- Josh Jacobs is the consensus top running back in the 2019 NFL draft. Will a team take a chance on him in the first round?
It’s been five years since the last time a running back wasn’t drafted in the first round of the NFL draft—and we might see that happen again this year, because no teams picking in the first round have a pressing need for a running back.
The consensus top running back in this class is Alabama’s Josh Jacobs, an every-down back who has proved himself to be an effective pass-catcher. Because of Alabama’s consistently deep group of running backs, Jacobs finished his collegiate career with just 251 carries, giving him fresh legs ahead of his NFL career, and he has the potential to become the lead back for the team that drafts him. The question is, where will Jacobs land?
Jacobs will be attending the NFL draft in Nashville, which means the league feels he has a good chance to be drafted in the first round. If Jacobs is drafted in the first round, there’s a good chance he’ll be the only running back picked whose name is called.
I polled several scouts around the league to ask which team they think might pick Jacobs, and whether he might fall out of the first round altogether. One scout said he could only see a team with multiple first-round picks going for Jacobs, and he thinks this will likely be a draft where a running back isn’t picked until the second round.
Oakland, New York Giants and Green Bay are the only teams who have multiple first round picks—New York drafted Saquon Barkley last year, so they won’t take a running back, and Green Bay has more pressing needs to take care of in the first round. That leaves one team as an obvious landing spot...
OAKLAND RAIDERS: Every scout mentioned Oakland as the most likely landing spot for Jacobs. The Raiders have not yet re-signed it’s top two rushers from 2018, Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, and the team’s three first-round picks gives them plenty of flexibility in using one on a running back. One scout added that he’s also heard that Oakland really likes Jacobs. Oakland general manager Mike Mayock and Raiders RB coach Kirby Wilson both attended Alabama’s pro day.
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Last season the Eagles took a running back by committee approach with the underwhelming tandem of Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement. This offseason the team traded for former Bears running back Jordan Howard, who will likely take on a large role, but Howard has just one more season under contract. Jacobs’s three-down back potential could convince head coach Doug Pederson to rethink his running back by committee approach, and Philadelphia did bring in Jacobs for a top-30 visit.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: One scout said he’s keeping an eye on the Colts here—Jacobs is an upgrade from current lead back Marlon Mack, and Indianapolis doesn’t have major glaring holes to fill in their roster, so they may decide to draft a runner who can give the team an identity. Another scout disagreed with this take because he doesn’t think Indianapolis values the running back position enough to use a first-round pick. However the Colts have shown real interest in adding running backs this offseason, bringing in free agent Jay Ajayi for a visit and Jacobs for a top-30 visit.
• NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that New England hosted Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham and Northwestern QB Clayton Thorson for pre-draft visits. This gives more fuel to the idea that New England may draft a second-tier quarterback prospect at some point in this draft. They have also brought in West Virginia’s Will Grier and Duke’s Daniel Jones.
• More interesting quarterback news… Yahoo’s Terez Paylor reported that Green Bay will host Missouri quarterback Drew Lock for a pre-draft visit on Tuesday. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport added that the Packers tried to bring in Daniel Jones for a visit but the timing didn’t work out. Aaron Rodgers is under contract through the 2023 season, so this could mean nothing, but keep in mind that Green Bay didn’t need a quarterback back when the team drafted Rodgers in ’04. I polled scouts last week on which teams could surprise draft a quarterback in the first round, and Green Bay did not come up. Now I might add them to that list, but I think picking a quarterback in the first round would be a waste for the team, considering the other players needed to maximize Rodgers’s championship window.
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