NFL draft expert Mel Kiper isn’t always correct, but he’s undoubtedly one of the best in the business. In his latest mock draft, Kiper has the Ravens using their first round pick on Josh Jacobs, a running back out of Alabama.
Jacobs, 21, is entering the NFL draft after three collegiate seasons for the Crimson Tide. Last year, Jacobs rushed for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns on 120 attempts, good for an average of 5.3 yards per attempt.
”Jacobs is a complete player and the most explosive back in this draft. He didn’t get a ton of touches in a talented Crimson Tide rotation, which means he has little tread on his tires,” said Kiper. “There’s a lot to like about Jacobs, who has also shown nice hands in the passing game”.
As Kiper also notes in his synopsis, Jacobs totaled just 300 touches over three seasons in college, which is 106 less than former Alabama running back Derrick Henry in his 2015 Heisman season alone. While Jacobs lacks the body of work that many other backs in the class have, he’s widely regarded as the consensus top overall back in this years’ draft.
Jacobs responded well to a larger workload in his junior season and helped lead Alabama to another national title game. Given the Ravens desire for a complete, versatile back and their history of eyeing Alabama prospects, Eric DeCosta would likely consider taking Jacobs in the first round, should he slip to them at #22 overall.
While the idea of pairing Jacobs with Lamar Jackson as the future QB/RB duo is tantalizing, investing a first round pick on a running back would be bit of a head-scratching decision.
Baltimore’s running game was the strength of the offense last year, particularly over the second half of the season. Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon, both of whom are set to return next year, had strong seasons and anchored the Ravens backfield down the stretch.
Baltimore could also opt to resign one of their trio of free agent backs in Alex Collins, Ty Montgomery, and Javorius Allen. Even if they let all three walk, Edwards and Dixon did more than enough last season to solidify sizable workloads going forward and showed the potential to be a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backfield.
Even if the Ravens drafted Jacobs, Edwards and Dixon would still figure to have roles in the offense next year, meaning Jacobs would enter a timeshare at the position. It would be a talented bunch, yes, but this isn’t the year for the Ravens to draft a running back in the first round.
There are several more pressing needs on the roster. Baltimore needs to solidify the offensive line, add a playmaker at wide receiver, and fill potential holes on the defensive side of the ball (pass rusher, linebacker, etc.). Using their first round pick to address any of these areas makes more sense.
There’s chance that Edwards one-dimensional running style catches up to him and/or Dixon struggles to stay on the field next season. If that does happen, then Baltimore can utilize next years’ draft or free agency to take a running back.
For now, Eric DeCosta and the front office should focus their efforts on filling more pressing needs on the roster and addressing areas of weaknesses, which the running back position is not.
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