Why Josh Jacobs is really Due for the Rushing Title

Josh Jacobs will finally get the rushing yard crown in 2021

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

Josh Jacobs is still somewhat under the radar, but the running back for the Las Vegas Raiders has quickly become one of the best in the NFL. Now entering his third season in the league, he is just now hitting his prime years for the position. He was excellent in each of his first two campaigns, but there is good reason to believe that he will improve even further this upcoming season.

Jacobs is a big and powerful back at 5’10 and 220 pounds. He fits the mold of Alabama running backs in the NFL, joining veterans Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram, as well as rookie Najee Harris. The Crimson Tide backs run with violent intentions by embracing contact, but also have the burst of speed to break away in the open field. Like the rest of this group, Jacobs is a workhorse who is willing and able to carry a very heavy load.

It’s fair to expect a huge year from Jacobs, and it just might be time for him to break through and win the rushing title. Before looking ahead to this coming season, let’s first look back at his previous two. He has not only been a highly productive rusher but extremely consistent as well.

2019 Season Recap

After being selected late in the first round of the NFL Draft, Jacobs put together a solid rookie season with the Raiders. He accumulated 242 carries for 1150 yards, which works out to 4.8 yards per carry, and 7 touchdowns. In all four of those statistical categories, he ranked in the top 15 in the NFL. Maybe most importantly, he ranked third overall in rushing yards per game with 88.5, behind only Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb.

2020 Season Recap

After a successful rookie campaign in which Jacobs was one of the top running backs in the league, he followed it up with a similarly productive second season and even increased his output in some statistical categories. He ranked third in the league in carries with 273, eighth in yards with 1065, fourth in touchdowns with 12, and tenth in yards per game with 71.

Raiders Team Trends

Since they drafted Jacobs, the Raiders are in the top ten in the NFL in rushing attempts per game over the last two seasons combined. Philosophically, they are an offense that wants to commit the rushing game and then work off of the play-action from there. This just means that there will be plenty of opportunities for Jacobs to carry the ball.

It’s also important to point out that he is a true feature back and there is nobody on their current roster to really challenge him for carries. He has already accounted for nearly 60 percent of the carries and rushing yards since joining the team, and it is realistic to believe that percentage could go even higher.

2021 Season Outlook

The commitment that the Raiders have shown to the rushing game, as well as the confidence they have displayed in Jacobs, give a good reason to believe that he will get another heavy load this season. Pair that with the fact that he has already demonstrated great talent and could very well improve even further this year, and his expectations are soaring high.

Something important that the Raiders did this offseason that could potentially help the production of Jacobs is attempting to improve the offensive line. They did so by bringing in five rookies, including using their 17th overall pick in the NFL Draft on Alex Leatherwood, a tackle from Alabama. It’s a young unit, and one that is being rebuilt, but it could be better than it was a year ago when it all comes together.

In conclusion, Jacobs has been one of the best running backs in the NFL since joining the Raiders two years ago. His solid and steady production and improvement, paired with the organizational commitment to his abilities, indicate that he could be due for a real breakout year. It will take a monster season to dethrone Derrick Henry, but don’t be at all surprised if Jacobs wins the rushing title this season. It’s time for him to come out from under the radar and into the spotlight.

Dream Bengals Running Back Options In the NFL Draft

By: Noah Nichols

In the 2021 NFL Draft, the running back class is not so deep. In fact, there are really only three running backs that can be considered an every-down running back. After that…well, your best guess is as good as mine.

This is not to say that there are not any good running back options available beyond the first round. There are. But most of the options either won’t be there or have questions surrounding them. However, the Cincinnati Bengals pick at 38 and that means they will have a good shot at some of the best running backs in this draft class. So, who can the Bengals hope to see sitting at 38? And how realistic is it for those running backs to be there?

First, it’s important to remember that the Bengals already have a starter in the backfield in Joe Mixon. However, last year brought some real concerns to the table because Mixon could not stay on the field and only played six games. The Bengals will want someone more reliable than that to help Joe Burrow. But, there is still a chance that the Bengals do not take a running back, instead of hoping that Mixon will remain healthy for (most of) the season.

The Top Three

Najee Harris

Most draft analysts regard Harris as the best running back in this class. At 23 years old he is a mature running back but probably won’t play beyond his first contract. Quick, explosive, and a deadly weapon in the passing game, the Bengals would love to add him to their rushing attack. However, there is little chance that he is still sitting there at pick 38. The reports are that the rival Pittsburgh Steelers are big on Harris and will probably pick him at 24 if he is there. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets also present threats and both could take a running back, whether in the first round at 18 and 23. respectively, or at 33 and 34. I don’t think there is any chance that Harris escapes round one, but there is a chance that he does. The two ways that happen is if other players fall that teams can’t pass up, or teams don’t draft him because they believe running backs should not be taken in the first round. Either way, Bengals fans hopes for Harris are slim.

Javonte Williams

Williams probably has the best chance to be available for the Bengals at 38. If you are a Bengals fan and have not seen his highlights, go watch them. He is my favorite running back in this class. Essentially a smaller, faster, version of Harris, Williams is only 21 years old so he has lots of tread loft on his tires. He also shared the backfield at UNC with Michael Carter, and had 366 career carries. For reference, Harris had 560 in the past two years. Williams is also a fantastic pass-blocking running back, which is something the Bengals want to ensure Joe Burrow stays healthy. Williams has the best shot out of the top three running backs to land with the Bengals at 38, but there is no chance he falls out of the second round.

Travis Etienne

The fastest and the most productive out of the top three running backs, Etienne is not for some people. He doesn’t have the build of a between-the-tackles runner, weighing in at 210 pounds. But after he ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at this pro day, he proved that what he lacks in build, he makes up for in speed. He can take it to the house from anywhere on the field. There are concerns about his ability to be an every-down back, but if the Bengals are looking for the next Alvin Kamara, Etienne is their best shot. There are rumor’s that the Buffalo Bills are looking to trade up for Etienne. If this is true, then Etienne has no chance of falling to the Bengals pick at 38. I would put his chances of being available when the Bengals pick at about 50%.

Other Round Two Options

Kenneth Gainwell

A small, but adept, receiving back out of Memphis, Gainwell offers a lot as a complementary back. A converted wide receiver, Gainwell is a natural receiver and runs routes like a wide receiver. His only problem is that he is too small to be a lead back, at 5″11, 194 pounds. He also is not great at pass protection. But the Bengals did just cut Giovanni Bernard and could be looking to add a younger, more explosive, receiving back. Gainwell will be there at pick 38 and has a good chance of being available when the Bengals pick in the third round. If the Bengals were to add a running back, Gainwell and the next running back on this list would be my best bet.

Michael Carter

Carter is very much like Gainwell. Small, (5″9, 200 pounds), and explosive. Carter is not that much different from Gainwell, except for the height and the weight difference. Carter has shown a good ability to bounce off tackles and has the vision to pair with it. He is also an excellent receiver. Honestly, if the Bengals are looking to add a receiving back, they should just select Carter or Gainwell in the third round. If only one is available, take him. If both are, whoever’s tape they prefer. I think that Gainwell has shown a little more potential as a receiver, but Carter offers more as a between-the-tackles runner because of his build and weight.

Dream Option at 38: Najee Harris.

Most Realistic option at 38: Javonte Williams

Best option at 69: Kenneth Gainwell or Michael Carter. Notice that I didn’t say dream option? Because there is no way that any of the top three fall that far, and these two have a very realistic chance of being available.

My prediction:

And with the 69th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals select…Michael Carter, Running Back, North Carolina. Carter has a great chance of being available in the third round for the Bengals. He takes Bernard’s place as the receiving back, offers a little something running downhill, and if necessary, can take on 3-down duties if Joe Mixon is hurt. If the Bengals want complete insurance from a Mixon injury then they should take Williams at 38. However, I think they will be better off taking an Offensive Tackle to help Burrow, then adding a back, rather than the other way around.

Why You Should Fade Alvin Kamara in 2021

By Preston W (@FF_Engineer_)

When drafting in fantasy football, it’s critical to know when to be high on a player, or low on a player. This process allows you to become a better drafter across all formats, as you can identify players who are a value based on their average draft position (ADP), as well as fade players based on their ADP. For instance, if you faded D.J. Moore last season while he was being drafted as the WR10, you would’ve successfully done so as he finished as the WR25. If you instead drafted Calvin Ridley at his ADP of WR14, you would’ve reaped the rewards as Ridley finished as the WR5 on the season. Knowing who to be high on, and who to fade, can be the difference in a RB1 and a RB2, or a WR2 and WR3. It’s the most crucial part of winning your league’s draft.

One player worth the in depth analysis on is Alvin Kamara. Kamara is consistently being taken within the first five picks in drafts, meaning he is costing significant draft capital, so much so that we can’t afford to be wrong on this selection. More importantly, Kamara is going to experience a shift this coming season, with Drew Brees retiring. As of now, Kamara’s options at quarterback are Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. So let’s take a look at how these two might fair out.

What has history shown us?

It may seem odd to a general football fan, but we in the fantasy community actually judge running backs by how solid of receivers they are. And that’s because most of us play in formats where players are rewarded for how many passes they catch. Since entering the league in 2017, Kamara has been extremely consistent in the passing game. In fact, Kamara consistently caught 81 balls in each of his first three seasons, until he surpassed that number last season with 83 receptions.  

Alvin Kamara Receiving by Season

SeasonTotal TargetsTargets/GameTotal ReceptionsReceptions/Game
20171006.3815.1
20181057.0815.4
2019976.9815.8
20201077.1835.5

I included these per game metrics because it’s useful when analyzing a player like Kamara, who has missed a couple of games over the past few seasons. Over his four years in the league, he’s played 16 games, 15 games, 14 games, and 15 games. Throughout those years, he’s experienced quite a bit of utilization in the passing game, averaging 6.8 targets per game and 5.4 receptions per game across his career.

So why does this matter? For starters, throughout Kamara’s career, he’s averaged 21.6 fantasy points per game (FPPG). If he’s averaging 5.4 receptions per game, that means 5.4 points of those 21.6 FPPG are from him simply catching passes. That’s right, 25% of Kamara’s points are just from him earning one point per reception, and we know Kamara is a highly elusive runner, capable of racking up receiving yards too.

What I’m trying to get at here is that much of Kamara’s fantasy success is derived from his usage in the passing game. The reason I’m focusing on this is because for a majority of his career, Drew Brees was throwing him the ball. In the year 2021, it’s either going to be Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston, and either of those players will have an impact on Kamara. So let’s look at some trends.

Alvin Kamara’s Game Splits with and without Drew Brees

Career with BreesCareer without Brees
Targets/Game7.15.2
Receptions/Game5.74.0
FPPG22.615.9

Well for starters, Kamara’s target share is depleted by about 27% when Drew Brees isn’t his quarterback. Additionally, he’s catching approximately 30% less passes without Brees, which is identical to his 30% decrease in FPPG. There’s obviously a trend occurring between Kamara’s passing game production and Brees being the quarterback. This also directly affects Kamara’s fantasy football production due to how much his points are dependent upon his usage in the passing game. But let’s take a look at how his production fairs with one of his possible quarterbacks for this season: Taysom Hill.

Alvin Kamara with Drew Brees vs. Taysom Hill

Career with BreesCareer with Hill
Targets/Game7.14.0
Receptions/Game5.72.5
FPPG22.614.2

It’s obvious that Kamara’s production regressed even more with Taysom Hill. I guess Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t the worst thing for Kamara. And Kamara managers felt this pain directly last season during those four games Brees missed. It was very clear that Kamara’s fantasy production took a turn for the worst under Hill. Nonetheless, it’s important to acknowledge how serious this is. There’s a 50% chance Taysom Hill is the starting quarterback next year, and that is not a good thing for Kamara. Let’s take a look at how Kamara finished the 2020 season, compared to Kamara’s season long pace with only Taysom Hill.

Alvin Kamara’s 2020 Season Pace with Taysom Hill

2020 SeasonTaysom Hill Pace
FPPG25.214.2
Total Points377.8213.0
FPPG FinishRB2RB9
Total Points FinishRB1RB10

By Kamara only scoring 14.2 FPPG, he would’ve finished as the RB9 on a points per game basis, as opposed to his season average of 25.2 FPPG, where he did finish as the RB2 in terms of points per game. Meanwhile, Kamara’s season long pace with Hill (in this case I only did so for 15 games because that’s how many Kamara played), would’ve dropped him from the RB1 on the season to the RB10. That’s not good.

But what if Jameis Winston is the starter? Unfortunately, Winston only attempted 11 passes in his first season with New Orleans, so there’s very limited direct data. But looking at Winston’s career data in terms of involving his running backs into the passing game, Winston falls somewhere between Brees and Hill.

Jameis Winston’s Career Stats When Throwing to Running Backs

Targets/Game6.1
Receptions/Game4.7
Rec Yards/Game39.0
Rec TDs/Game0.11

It’s important to note, that this data is based upon all of Tampa Bay’s running backs, as opposed to a single lead back. Tampa Bay was in a heavy running back committee during Winston’s tenure, so there’s a sizeable gap in the data. Even in New Orleans though, Latavius Murray this year accounted for 1.7 targets per game, and 1.5 receptions per game. Winston’s career data can be viewed as a potential ceiling for Kamara, but in reality, we can expect Kamara’s numbers to be less than those listed in the table above. Now let’s compare Hill and Winston directly. 

Alvin Kamara’s Career vs. Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston Outlooks

Kamara’s CareerKamara with HillWinston’s Career
Targets/Game6.84.06.1
Receptions/Game5.42.54.7
Rec Yards/Game47.112.839.0
Rec TDs/Game0.250.000.11

It’s evident either are going to be a downgrade for Kamara, but there’s hope at least. Perhaps Sean Payton installs an offense in which regardless of the quarterback, they are forced to feed Kamara. But history tells us either guy will cause a decline in Kamara’s fantasy production. Even so, there are more ways to go about analyzing this situation besides only focusing on Kamara’s involvement in the passing game. For instance, how many red zone touches will Taysom Hill vulture?

I think it’s clear, Winston is the preferred candidate, for Kamara’s sake, but he’s no Brees. Needless to say, I’m fading Kamara this year. Kamara’s current ADP is 4.3, according to FantasyData, making him the RB4 draft wise. With the decline in his passing game utilization we can expect this season, I would be bumping Kamara down to somewhere around the RB7 to RB10 range. If Winston is the quarterback, I would put Kamara on the higher end of that range, and alternatively, if Hill is the guy, Kamara will be on the lower end of that range. There’s no doubt about it that Kamara is one of the most talented running backs in the league, but for fantasy purposes he’s going to be a fade this season. I’m not saying I would never draft him, but I certainly wouldn’t pay high end RB1 draft capital for low end RB1 production.

Three RB Targets For The Miami Dolphins

Who Will Help Tua Tagovailoa?

By: Euan Leith

By all accounts, the Miami Dolphins had a successful 2020 season. They leaped forward as a franchise to finish 10-6 and missed the playoffs on the regular season’s final day. Head Coach Robert Flores has a great thing going on in South Beach as they enter the new league year, but they could do with some upgrades on the offensive side of the ball.

Running back was a particular spot where the Fins lacked consistency. Five different ball carriers made a start in Miami’s backfield, and they had nary a single runner crack 600 yards on the ground or 1000 total yards.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa combined for five rushing scores last year. As a unit, the Dolphins running backs had 10. Adding a running back should be high on their list of priorities when free agency opens on March 17th, especially if the team wants to continue their current trajectory and make their first playoff appearance since 2016.

Aaron Jones

2020 team: Green Bay Packers

All signs are pointing towards Jones not playing for the cheeseheads when the 2021 season kicks off. Adding this type of three-down back to the Miami roster makes too much sense. There are ways to line this contract up to take advantage of Tagovailoa’s rookie deal without hamstringing the franchise’s cap space in the future.

Jones was a fifth-round pick in 2017 and will be looking to get paid in March. The former-UTEP product deserves a big payday after two elite seasons of production in the Green Bay backfield.

YearCarriesRush YardsCatchesRec. YardsTotal yardsTotal TDs
2019236108449474155819
2020201110447355145911

Wherever Jones plays next season, he will have the opportunity to produce just as impressive a statistical year. Miami is an ideal destination because they have a stable of complementary backs that could spell Jones as Jamaal Williams did for the two years.

Chris Carson

2020 team: Seattle Seahawks

This may be the most unlikely candidate to take his talents to South Beach because I believe Pete Carroll wants to get back to running the ball and I think he trusts Chris Carson. However, should a divorce be coming in the near future, I think the 26-year old would be an ideal candidate in Florida.

He is one of five players all-time (and the first since 1996) to be drafted in the seventh round or later and produce multiple seasons of 1300 yards from scrimmage with nine touchdowns. Those kinds of hidden gems don’t just grow on trees. Miami is looking for something special in their backfield, and I believe Carson fits that mold.

There seems to be a popular narrative that he is solely a runner, but that is false. He’s one of nine running backs in the league to catch at least 37 passes each of the last two years and one of six that achieved that plus ran for at least 500 yards both years.

What I’m getting at is Carson probably doesn’t have the name value or national popularity that Aaron Jones has, but he can be a Jones-lite version. Plus, it will allow the Dolphins to save some extra cap money and still utilize the talent they found in 2020 with Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin to rotate with Carson when needed.

Mike Davis

2020 team: Carolina Panthers

Davis is my favorite running back to add to this backfield. Although it would drive all the fantasy football managers in the world insane, having Davis in Miami makes a lot of sense. Kyle Shanahan has shown how rostering and consistently playing multiple running backs is a formula for success.

Davis, Gaskin, and Ahmed could become a lethal rotation of backs in today’s NFL. They can all run and catch the ball effectively, and it would magnificently disguise the Dolphin’s offense from a player personnel standpoint.

Pro Football Focus projects Mike Davis to receive a two-year deal for about $4 million per season. If you’re telling me that I can get a back for two years with his talent and then spend those savings on the rest of the roster, then it’s a done deal.

Conclusion

Miami has the luxury of going in several directions this offseason. If they want to go big at the running back position, several candidates can fill that void. However, if they want to discount shop, there will be plenty of running backs available to pair with the two young ball-carriers they already have on their roster.

My final prediction is they come over the top and offer Aaron Jones a big check to make him one of the faces of their offense for the next few seasons. A legitimate running game with Jones will immensely help Tua Tagovailoa by taking the pressure off to deliver the goods immediately.

Top 5 Free Agents: Running Backs

The 2021 NFL free agency is right around the corner and this year it’s loaded with talented running backs. As RBs are one of the most dynamic positions in football, teams will be playing musical chairs finding the best fit for their franchise. 

Between this year’s free-agent class and the prospects available in the draft, RB needy franchises will have plenty to choose from to enhance their offenses. Some teams to keep an eye on this offseason are the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, and Atlanta Falcons. 

The five players on this list should be highly sought after this offseason. Each guy brings something different to the table and could be a starter wherever they go. Here are my top five free agent running backs. 

1. Aaron Jones

First on the list is none other than Aaron Jones. The Green Bay Packers RB has been a star these last couple of years. In 2020, Jones finished the season with 1,104 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns off of 201 attempts. 

Although he’s been electric, Jones is likely not returning to the Packers. He’s due a large contract, and Green Bay doesn’t have the money to afford him. In an article by Tommy Garrett, a writer for the Pro Football Network, Garrett breaks down Jones’ possible contract next year by stating, “Aaron Jones carries an estimated market value of $14 million per season on a four-year, $56.17 million deal.” 

With money like like that, Aaron Jones will likely find a new home next year. A few teams that could make him an offer are the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, and the Buffalo Bills. 

2. Kenyan Drake

Kenyan Drake hits the free-agent market for the second year in a row. This time around though, Drake should be landing the long-term contract. Although the fans might disagree, Drake still put up impressive numbers. Once the season for the Arizona Cardinals finished, Drake wound up with 955 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns off of 239 attempts. 

Similar to the Packers, the Cardinals are strapped for cash and likely won’t be bringing back their starting RB. In fact, Arizona is in a great position to get younger at the position through the draft, and Chase Edmonds isn’t too bad either. 

Drake will make one of these NFL teams happy, as he’s a great all-around RB. In an article written by Doug Farrar, the USA Today writer explains, “A smart team in need of a lead back in a rotation will snap Drake up, and probably for a relative bargain.” Clubs like what Drake brings to the table, and a couple of teams that may look his way are the New York Jets, or the Atlanta Falcons. 

3. Jamaal Williams

Another Green Bay Packer makes this list, as Jamaal Williams has finally emerged as a possible starting running back. Playing more of a backup role for the Pack-Attack, Williams finished with 505 rushing yards, and 2 touchdowns. On top of that, Williams is a threat in the passing game, as he racked up 236 receiving yards and one touchdown this year. 

Green Bay has some serious decisions to make. Williams won’t cost nearly as much as Aaron Jones, but signing him for a long term deal could dwindle down the cap space in the future. Especially with AJ Dillion aiming for more playing time, Green Bay could give themselves a great 1-2 punch with their RB group. 

The most likely destination for Williams is Green Bay, but he will have plenty of suitors bidding for him too. Wherever Williams goes he will have the opportunity to finally be a starter, which makes him a potential breakout candidate in 2021. 

4. Mike Davis

The Carolina Panthers were hardly competitive this season, especially once Christian McCaffrey fell to injury. However, Mike Davis was a bright spot as he filled in the starting role impressively. By the end of the year, Davis finished with 642 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. He was also one of the better receiving RBs this year too. With 373 receiving yards and an additional two touchdowns, Davis proved to be a reliable RB this year. 

It’s still a question on whether or not the Panthers bring him back for next year. With McCaffrey set to return to full health, Carolina may want to lock up Davis as a reliever. Schuyler Callihan, a writer for Sports Illustrated, explains Davis’ situation by stating, “… he has the option to return to Carolina and work alongside Christian McCaffrey or he could see what the free agent market has to offer and possibly become RB1 somewhere.” 

Ultimately, the decision is up to Davis. He’d be a great RB to ease pressure for McCaffrey, but he may have the opportunity to finally be a starter in the NFL. I see Davis being a solid starter elsewhere while a team develops a young rookie. The Atlanta Falcons, Jets, and Cardinals would be great landing spots for Mike Davis. 

5. Chris Carson

Dealing with injuries, 2020 wasn’t the best year for Chris Carson. Finishing with just 681 rushing yards and five touchdowns, it was Carson’s first year since his rookie season he finished with less than 1000 yards. However, his 4.8 yards per carry is a career high. 

Carson is a very under rated RB in the NFL. Between his fumbling issues and injuries, Carson may fall down some teams’ lists. However, there is reason to believe Carson can still be a legitimate RB in this league. 

With the state the Seahawks backfield is in, re-signing Carson may be in their best interest. Brandon Gustafson, a writer for MyNorthwest.com, states, “If Pete Carroll’s recent comments are any indication about the Seahawks’ offense in 2021, you can expect more of a ground attack when Seattle hits the field next season.” 

Seattle doesn’t have the best RB group, and they’re not in a position to draft a top talented RB either. Carson can be a reliable running back for them. If they don’t bring him back, Chris Carson will make another franchise very happy.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑