For much of the 2019 season, it appeared Josh Jacobs might be on his way to winning the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Jacobs, a first-round pick from Alabama, began the season as a starter and came out hot with great production. In his first six games, he had four big days, rushing for 85, 99, 123 and 124 yards.
Though he missed three games, including the final two, Jacobs finished with 1,150 yards rushing, seven touchdowns and an average of 4.8 yards per carry and five games of 100 or more yards rushing.
Yet Jacobs finished second to Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray in the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year voting announced this past weekend, with 13 first-place votes to Murray’s 26½. Behind Jacobs were wideout A.J. Brown of the Titans (9½) and running back Miles Sanders of the Eagles (1).
Jacobs also finished with the highest season grade of any Raiders player, according to the analytic website Pro Football Focus. His grade of 87.2 topped the Raiders’ Top 10 of tight end Darren Waller (83.1), quarterback Derek Carr (79.9), running back DeAndre Washington (76.5), wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (76), guard Richie Incognito (74), defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (72.2), center Rodney Hudson (71), tight end Foster Moreau (70.6) and defensive tackle P.J. Hall (70.1).
The Raiders have been searching for an every-down, impact running back for a long while, and the franchise now has that back in Jacobs as it heads toward the 2020 season.
Jacobs also got some national exposure during the Super Bowl, by starring in a commercial for Kia called “Tough Never Quits,” that touched on Jacobs’ difficult road to NFL success, including homelessness as a youth.
Though Jacobs finished second in the AP’s NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, he earlier was selected top offensive rookie by the Pro Football Writers Association.
Jacobs told a reporter at the Super Bowl last week that he learned much as a rookie and intends to be even better in the 2020 season.
"Every time I got hurt this year, I kind of did it to myself," said Jacobs. "It was never a time where I felt like I got hurt getting tackled or anything. It’s always me. Instead of juking a guy or getting out of bounds, I did something extra. That just comes with it.
"A lot of veteran running backs have been talking to me about how to play smarter, but at the end of the day, I feel like I’m the ultimate competitor. So I’m going to play how I play, and however it turns out is how it turns out."