2023 Fantasy Football Player Profile: Josh Jacobs looks to build on career year

2A5K5XW Green Bay, WI, USA. 20th Oct, 2019. Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs #28 rushes the ball during the NFL Football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. John Fisher/CSM/Alamy Live News

  • Josh Jacobs looks to build on a career year: The former first-round pick finished the season as the third-highest-scoring running back after landing outside of the top five in his three previous seasons.
  • Ideally, his role doesn’t change: The Las Vegas Raiders didn’t invest in any other running back in the offseason, but players who see 393 touches like Jacobs did typically see a decline the following season.
  • A potential holdout is a cause for concern: The Raiders gave Jacobs the franchise tag, which he wasn’t happy with. There is a good chance he misses training camp and the possibility he misses games.
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The fantasy football outlook series takes an in-depth look at a single player’s fantasy outlook for the 2023 season.

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Josh Jacobs‘ outlook

Jacobs was able to play a full season in 2022 while improving his volume and efficiency, leading to his breakout season.

  • Jacobs has excelled the most at avoiding tackles, recording 4.5 rushing avoided tackles per game over the last five seasons — the most out of 78 running backs with at least 40 games.
  • The Raiders hired Josh McDaniels, leading many to think the Raiders would use a committee like the New England Patriots in the past. They added Zamir White in the draft in addition to Ameer Abdullah and Brandon Bolden in free agency.
  • The Raiders rarely used Jacobs on third downs like in past seasons, but he went from playing 70.3% of snaps on first and second downs in 2021 to 87.0% in 2022.
  • He improved on his avoided tackles mark last season with 5.5 per game, leading all running backs.
  • Jacobs was already solid in rushing touchdowns per game, where he averaged 0.7 in recent seasons and that carries on in 2022, which was good for the top five over both last season and the last three years.
  • His increased playing time led to 20.0 carries per game. His yards per carry also reached a career-high, resulting in a league-leading 97.2 rushing yards per game last season.
  • Despite not typically playing on third downs, Jacobs was heavily involved in the passing game on early downs. His 59 targets on first and second downs ranked sixth for running backs, but he only received a single target on third downs.
  • Over the last two seasons, he’s averaged 3.9 targets, 3.3 receptions and 23.4 receiving yards per game, which all rank 10th-best for running backs.

Competition for touches

The Raiders backfield is identical to last season in terms of players, but there is a chance Jacobs could still lose touches.

  • Abdullah served as the primary third-down back last season while Bolden also saw playing time on third downs.
  • Abdullah, Bolden and White all saw a small fraction of playing time on early downs. White played more in rushing situations while Abdullah did so in passing.
  • The Raiders also have Brittain Brown, Austin Walter and Sincere McCormick rounding out the running back room for training camp. All of them were on the roster this time last year.
  • Jacobs was just the 57th player in NFL history with 393 or more touches in a season.
  • There have only been 12 times where a player reached that mark in back-to-back seasons, with the most recent occurrence being two decades ago when both LaDainian Tomlinson and Ricky Williams hit those marks in both 2002 and 2003.
  • The most likely scenario is White cuts into Jacobs’ playing time on early downs to some extent, likely costing Jacobs one or two carries per game.
  • Jacobs is unhappy with his contract situation, and if he misses training camp, that should get White plenty of opportunities with the first-team offense. This makes it even more likely Jacobs sees fewer touches in 2023.
  • There is a small chance the Raiders revoke the franchise tag and opt to sign a free agent. This would likely hurt Jacobs’ fantasy value significantly, as he’s unlikely to see as many touches on another team.
  • I wouldn’t expect the Raiders' plans on third down to change this season.

Impact of teammates

Jacobs had dealt with poor run blocking for most of his career but benefited from an improved offensive line in 2022.

  • Left tackle Kolton Miller has put up back-to-back seasons with a PFF grade above 84 while right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor emerged as an asset in the run game in his first full year as a starter in the NFL. Both players are returning in 2023.
  • The Raiders are also retaining all three interior linemen in Dylan Parham, Andre James and Alex Bars. Their run blocking wasn’t as good as the tackles, but typically, the more an offensive line can play together, the better it will get.
  • Las Vegas drafted tight end Michael Mayer in the second round of the draft, and he was the best inline blocker among tight ends in the draft.
  • If anything, we can expect Jacobs' blocking to slightly improve, which could help his efficiency. 
  • The Raiders spent more of the offseason investing in the passing game with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback, Jakobi Meyers as the new No. 2 receiver, and Austin Hooper and Mayer at tight end. 
  • There is a chance Las Vegas passes the ball a little more this season, but the shift shouldn’t be significant.

Bottom Line

Once Jacobs’ contract situation is resolved, he should be a relatively safe top-10 running back option.

  • Jacobs is a lot more likely to see fewer touches than more, but he can see a decrease and still be among the league’s best.
  • A lack of a role on third downs makes it unlikely he finishes as a top-two running back baring the health of other elite options.
  • The longer his contract situation drags on, the more his ADP will drop, and drafting him will become a gamble.

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