It was hard to imagine the situation somehow getting worse for Josh Jacobs after the Raiders jettisoned the majority of its offensive line over the past few days. After moving on from three starting offensive linemen from last season — Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson and Trent Brown — to save space against the salary cap, the team turned around and used the money on running back Kenyan Drake.
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Drake figures to slide in as the No. 2 RB in place of the recently departed Devontae Booker, who signed a free agency deal with the New York Giants. Still, Drake offers what some (the Raiders) would consider an appealing three-down skill set and seems like a prime candidate to eat into Jacobs’ workload.
JOSH JACOBS‘ CEILING CAPPED?
Last season, Jacobs averaged just north of 20 touches per game, which ranked sixth-highest at the position behind only Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Joe Mixon and James Robinson.
That touch total seems like it’s going to be Jacobs’ ceiling in 2020 with Drake now vying for touches in the Raiders’ backfield. The amount of money shelled out to Drake (he’s now the league’s 15th-highest-paid RB) makes it extremely likely this backfield is much more of a one-two punch than Jacobs functioning a legitimate RB1.
The team is actually paying Drake more money than Jacobs. For some perspective, Booker made just a little over $1 million as Jacobs’ actual backup last season.
The move also crushes any dreams of Jacobs’ usage in the pass-game increasing with Drake and scatback Jalen Richard commanding targets out of the backfield.
it's a darn shame Josh Jacobs' 2 targets per game only went up to 2.7 targets per game in 2020
here's to hoping we can get 3 targets per game in 2021 ???? pic.twitter.com/N4QaeJ7mGy
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) March 1, 2021
Drake wasn’t particularly great as a receiver in 2020, as noted by PFF’s Nathan Jahnke on Twitter. His 0.55 yards per route ranked second-worst among those with more than 25 targets.
But many NFL teams don’t consider how efficient or inefficient certain running backs are when it comes to catching passes. They appear willing to thrust them into the role regardless of whether they're adding value to the offense.
KENYAN DRAKE IN THE PASSING GAME
Drake caught 25 passes on 29 targets last season operating behind Chase Edmonds, who was the team’s primary pass-catching back. Drake served as the team’s early-down grinder and wasn’t asked to do as much as a receiver.
Still, Drake might have been miscast in his role as the early-down back commanding 230-plus carries. In the previous three seasons, he never exceeded more than 170 carries and instead was used much more as a receiver.
From 2017-2019, Drake finished 12th overall in targets among running backs, averaging nearly 60 targets per season.
With Jacobs almost certainly maintaining his role in early-downs, Drake is a solid bet to see a huge bump in pass-game work and snaps on third down.
He could also earn some carries near the goal-line, which would be a disaster for Jacobs’ fantasy value. Drake had 22 carries inside the 5-yard line last season (one more than Jacobs). Thirty-one percent of Jacobs’ production came from his 12 rushing touchdowns, the 11th-highest rate in the league.
Drake also dealt with numerous injuries before and during the regular season last year, so using him in a more complimentary/lighter role — or “joker” as Gruden likes to call it — could help his efficiency.
Wait, the #Raiders have a RB in Josh Jacobs. Why yes, that’s true. Jon Gruden sees Kenyan Drake as a jack-of-all-trades — a joker, as they say. He’ll figure prominently in the passing game. And is also close with Jacobs, as well. https://t.co/P5cJu9VKwa
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2021
Drake ended the season with a 60.9 overall PFF grade, the lowest mark of his career, and averaged only 2.5 yards after contact per attempt. That ranked dead last among all running backs with at least 150 carries.
In a more appropriate role, Drake would no longer be pounded between offensive linemen, resulting in better efficiency and less wear and tear on his body.
One way or another, Drake is going to be involved way more than any Jacobs dynasty or best ball manager would like. That makes Jacobs a much more difficult running back to select in the third round of fantasy football drafts. At the same time, Drake’s arrival in Las Vegas makes him an intriguing and potentially sneaky value several rounds later.
CHASE EDMONDS RB1 SEASON
With Arizona opting not to retain Drake, fantasy managers invested in Chase Edmonds should feel ecstatic about having a potential RB1 on their hands.
Assuming the Cardinals don’t add any RB of serious consequence — a big question mark — Edmonds would almost certainly inherit a three-down workhorse role, as he did in the one game Drake missed last season. Edmonds totaled 21 touches and played 96% of the team’s snaps on offense.