slot cornerback, 132 at free safety, 116 at outside linebacker and 100 at strong safety. Simmons is of the Derwin James mold but in a bigger package. He's Brian Urlacher with an extra gear.

Now, it's one thing to play all over the field and it's another to be effective at it. Simmons was incredible no matter where he was, especially when in coverage. Per Pro Football Focus, Simmons earned an above-average coverage grade at every position he lined up at. During his career at Clemson, Simmons had a career coverage grade of 92.5 and only allowed 6 yards per target.

Perfect for the modern NFL, Simmons can cover tight ends, run sideline-to-sideline with running backs, blanket slot guys and make plays in the middle of the field as a safety.

He also was extremely effective at getting after the quarterback. Simmons pressured the passer on 32.9 percent of his rushes, the highest of any power-five defender.

In order for the Raiders to make him the lynchpin of their defense, they likely will have to trade up. 

If there's any doubt they are thinking about it, Mayock gushed about Simmons and his versatility Tuesday.

"You start looking at guys on offense who can play in the slot, running back, be H-backs, there's really not a label for them," Mayock said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "They are just either dynamic players or they are not. And then you start looking about trying to match up with those guys on defense and when you start looking in any division, particularly ours, and the tight ends that we have to play in our divisions. You kind of go, 'Who matches up? If we want to play man coverage who can match up with those type of guys? The big guys that run fast, who do we have?' 

"I think more and more defenses around the league are saying who are the guys you don't have to put a label on, but they are dynamic football players? Isaiah Simmons, he's played in the back end, he's played at linebacker, he's come off the edge and really the only limitations on him are whatever the defensive coordinator puts on him."

Patrick Queen: The Fast Riser

Queen was a star in his first season as a starter in Baton Rouge, La. Built more like a safety at 6-1, 227 pounds, Queen has the sideline-to-sideline range to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL.

Some teams might want to see more film from Queen, but he was a key cog in LSU's title run, making countless plays during the Tigers' historic run. He's physical, athletic, fluid and intelligent and has drawn comparisons to 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander.

He has the skill set to be an immediate starter as a rookie either as a MIKE or WILL and looks to be a dynamic playmaker who won't have to come off the field in nickel packages.

Kenneth Murray: Plug And Play

The third and final first-round option at linebacker for the Raiders is Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray.

Murray is most successful as an off-ball linebacker who is allowed to pursue and wreak havoc. He's an athletic freak, who was prone to missed tackles before cleaning his technique up this past season.

While Murray has incredible range and can wreck an offense with his gap-shooting ability, the Oklahoma product's turn-and-run coverage skills are a work in progress. The range, athleticism and explosiveness have teams hoping he can polish up the rest of his game and be an every-down MIKE linebacker. Even if that doesn't work out, he should be able to be a solid three-down WILL at the NFL level.

[RELATED: Why Raiders shouldn't trade up for Herbert or Tua?]


Simmons is projected to be drafted somewhere between No. 3 and No. 9 overall. The Raiders currently holding the No. 12 and No. 19 picks will watch the first few picks of the draft closely. If teams move up to draft quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, Simmons could slip a touch, giving the Raiders an opening to make a move up and get the guy who has all the skills to be one of their defensive leaders for the foreseeable future.

If the Raiders can swap the No. 12 pick, one their third-round picks (No. 80) and a future pick for the right to move up and snag the Clemson linebacker, it should be a no-brainer for Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden. Simmons will give them the dynamic player the defense has been missing and he would fit in seamlessly with the Clemson-esque culture the Raiders are trying to create.

Due to the deep class of wide receivers, the Raiders still would be able to get an electric weapon like Henry Ruggs at No. 19 overall.

If a deal can be made to bring Simmons to Las Vegas, the move is a no-brainer. A player of his caliber and skill set rarely comes along. Drafting him will be well worth the price.