The Raiders will need tons of help from their rookie class if 2019 produces significant improvement over the year before. Even first-round picks can need time to develop, but it's a safe bet running back Josh Jacobs can plug in and play well right away. The No. 24 overall pick is the best runner in his draft class, and the Raiders have made it clear that he walks in as their No. 1 back. Returning runners have been gracious in helping him along. Let's break down the possible scenarios for how his rookie season will go, and what's a realistic expectation heading into his first NFL season in our series on the entire Raiders draft class. Check back in Friday morning for a Johnathan Abram breakdown at nbcsportsbayarea.com.
Draft slot:No. 24 overall (First round)
Position: Running back
Weight: 220 pounds
Jacobs was the consensus top running back in this year's draft class, someone highly coveted by Raiders head coach Jon Gruden. He has the size, power, burst and agility to be an every-down NFL back, a diverse talent that should fit well into Gruden's offense. He's solid between the tackles and outside. He's adept as a receiver out of the backfield and is a willing pass protector. He's an aggressive, decisive talent who isn't afraid to mix things up with opposing defenders.
Training camp proving ground
Jacobs was slowed some by a hamstring injury during the offseason program – he wouldn't practiced and played if the ailment occurred in-season – but it didn't hinder him. OTAs and minicamp are all conducted without pads, an important step to see how a running game fits together between blockers and runners in a specific scheme. We'll get a look at that during training camp practices, which will be important considering he likely won't see much action during preseason games themselves.
Jacobs is the every-down back Gruden believes he will be during his first professional season, despite the fact he was never a bell cow at Alabama. Durability should provide plenty of touches, which should lock in production as a runner and receiver. Hitting 1,500 yards total offense is certainly possible, though that seems a high projection but definitely doable. If he can do that, that means Jacobs kick started his professional career and thrived in an offense with plenty of firepower at the skill positions.
Jacobs struggles to hold up under the rigors of a full NFL season, with high per-game touch totals he didn't endure with the Crimson Tide. The Raiders need him to carry a significant load, and the offense will be harder to operate without him in the lineup. There's also a possibility of diminished returns after early carries, though this part of the doomsday scenario is tough to imagine considering how much he has put into offseason training in preparation for a heavy workload.
Inefficiency could be a concern, but again unlikely considering Jacobs' skill set.
Maintaining health is a more legitimate concern considering the punishment running backs take from regular NFL carries. Losing him for stretches would be a real blow to the Raiders' offensive balance.
Jacobs will get plenty of opportunities, especially on first and second down. Gruden has historically given chances to several running backs, even with a thoroughbred in the stables. Jalen Richard will get chances on third down, though backup Doug Martin might act more as injury protection.
Jacobs is too talented not to thrive when healthy, and plays a position where instant impacts are common. Pass protection will be key to him staying on the field, and proving capable in that arena could set him up for a solid first season. More than 1,000 yards total offense should be a certainly, with 1,000 yards rushing a realistic option. Jacobs can play. If he's healthy, he'll produce.