We have come to the point for me to reveal my positional rankings for the upcoming NFL draft.
I will put out my top ten (plus) with two positional groups coming every week leading up to April 25th, with my top 100 big board and only mock draft finishing up the process. This week I am starting with the running backs and linebackers.
While there is no generational running back prospect such as Saquon Barkley in this class, I think overall these skill positions are very deep this year.
You will see something similar with the wide receivers, where there is no consensus number one guy, but plenty of prospects NFL front offices will try to get their hands on. When it comes to the RBs, I think one young man has crystallized himself as the cream of the crop, but my rankings look a lot different compared to others after that.
Obviously, these boards will alter depending on scheme fits and personal preferences, but for me, I am looking for an all-around back with vision, appropriate footwork, natural running style, versatility and the ability to create more than what is actually there.
Check back in later this week and all the way leading up to the upcoming draft for more positional rankings and other material.
#1 Joshua Jacobs, Alabama
The number one back in this class was just a three-star recruit coming out of Oklahoma. After recording 7.3 yards per offensive touch as a freshman, expectations for Jacobs were high in 2017, but he was limited to just 60 touches through 11 weeks.
He later revealed that he had been dealing with a broken ankle since week five and had to undergo surgery on it.
Last year when he was finally healthy his attempts rose throughout the season and he looked as explosive as ever, gaining almost 900 yards from scrimmage and reaching the end-zone 14 times despite just 140 offensive touches.
Among a very strong running back trio, Jacobs was the prime big-play threat for the Crimson Tide. However, he is not the guy to finesse around defenders in space but rather he gets downfield and crushes defenders in his way at full speed.
Versus Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, he absolutely obliterated the last defender on his way for the touchdown and that guy actually had to be helped off the field. At 5’11”, 215 pounds there might have been no more punishing runner in the country than this dude.
Jacobs plows ahead without any regard for tacklers around his legs or shoulder-pads and he trucked a multitude of guys on the Mississippi State defense.
Not only does Jacobs load up the shoulder consistently going into contact, but he also rips that off-arm through to free himself.
I have seen Jacobs completely shake guys as they break down in an attempt to tackle him. He can set up defenders with his speed to the edge and that cut right underneath them with one large jab-step. To do so you need a ton of hip mobility and control over your lower body and that guy has it.
Jacobs also displays very sudden movements and can go from East-West to North-South in one step as he barely loses any speed. He can change up his footwork on the fly and hop-step to enable him to move wherever he needs to go.
However, what I think is his best attribute is the quickness with which he can process information about the opposing defense and how blocking schemes are being set up.
Alabama used Jacobs on those jet sweeps just like they did their wide receivers because of what he can do with that momentum, plus then they came back to use him as a decoy in that role.
Jacobs lined up as a wildcat QB on several occasions as well and I don’t think he failed to convert any short-yardage situation like that all year long. The violent runner is also a smooth pass-catcher, who has no problem tracking the ball and reaching around the opposite shoulder late. He displays strong hands to hold onto catches through contact.
With that being said, he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty and blocks for his quarterback or fellow backs in the run game either. In pass pro, Jacobs is quick on his feet to slide across the formation and stay squared up to deliver a hit.
Purely based off the work on tape, there is not much to critique about Jacobs, but there are questions considering his usage. While the lack of treatment on his tires is a plus, for the most part, he has yet to prove he can handle a large workload with his most touches coming last season at 140.
Those nagging ankle problems will be something to monitor going into the pros. If there is one thing that really bothered me evaluating him if it that you see him lower his head too much in protection just like he does when finishing runs. Not only does he get off balance that way, but it is somewhat concerning for his health.
Even though there is very limited college production to back Jacobs up as the number one running back in this class, I am willing to bet my money on him, because I see all the traits necessary to be a tremendous weapon in the NFL.
He simply is a very complete back, who can fit basically any run scheme and contribute on third downs in the pattern or protecting the passer, plus it almost seems like Jacobs gets stronger as the game goes along and he was great at putting teams away late in games for the Tide.