Josh Jacobs vs Kenyan Drake: Could the Vegas Odds Be Even?
Nate Williams (@Nate_FFL) takes a look at the Las Vegas backfield and analysts which RB you should trust for the upcoming 2021 season.
The Las Vegas Raiders have long been known as one of the “oddest” teams in professional football. Going back decades to former owner Al Davis and his affliction for drafting the fastest WRs he could find, to the days in Oakland with quarterback Ken Stabler smoking cigarettes on the sideline, and to the very passionate fan base wearing spiked shoulder pads and black face paint, the aura of this team has always been unique.
With the team now located in Las Vegas, the match may be perfect for both sides. For those reasons, should any of us as fantasy football players and owners have been surprised when the Raiders brought Kenyan Drake to Vegas to pair with Josh Jacobs in free agency?
With both of these guys likely to get significant work in 2021, what do we do when it comes time to draft for fantasy football? In dynasty leagues, the age difference makes things a little simpler for our decision-making process. Drake, who is 27-years-old, is five years the senior of Jacobs who is 23-years-old.
With Drake already cresting the hill that is a RB shelf-life, most of us are going to select Jacobs if we’re deciding between the two as we plan for the future. However, is this choice a tougher one for re-draft leagues? Who is likely to be more productive? And perhaps most importantly, who is the better value?
Let’s find out.
Jacobs and Drake are two very similar players, including their size and measurables. First, we’ll look at the Raiders RB1 from 2020, Jacobs. At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Jacobs is a bit smaller in terms of height, but he is also bigger when it comes to body weight.
Often compared to the long-time NFL veteran, Frank Gore, Jacobs entered the league after playing his collegiate ball at the University of Alabama. He’s put on roughly 11 pounds since becoming a pro. He was widely touted for his vision and quickness by NFL scouts as the 2019 NFL Draft approached. He was also sometimes considered a bit of a “wild-runner.”
With great power and burst, Jacobs would hit holes hard, and could quickly change direction. One area he lacked however was his pass protection. That being said, he’s not “bad” at blocking for QB Derek Carr, but there is some work to do there, and he could improve with some more time.
Moving onto Drake. There are some indistinguishable traits share with Jacobs.
At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, there is just three inches of height that separates the two ball carriers. Drake possessed a bit of a more polished skill set when entering the NFL. He often beat the first defender and gained yards consistently with a combination of excellent size and speed. These traits made him a solid all-purpose RB.
Drake can catch passes slightly better than Jacobs and is immensely superior in pass protection. Knowing this, you don’t have to be a genius to see the appeal of adding Drake for what will at least be a third-down RB role in Sin City.
Oh yeah, and Drake played his college ball with the Crimson Tide as well.
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With both guys coming from Alabama, there is no doubt they were groomed well while playing for Head Coach, Nick Saban. However, despite playing for the same school and same coach, they have never been teammates prior to Drake coming to Las Vegas. Drake left the Crimson Tide in 2015. Jacobs joined the team in 2016.
With 2021 being the first year the two will suit up on game day wearing the same colors, it’s obviously hard to predict who will lead this backfield. Common knowledge tells us that Jacobs will likely be the “early-down” halfback with Drake coming in to contribute on passing plays via running routes or using that superior pass blocking.
It’s common knowledge that the term “bell cow” running back is for the most part, a thing of the past in the NFL. Especially with the regular season expanding to 17 games in 2021. It makes sense from a football perspective, to use two RBs to share the workload. It keeps the player fresher, has the potential to reduce injury risks and allows the team to utilize the player’s talents to a more optimum level.
That being said, I will assume that both will get their fair share of work in the upcoming season. So, when it comes to fantasy football, who should we be targeting? Or, should both be avoided?
The 2020 season saw two more similarities for these two RBs - their stat lines. Last year, Jacobs rushed for 1,056 yards off of 273 attempts. He averaged 3.9-yards-per-carry and rushed for 12 TDs. In terms of receptions, Jacobs had 33 catches off of 45 targets for 238 yards. With 306 total touches, Jacobs had 1,303 yards from scrimmage.
His counterpart, Drake’s stat line, read as follows: 239 rushing attempts, good for 955 rushing yards, 10 TDs and an average of 4.0-yards-per-carry. In the Arizona Cardinals’ passing game, Drake had 25 receptions off of 31 targets, good for 137 yards. This gave him 264 total touches, with 1,092 yards from scrimmage.
They’re not very far apart in terms of production.
Where they are far apart is their average draft position in start-ups. Average draft position, or ADP, gives you the number at which each player is being drafted on average at their respective position.
For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on points-per-reception leagues or PPR. PPR is just what it sounds like -- it’s a fantasy scoring system that gives either .5 points or a full point for player’s receptions. As of this writing, June 29, 2021, Jacobs ADP is RB19 in PPR, (No. 29 overall) according to FantasyPros.
Drake’s ADP is RB34 in PPR, (No. 90 overall).
That is quite the difference.
It is only fitting that both of these guys have seen their ADP drop over time once they were paired together. It makes sense as fantasy owners, that we are worried about the opportunity for touches when there are two very similar RBs sharing a backfield.
When it comes to fantasy football, it is great to get your guy, but you also do not want to overpay for a player when constructing your roster. If I’m being perfectly honest, I was a bit surprised when I saw the difference in ADP for these players.
Personally, I have never been much of a Josh Jacobs guy, but I’ve also never been a huge fan of Kenyan Drake either. Whether it be Drake’s time with the Miami Dolphins or the Cardinals, I’ve never been known to draft him.
That changes this season.
Because the price tag is so cheap for Drake in comparison to Jacobs, I plan to grab Drake in future drafts and you should too. Is there risk there? Sure. But there is much more risk when drafting a guy as the RB19, likely in the third round of start-ups. I have even seen him go as early as the second.
That is too rich for me. Give me Drake in re-draft PPR leagues in the seventh, eighth and often even later rounds. At that point, the risk becomes minimal. If things do pan out as currently perceived and Drake is in the game on third downs, those bonus points for receptions will be available often.
Was Jacobs a top-8 running back through 17 weeks in 2020? Yes. But with Jalen Richard’s exodus, only 93 carries were vacated. Drake is not a backup running back and he’s going to get more than 100 carries. They paid him $11 Million for a reason.
This factor makes Jacobs even less appealing. With less opportunity for catches, the upside of Jacobs is essentially capped. We want to draft players on the cheap, and we want them to have potential upside. Jacobs’ ceiling is limited. Drake’s is not.
Thank you for reading my article. Agree or disagree with my analysis of the Raiders backfield? Please leave a comment or message me on Twitter @Nate_FFL
Graphic work: Dan Made Graphics (@DanMadeGraphics)