Raiders' Jacobs Ranks as NFL's Top Rookie So Far

Running back from Alabama will face his toughest test so far on Sunday, against Bears' fierce run defense

Defensive end Clelin Ferrell is still a work in progress, and safety Johnathan Abram is out for the season.

So, two-thirds of the Raiders’ trio of first-round picks this spring aren’t yet making the impacts the team had expected.

But Josh Jacobs is exceeding expectations.

The former Alabama running back has given his team an every-down back capable of taking over games. In four starts, Jacobs is averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

And, in the Raiders’ victory over the Colts this past weekend, he carried 17 times for 79 yards, caught two passes for 29 yards and helped his team by getting some big chunks on the ground late in the fourth quarter to allow Oakland to run out the clock on the Colts.

This week, too, a panel of analysts for ESPN ranked Jacobs the top rookie of this NFL draft class, a quarter of the way through the season, while the analytic website Pro Football Focus also has Jacobs as the top-graded rookie in the league.

Wrote ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez: "On one hand, Jacobs has been a revelation. He never carried the ball more than 20 times in any game at Alabama and only had 251 total rushing attempts in his college career. But on the other, he was a first-round pick.

"The speed of the NFL game has not overwhelmed him as his role has grown. 'It’s not what everybody told me it was going to be, just to be honest,' Jacobs said. 'Since camp, I feel like I got the pace of the game. And I know there’s levels – the playoffs come and things like that – it speeds up. But right now, it’s smooth.' Smooth like Jacobs’ ever-expanding game."

Pro Football Focus notes Jacobs is averaging 4.0 yards after contact per carry and has forced eight missed tackles. He’s not only quick, strong and durable, but elusive. On his two receptions, he gained 26 of his 29 yards after the catch.

But, Jacobs and the 2-2 Raiders will have perhaps their biggest challenge Sunday, when they play the 3-1 Chicago Bears in London. The Bears rank No. 3 in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up just 61.5 yards per game, and rank fifth in total defense (290.8 yards).

Kickoff is set for 10 a.m.

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