Josh Jacobs' Rookie Year A Lesson In Trusting Your Eyes

Photo: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

RB1? I mean, he had a good season, don't get me wrong, but RB1? You want me to believe that a guy who only eclipsed 100 carries in a single season, never amassed over 1,000 yards in a single year, and a guy who only had double digit touchdowns once in his collegiate career was the best running back in the class?

Yes, and Josh Jacobs is proving it time and time again in his rookie season.

I understand that there are statistical thresholds with collegiate prospects that do have enough validity to command your attention during the evaluation process. The general rule is that in order to succeed in the NFL, you probably have to show you can succeed in college -- it only gets tougher to best your opponent at the next level. That usually comes in the form of stats.

At Alabama, Jacobs' stats weren't all that great, as the hesitant, but also sarcastic, opening paragraph eluded to. Jacobs never finished a season with over 1,000 yards rushing. In fact, he didn't even get close. His highest was his final season at 640 yards. His only double digit touchdown season was also his final year with 11. And as for carries, 120 was his highest workload with only one game of over 15 carries to his name. Plus he really didn't even become a focal part of the Crimson Tide's game plan until the second half of the season.

And this guy was supposed to be better than multi-year starters David Montgomery, Darrell Henderson and Justice Hill? Heck, was he even better than the other running back on his team, the guy who out-carried Jacobs for years, Damien Harris?

The answer was yes, and the reason to have believed it then: trust your eyes.

So what if Alabama used Jacobs as a change-of-pace back. If that's the pace I get, I'm all in.

Jacobs is just a different dude. When he gets the ball in his hands, he has a mentality that screamed no one could stop him. And that has carried over to the NFL.

This is why you have to trust your eyes when scouting. Stats are important for noting thresholds when it comes to success measurement, but they can't be everything, and I would tell you they can't even be the base. The film has to be the base, because the numbers can't tell the whole story.

Jacobs' story was also one where the film showed a swift back who was great in open space with elusiveness and tackle breaking, and a player who wanted to dominate his opponent on every snap.

As a receiver as well, Jacobs was quite the weapon while he was at Alabama, but his 48 total catches in three seasons probably wouldn't have given you that hint. But it's what he did with those catches that mattered more than the amount. Even the 12+ yards-per-catch stats can't quantify just how good of a receiver he was at Alabama.

Once the Crimson Tide started consistently using Jacobs' out of the backfield, that's when things really started to open up. You could see that in plays like the one above. Jacobs had natural hands, good acceleration, and a mindset to score as a receiver.

Jacobs' usage as a pass catcher has continued to flourish at the next level, and the giveaway for that was already made known in his Alabama film. He's truly becoming an every-down back for the Raiders in his first season with the team. Anyone who watched what Jacobs was able to do with the touches he was given in 2018 could've told you that it was possible.

Oh, and speaking of stats. How about these stats from Pro Football Focus.

Do your homework and trust your eyes, folks. It's how you can get Rookie of the Year players at the end of the first round like the Oakland Raiders did with Josh Jacobs.

Written By:

Trevor Sikkema

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-Host of the Locked On NFL Draft Podcast.