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Yahoo Sports' top 2019 NFL draft prospects, No. 24: Alabama RB Josh Jacobs

Eric Edholm
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Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.

Previous entries: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30. Drew Lock | 29. Deandre Baker | 28. Taylor Rapp | 27. Garrett Bradbury | 26. Dexter Lawrence | 25. Jerry Tillery

24. Alabama RB Josh Jacobs

5-foot-10, 220 pounds

Key stat: Jacobs left Bama with only 317 touches in three seasons. He averaged 5.9 yards on 251 rush attempts; 11.9 yards on 48 receptions; and 28.6 yards on 18 kickoffs.

Jacobs scored 24 touchdowns in 40 games with the Crimson Tide and fumbled only three times.

The skinny: A three-star recruit out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Jacobs was attracting attention mostly from lower-level FCS schools and a handful of middle-tier programs before Missouri, Oklahoma and Alabama got involved. He signed with Bama and played right away in 15 games as a freshman, rushing 85 times for 567 yards and four TDs, also returning a blocked punt for a score. Jacobs was slowed early in his sophomore season with a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the first two games of the 2017. He made the most of his 11 games (one start) with contributions as a runner (46-284-1), receiver (14-168-2) and kick returner (4-86-0).

Even though he remained in a timeshare at the position, splitting the bulk of the carries with Damien Harris and Najee Harris, Jacobs was the Tide’s most explosive runner in 2018. The junior ran 120 times for 640 yards with 11 TDs and caught 20 passes for 247 yards and three scores, also expanding his work as a kick returner (14-428-1). Jacobs was named MVP of the SEC championship game with eight carries for 86 yards and two TDs, and he totaled 158 all-purpose yards in the Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 29: Josh Jacobs #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs past the attempted take by Parnell Motley #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Josh Jacobs projects as a do-it-all running back after a strong showing at Alabama. (Getty Images)

Jacobs, who turned 21 in February, declared for the 2019 NFL draft. He was limited at the scouting combine because of a groin injury but worked out fully at his pro day.

Jacobs has a 4-year-old son, Braxton.

Upside: Explosive, hard-charging back with outstanding lower-body strength and burst. Compact frame to absorb hits and barrel over people. Can slash and cut on a dime and possesses elite vision in the hole. Creates yards on his own accord and rarely lets one defender bring him down.

Missed tackles are what you notice readily with Jacobs. Makes violent, sudden cuts and leaves would-be tacklers grabbing at shoelaces or air. Determined running style – appears perfect for one-cut system on inside and outside zone series. Loves to finish through people, even against big linebackers.

Has all the earmarks of a playmaker in a modern NFL offense. Bama used Jacobs in a variety of ways: as a power runner and in the perimeter game; in motion as a receiver, even splitting him out wide and running a vast array of routes (even slant-and-go’s and corner routes); as a trusted pass protector and lead blocker in space; and even as a wildcat QB (although he did not attempt any passes). Has special-teams value as a kick returner and coverage player. Good ball security. Takes the game seriously. Highly motivated and carries a chip on his shoulder every time out. Practices as hard as he plays.

Do-it-all back whose only real limitation in college was the vast amount of talent around him and an offense that suddenly became centered on the passing game once Tua Tagovailoa took over at QB. Bama didn’t feature Jacobs enough in the passing game, but he has rare ball-tracking ability – logging catches over the shoulder and hauling in off-target throws – for a high school QB and back, and huge hands (10 1/8 inches) to snag passes. Has the raw upside as a receiver to be used as an offensive centerpiece, much the way LaDainian Tomlinson was in his heyday.

Jacobs enters the NFL with little wear and tear and a lot of tread on his tires, which is important for his aggressive style. He can take over games with limited touches, profiles as a three-down back in the league and can threaten defenses in multiple ways. He’s just starting to unlock his special talents and should be a better pro than he was a college player.

Downside: Lack of long speed and elite testing numbers. Despite the burst he showed on film, Jacobs turned in sub-par numbers at his pro day in the 40-yard dash and jumping drills. Could be more decisive as a runner. Picks his spots a little carefully and will pass up chances to get downhill faster. Still looks like a player at times who can’t decide if he’s an elusive, make-you-miss runner or a power back. Can be herky-jerky in his running style and miss windows. Only one run of 20 yards or more on 120 carries last season – singles and doubles hitter. More Pete Rose than Hank Aaron.

Benefitted from Bama’s vertical passing game, elite OL talent and stable of talented backs keeping Jacobs’ workload down. Rarely faced stacked boxes and was given ideal platform for success in limited workload on stacked roster. Only three career starts at Bama and never was the bell-cow back in terms of carries and workload – just three college games with 15 or more offensive touches. Admitted to “mental fatigue” after national title game loss to Clemson.

Running style might leave him more vulnerable to injuries. Dealt with shoulder injury in high school and battled a fractured ankle and a torn hamstring in injury-plagued 2017 season. Might always have to have a pitch count put on him.

Best-suited destination: As the run game starts cycling back into the NFL with teams seeking to find multi-tool backs, Jacobs is a fit on every pro offense. How extensively individual teams want to feature him will be a club-by-club determination, but there’s little limit on how he can be used other than perhaps capping his workload given his lack of big-touch games in college and a history of injuries. Jacobs is a special back who could be a terrific fit on teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans.

Fact: When Jacobs’ parents split up in 2006, he was forced to sleep in his father’s Suburban for a few weeks when they had nowhere to stay while Jacobs’ other four siblings stayed with their mother. For protection, Marty Jacobs often carried a gun in the car. They spent time staying in hotels and apartments and struggled to make ends meet, often not knowing where their next meal might come from outside of school. Jacobs often credits his hard-running style to his tough upbringing and has said that football saved his life in a way.

They said it: “It’s been incredible. If you know Josh you know his story, where he comes from, so just seeing him being able to have that success and the blessings that have come his way are truly remarkable, and I can’t think of a more deserving guy than someone like Josh. It’s an incredible honor to have played with him for three years. I had the privilege of being his roommate for all three years on weekends for games, and developing that relationship with him and knowing him the way I know him and seeing everything that’s come his way, it’s well deserved.”

— fellow Alabama RB Damien Harris, at the scouting combine

Player comp: His playing style is reminiscent of Kareem Hunt with flashes of Todd Gurley

Expected draft range: First-round pick

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