Alabama's Josh Jacobs could be first running back taken in this year's NFL draft

Alabama's Josh Jacobs could be first running back taken in this year's NFL draft

February 20th, 2019 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama running back Josh Jacobs was known for his versatility with the Crimson Tide, and the fact he wasn't used extensively during his college career is aiding his NFL draft prospects.

Photo by Kent Gidley/Alabama

Former Alabama running back Josh Jacobs is an appealing NFL draft prospect because of what he did and didn't accomplish with the Crimson Tide.

Jacobs averaged 5.9 yards per carry, 11.9 yards per reception and 28.6 yards on kickoff returns during his three seasons in Tuscaloosa, when he shared playing time with the likes of Damien Harris, Najee Harris and Bo Scarbrough. The 5-foot-10, 216-pound Jacobs received just 251 career carries in college, which is fewer than fellow NFL draft hopefuls Benny Snell of Kentucky (289) and Devin Singletary of Florida Atlantic (261) had last season alone.

"His carries for his career and his rushing yards for his career are basically like one season for a lot of running backs," longtime NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper said this week, "which means he's got a lot of tread left on the tires. He hasn't been beaten up. He waited his turn.

"When you compare him to Devin Singletary, there was a 463-carry differential for their careers."

Snell's 737 college rushes and Singletary's 714 over three seasons are nearly three times more than what Jacobs experienced, while Stanford's Bryce Love (569) and the Tide's Damien Harris (477) also had significantly more but played all four years. The freshness of Jacobs by comparison has factored into Kiper projecting him as the only first-round running back taken in his latest mock draft for ESPN.

Kiper pegged Jacobs as the 22nd overall pick to the Baltimore Ravens after not listing him in the first round during his initial mock draft last month.

Jacobs did not have an injury-free career with Alabama. During his sophomore season in 2017, he missed the first two games that year due to a sore hamstring and played the final few on a broken ankle that required surgery.

He played all 15 games this past season and closed with a flurry, earning MVP honors in the Southeastern Conference championship game against Georgia and rushing 15 times for 98 yards in the Orange Bowl triumph over Oklahoma. Even in the humbling 44-16 loss to Clemson in the national championship game, Jacobs had five rushes that resulted in first downs.

Jacobs finished his junior season with 120 carries for 640 yards (5.3 per carry) and 11 touchdowns.

"He had one year and a great finish to that year," Kiper said.

Kiper isn't alone in his admiration, with Sports Illustrated recently declaring: "Jacobs is the most physical runner in this class and fits the modern running back mold. He is a ferocious blocker and a smooth pass-catcher."

The 2019 NFL draft will take place April 25-27 in Nashville.

Kiper has three Alabama players projected in the first round, with defensive tackle Quinnen Williams going No. 3 to the New York Jets and offensive tackle Jonah Williams going 18th to the Minnesota Vikings. Quinnen Williams has held steady in Kiper's two mock drafts to this point, while Jonah Williams has slipped after being forecast fifth overall last month to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"When you look at Jonah Williams, he is going to be a right tackle," Kiper said. "He is not going to be a left tackle. He is going to be a right tackle or a guard or a center, and that is why I put him at No. 18 and not in the top 10. I think he is an interior guy now."

Adding Applewhite

Major Applewhite, who was Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2007, Nick Saban's first season as coach of the Tide, is reportedly returning to Tuscaloosa as an offensive analyst. Applewhite spent the past two seasons as head coach at the University of Houston, where he compiled a 15-11 record.

Former Tennessee head coach Butch Jones and former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops also are expected to be Alabama analysts in 2019, with Jones having served in that role this past season.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.