A Look Inside 2022: Josh Jacobs | Fantasy Football

Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is nicknamed “the Death Star,” a reference to The Empire’s secret weapon for wiping out The Republic. If you’ve never seen Stars Wars, spoilers forthcoming: the Death Star is destroyed in A New Hope, then rebuilt, and destroyed again in Return of the Jedi.

Well, much like the Death Star, the 2021 Raiders story was similarly tragic. First, they fired head coach Jon Gruden after an email scandal surfaced during a league investigation into the Washington Football Team. Then, former 1st-round WR Henry Ruggs was involved in a drunk driving catastrophe that led to the death of a 23-year-old woman and her dog. He was immediately released from the team and currently faces felony charges of driving under the influence, among others.

The Raiders persevered through all this, sneaking into the playoffs, only to lose in the Wild Card round to the eventual AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals. Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, who finished with a 7-5 record, was passed over for the head coach position, thus completing the saga.

The team remade the front office and brought former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in as their new head coach. In this analogy, McDaniels is the Kylo Ren to Gruden’s Darth Vader, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing since Episodes 7, 8, and 9 were less than stellar, but I digress.

Here’s what McDaniels brings to the Raiders offense — a desire to run the football. And that is a good thing if you’re RB Josh Jacobs or have him in fantasy football.

Note: Our Wednesday, July 13th, No Punt Intended episode will cover Josh Jacobs in fantasy football! We welcome Nate Hamilton, the new editor for The Gambling Group! The show will dig into the Raiders, Cardinals, and Cowboys.

The Curious Case of Josh Jacobs in Fantasy Football

Remember when Josh Jacobs was a first-round pick of the Raiders in the 2019 draft? He had just turned 21 and had less than 300 career touches at the University of Alabama. But he projected as a workhorse, a potential 3-down back that would be the centerpiece of Jon Gruden’s offense for the foreseeable future.

His rookie year served as an appropriate prelude. He rushed for 1,150 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. And while he only saw 27 targets in the passing game, one could see his role in the passing game would soon grow.

And grow it did. Every year since Jacobs’ rookie year, his receiving numbers improved. His targets jumped to 45 in 2020 and jumped again to 64 in 2021. That’s the good part. The bad part? His yards per reception declined every year since his rookie year. He has gone from 8.3 YPR in 2019 to 7.2 in 2020 to 6.4 in 2021. Yikes.

The other bad part? After his stellar rookie season, he’s averaged only 3.95 yards per carry over the last two seasons. In fact, many metrics associated with Jacobs have steadily decreased over his short three-year career. For example, his rushing attempts per game have gone from 18.6 to 18.2 to 14.5; his rushing yards per game have gone from 88.5 to 71.0 to 58.1, and his total yards have gone from 1,316 to 1,303 to 1,220.

What started as the beginning of a solid career has begun to bottom out. But is Jacobs the one to blame? Or his surroundings?

Offensive Lines help an RB… until they don’t

Football Outsiders is much better at tracking the quality of offensive line play than I ever will be. I mostly just know if someone misses a block and allows a sack or tackle for loss. So when I started digging into what has happened to Jacobs over his short career, some of these numbers jumped out at me.

YearGamesPFF Run Block GradeRankFO Adj. Line YardsRankFO RB YardsRankFO Power SuccessRankFO Stuffed %RankFO 2nd Level YardsRankFO Open Field YardsRank
20191659.618th4.63T-5th4.26T-16th58%24th17%7th1.1421st0.6722nd
20201659.3T-26th4.3218th4.1020th63%21st17%19th1.1818th0.6121st
20211754.929th4.2917th4.0124th63%22nd16%11th1.1425th0.4823rd

The table above shows that a high ranking in Adjusted Line Yards usually indicates a solid offensive line. If the running back behind that offensive line is good, it’s a perfect marriage. But what happens if the RB isn’t all that great? You typically end up with a low ranking in Open Field Yards.

Over the last three years, the Raiders didn’t finish higher than 21st in Open Field Yards. That sort of contrasts with Jacobs’ ability to break tackles, as he’s been Top 5 in the NFL in Forced Missed Tackles on rushing attempts in the league all three years of his career. But even a good tackle breaker has limitations due to poor line play.

Per PFF’s run-blocking grades, the Raiders have never finished in the league’s top half in run blocking and twice finished in the bottom seven. In 2021, only one Raiders offensive lineman finished with a run block grade over 65.0 (Kolton Miller). That’s pretty abysmal if you ask me.

Only once in Jacobs’ three years as a Raider did the offensive line do their job somewhat effectively (2019). They were outstanding in short-yardage situations, where they were only “stuffed” the 7th-fewest times in the league. Unfortunately, those are about the only real highlights of the Raiders’ offensive line the last three years.

So what are we to decipher from this? If Jacobs can get free of a defender, his line quickly denies any potential for an upfield push.

Patriots West to the Rescue

With Josh McDaniels now entrenched as the head coach of the Raiders, hope lies on the horizon.

YearGamesPFF Run Block GradeRankFO Adj. Line YardsRankFO RB YardsRankFO Power SuccessRankFO Stuffed %RankFO 2nd Level YardsRankFO Open Field YardsRank
20191663.1T-12th4.499th3.9025th65%17th21%24th1.1916th0.4928th
20201676.2T-6th4.943rd4.827th78%4th14%3rd1.384th0.8113th
20211779.38th4.529th4.507th77%4th18%21st1.325th0.827th

McDaniels has brought with him former Patriots offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo. The Patriots have been great at fitting less talented linemen into a system that brings out the best in them over the years. Looking at this table, the Patriots were top 8 in the NFL in PFF run block grade over the last two years. Those rankings compare similarly to their Football Outsiders Adjusted Line Yards rankings in the same years.

Conversely, in their Open Field Yards ranking, Patriots RBs have been in the Top 13 in the league. They also ranked in the Top 5 each of the last two years in Power Success (runs of two yards or less to get a first down or touchdown). This was with Damien Harris as the team’s primary RB.

Harris has graded extremely well in PFF grading. His 85.8 run grade in 2021 ranked 5th among RBs. (He ranked third in this metric in 2020.) Jacobs hasn’t been as good but hasn’t been the worst. He’s ranked 14th and 11th in the last two years.

Add in Jacobs’ ability to break tackles, something that he’s far superior at than Harris, and the recipe for a bounceback is not hard to fathom.

2022 Usage

With all of this information, what are we to decipher? For starters, the Raiders will run the ball—a lot. McDaniels has run the ball 28 or more times a game in each of the last four seasons. Some people may point to the team holding onto Kenyan Drake, signing Brandon Bolden, drafting Zamir White, and declining Jacobs’ 5th-year option as signs to worry about his 2022 production. Let them drive down Jacobs’ ADP so you can take advantage of the value.

I expect Jacobs to be both the short-yardage back and the 1st and 2nd down back in this offense. That will mean plenty of fantasy points. Jacobs should easily be in line for a career-high in rushing TDs, even with the addition of star receiver Davante Adams. And of all the backs on the roster, Jacobs was the best pass blocker a year ago. That should keep his receiving totals afloat, even if there’s a downtick from last year’s 64 targets.

With his potential for 4.5+ yards per carry, 10+ touchdowns, 40+ targets, and over 50% of the rushing attempts, Jacobs’ current ADP of RB20 feels too low. He could realistically outproduce guys like Nick Chubb (RB10), Javonte Williams (RB11), Cam Akers (RB16), David Montgomery (RB17), Ezekiel Elliott (RB18), and Antonio Gibson (RB19).

Always remember this fun fact regarding the running back position — many teams don’t invest in the position long-term. When a good running back is in a contract year, what’s to stop said team from getting every ounce of quality performance out of them for as long as they can?

This is Jacobs’ job for 2022. And he’s going to ball out. We’ll tackle next year… next year.

A Look Inside the Las Vegas Raiders

Editor’s Note: We asked our writers to focus on one player, but we don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Josh focused on Josh Jacobs in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the rest of the Steelers, prepared by either Josh Hudson or Ryan Weisse.

Derek Carr: Carr has always been a dull but solid fantasy option. He and Kirk Cousins are cut from the same cloth. This year, Carr has Davante Adams, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and, perhaps more importantly, a creative offensive head coach. Carr has a sneaky chance to crack the fantasy Top 10. -Ryan Weisse

Kenyan Drake: Drake’s role will define his fantasy value. Last year, he split time pretty evenly with Jacobs until he got hurt, which made for mediocre fantasy. This year, in Mcdaniels’ offense, he could have a prominent role as a pass-catcher, a la James White. He is an excellent sleeper towards the end of your draft. -Ryan Weisse

Zamir White: There is a lot of Twitter hype on the rookie and a few camp reports that the coaches like him. However, I don’t think he’ll see much usage in 2022, as the Raiders play out Jacobs’ and Drake’s contracts. -Ryan Weisse

Davante Adams: Adams is one of the best wideouts in the league, no question. This will be the first year in a long time he will split targets with other talented WRs. He should be fine and still has a top-5 ceiling, but he is not the lock he once was for 160+ targets. -Ryan Weisse

Hunter Renfrow: Renfrow surprised the world last year, finishing as a top-10 fantasy WR. He did that on the back of 128 targets. That volume might be hard to repeat with Adams on board, but Renfrow is still a great value where you can land him in drafts. Think Top 25, not Top 10 this season. -Ryan Weisse

Darren Waller: Another Raider propelled by volume that may not be there. If McDaniels decides to throw the RBs a lot, TE could suffer. However, this offense should score plenty of points, and Waller could use some positive TD regression. He doesn’t belong in top-3 talks anymore but is still firmly a top-6 option. -Ryan Weisse


We hope you enjoyed our look at Josh Jacobs for fantasy football this season. You can find all of our A Look Inside articles here!
If you’re prepping for your dynasty drafts, you can also find our rookie consensus rankings here.