Two weeks ago here at The Draft Network, our Trevor Sikkema put Alabama RB Joshua Jacobs under the microscope for his 5-Play Prospect series. Jacobs, one of the Crimson Tide's three headed rushing monster, had started generating some possible "RB1" hype the month prior, but with such a light workload he's been generally flying under the radar.
Not anymore. Jacobs had a career game against Oklahoma, rushing for 98 yards and logging another 60 receiving yards to help the Tide advance to yet another CFB Playoff Championship.
And in this clash of the titans, no one has more to prove. Why? Because we've seen what Jonah Williams vs. Clelin Ferrell looks like (twice before, to be exact). We know what Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis are wrecking balls...and nothing Clemson puts in front of them will test them any more than Georgia did. And we know all too well who Christian Wilkins is at this point, given his three year run as a starter with the program.
But Jacobs? Jacobs enters the game with 240 career carries in 41 career games. And in his play against the Sooners, Jacobs showed he has the kind of size/speed/agility that can make for a feature back at the NFL level.
So, Mr. Jacobs, step right up. Welcome to your audition in the spotlight. Playing at Alabama will certainly ease the pomp and circumstance around the Tide's showdown with Clemson. But playing against this Clemson defense can set the tone for the next several months, should Jacobs decide he wants to make the leap.
Even with NT Dexter Lawrence missing in action due to suspension, this Tigers' front seven is as imposing of a test as you'll find outside of...well...Tuscaloosa. Experience rules the roost up front with Ferrell, Wilkins and Bryant holding down their usual spots in the starting line-up. But how about budding rSoph LB Isaiah Simmons (#11)? His alleged speed will bring about quite a few potential collisions in the hole. Or the size of LB Tre' Lamar? This 250-pound ILB can thump with the best of them between the tackles.
Against a front seven filled with future NFL pros, Jacobs can definitively state his case for RB1 with another dominating effort like the one he had against Oklahoma.
Those defensive units are apples to oranges, so a similar performance will speak volumes about what Jacobs is actually all about as a pro prospect right now.
At 5-foot-10, 212 pounds, Jacobs has some pretty spectacular open field balance and quickness. It puts him in the same sub-category of backs as David Montgomery, Rodney Anderson, Benny Snell and even his own teammate, Damien Harris.
Of course there are also scat backs like Justice Hill, Darrell Henderson and Miles Sanders. Teams will have their own flavors to choose from. But typically the more roles you can fill as a back, the higher you're going to be coveted. So the sub-200 pound division of the RB class is already facing an up-hill battle. It's going to be difficult for one to be the first off the board.
That's where Jacobs can make his money against the Tigers. David Montgomery, for example, may or may not even be in the class. Rodney Anderson has a torn ACL. And Damien Harris is sorely lacking in explosiveness. So the bigger backs all have questions.
Jacobs' is his production. He's more promise than product right now. That could be put to bed with another dominating showing.
The proposition of a blow-up for Jacobs is complicated, though. The Tide will have to keep him on the field and make sure he gets his touches relative to both Damien Harris and Najee Harris (a sophomore).
The workload this season has been split pretty close to one third each through 14 games:
Damien Harris: 139 attempts (819 yards)
Joshua Jacobs: 109 attempts (593 yards)
Najee Harris: 108 attempts (724 yards)
So the stars will have to align here for Jacobs to make his case to the Draft community. Fortunately, we won't have to wait much longer. The CFB Playoff National Championship game is scheduled to kick off tomorrow night at 8 PM EST.