There’s typically a lot of pressure that coincides with being a first-round pick.
Depending on the team, prospects entering the league can either be asked to shoulder a heavy load, or they’re slowly integrated, but with expectations of them becoming the next big thing.
For Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, the pressure is nothing he can’t handle.
The No. 24 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft was the undisputed top running back in the class, and he’s expected to fill the shoes of one Marshawn Lynch – which isn’t a fair expectation to have; however, the University of Alabama product is willing to try and exceed expectations. Jacobs has all the tangibles to be a three-down back in the NFL, and it’s something he’s determined to prove.
“That’s definitely something that I push myself towards every day,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I try to work hard every day so that I can be able to withstand that. But, it’s also something that I have been looking forward to for myself to see if I can handle that, take on that challenge. So, it’s definitely going to be fun. We’ll see how it goes.”
During his tenure in Tuscaloosa, Head Coach Nick Saban used him sparingly, preserving his body by giving him only 251 carries over a span of three years. Head Coach Jon Gruden could also elect to take a similar approach early on, considering Jacobs has several other talented running backs around him to alleviate some of the pressure.
“It’s huge because those are all guys that have played and they’re all guys I can lean towards on how to be a pro, how to be a better running back,” Jacobs said. “They’re teaching me the roles. Good and bad things I do, they get on me. When I do good, they praise me. It’s a blessing just to have a great group of guys like that.”
Jacobs has confidence, but it’s the way he’s been welcomed into the Raiders locker room that’s removed the tension and pressure of being a first-round pick. It’d be understandable if Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, and DeAndré Washington all shared some kind of resentment for Jacobs, given he’s another body that could take their job, but that’s not the case.
“It’s definitely easier because the whole room is like that,” Jacobs explained. “The whole running back room is carrying like that. It’s crazy, because I didn’t come in thinking it would be like that. But they’re all loving and we all have the same common goals. Regardless of who it is, we just want the best for the team.”
He continued, “It’s definitely competitive, but it’s just like, at the same time, we’re just all working towards a common goal – that’s to win games and be the best that we can be as a running back unit. We always try to set the tone, set the pace even if it’s at practice. We just hold each other to that kind of a standard every day.”
Mandatory Minicamp has come to an end, but when Training Camp gets started in late-July, the competition will be at its highest. Jacobs, Martin, Washington, Richard, and Chris Warren III will all try and best each other as they establish roles for the 2019 season. Each of them do specific things well, but Jacobs is a well-rounded player with above average receiving abilities, which is something he’s placed emphasis on in the early going.
“I try to actually learn all of the pass trees and the concepts and things like that, even though I might not be lined up out wide, I still try to learn the concepts to try and give me a better feel,” Jacobs said. “When I’m watching film, I’m looking at every position and see how ‘AB’ [Antonio Brown] runs his routes just to try and give myself a little edge. And then obviously, just catching balls after practice or before practice with ‘DC’ [Derek Carr] and things like that. That’s probably the biggest things I can do.”
While there’s nothing wrong with being a scat back, third-down back, or a power runner, and doing one thing exceptionally well, but Jacobs wants to be more than a one-dimensional player.
The spotlight will shine brightly on the trio of Raiders first-round picks this season, as the media follows their every move, but Jacobs is embracing all that’s thrown at him, including a few passes.