Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Josh Jacobs
- The 2019 NFL Draft begins on April 25 and will be held in Nashville, TN.
- Matthew Freedman breaks down his three favorite props that revolve around Alabama running back Josh Jacobs.
Each day, I publish 1-2 pieces on props I like. See my master list of 2019 prop bets for more information.
The 2019 NFL draft class is incredibly thin at running back. This year’s cohort of backs might be the worst of the past decade. Maybe even the past 15 years.
Here’s how bad this class is: The consensus No. 1 back is a guy with below-average athleticism and not one 1,000-yard season to his name. In a normal class, Alabama running back Josh Jacobs would be talked about as a likely third-rounder with upside.
This year he’s getting legitimate first-round hype.
The draft is rapidly approaching, and for the first time ever it will be held in Nashville, TN.
Here’s the seven-round schedule.
- Thursday, April 25: Round 1
- Friday, April 26: Rounds 2-3
- Saturday, April 27: Rounds 4-7
In this piece, I break down the three props I’ve bet that are related to Jacobs.
2019 NFL Draft: First Running Back to Be Selected
- Josh Jacobs: -400
- Miles Sanders: +500
- Damien Harris: +850
- David Montgomery: +850
- Justice Hill: +1600
- Darrell Henderson: +1600
- Devin Singletary: +3300
- Benny Snell Jr.: +4000
- Rodney Anderson: +5000
I am putting down as much as I can on Jacobs.
I’ve surveyed the most recent Round 1 mock drafts of 20 respected analysts. Jacobs is mocked as a first-rounder in only 13 of them, but in each of those he’s the No. 1 back off the board.
He’s the top back for both Pro Football Focus and Sports Info Solutions, and it’s not all that hard to see why: Of all the backs likely to be drafted, Jacobs is first with a 59.2% positive play rate and second with 38 broken tackles per 100 touches, 2.4 yards per route and 41.9 expected points added.
Not one single draftnik I’ve talked to thinks that any back is likely to be drafted before Jacobs.
This is a weak running back class, and the draft is a chaos-based process peppered with irrationality, so there’s a non-zero chance that another back could be drafted before Jacobs. But it’s very unlikely.
At -400 odds, Jacobs has an 80% implied probability to be the first back drafted, but I’d put his true odds closer to 95%.
I’d bet on Jacobs down to -800.
The pick: Jacobs (-400)
2019 NFL Draft: Number of Running Backs Selected in Round 1
- Over 1.5: +260
- Under 1.5: -400
Again, I’m going with the heavy juice, but that’s where the value is. In just one of the 20 mocks are multiple backs selected in Round 1. And frankly, I think that mocker is just outright wrong.
Outside of Jacobs, no other back is being talked about as a first-round talent by scouts, draftniks, et al.
Jacobs stands alone.
At -400 odds, there’s an 80% implied probability that no more than one back will be drafted in Round 1, but the true odds are closer to 95%. Maybe 98%.
I’d bet the under down to -800.
The pick: Under 1.5 (-400)
2019 NFL Draft: Number of Running Backs Selected in Round 1
- Over 0.5: -200
- Under 0.5: +150
This props pretty much comes down to whether Jacobs is selected in Round 1. In Jacobs’ favor are a few factors. To start with, he’s attending the NFL draft.
A guy isn’t guaranteed to be selected in Round 1 if he’s at the draft, but if he’s there, it means that the event organizers and Jacobs’ agent strongly believe that he won’t fall out of the top 32.
Additionally, he’s mocked as a first-rounder in 13 of the 20 drafts surveyed. The industry generally believes it’s likelier than not that he’ll be selected on Day 1. As Daniel Jeremiah said of Jacobs in his recent NFL draft conference call, “he’s likely to go in the 20s or the 30s.”
But in seven of the mocks — including the most recent one by Jeremiah — Jacobs falls out of Round 1.
Although Jacobs is attending the draft — he was the only running back invited — we shouldn’t forget that just last year Derrius Guice was the only back at the event, and he wasn’t selected until pick No. 59.
Whether Jacobs is selected in Round 1 looks close to a coin flip to me, and I have him falling outside the top 32 in my most recent mock.
Ultimately, it’s just hard to find a team to which it’s easy to project him.
Let’s assume that Jacobs won’t be drafted in the top half of Round 1. That’s a safe assumption: No one has come remotely close to mocking him in the top 16 in months.
So let’s look at each of the teams holding picks Nos. 17-32.
No. 17 – New York Giants: They just drafted Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall last year. They have no need at the position.
No. 18 – Minnesota Vikings: They could think about Jacobs. They have 2017 second-rounder Dalvin Cook, who has flashed great potential but also been injured for significant stretches of the past two years.
But they have far larger needs on the offensive line, and there should be a few Round 1-caliber linemen to choose from available at their pick.
No. 19 – Tennessee Titans: They already have the duo of Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. They have no need.
No. 20 – Pittsburgh Steelers: They are set with starter James Conner and backup Jaylen Samuels. Plus, they will likely want not to invest significant draft capital and a relatively large amount of money for the position in a running back after the Le’Veon Bell ordeal.
No. 21 – Seattle Seahawks: They just spent a first-rounder last year on Rashaad Penny, and they also have Chris Carson. There’s no chance they draft a back in Round 1.
No. 22 – Baltimore Ravens: They signed Mark Ingram in the offseason, and they have Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon to support him. Perhaps more importantly, not once under head coach John Harbaugh (since 2008) have the Ravens selected a back in Round 1.
In fact, Harbaugh’s team has never taken a back even in the top 50.
No. 23 – Houston Texans: They are an option. Starter Lamar Miller will be 28 this season, and he’s declined over the past two years. And backup D’Onta Foreman has been slow to recover from his 2017 Achilles injury.
But like the Vikings, the Texans have significant needs elsewhere. I expect them to draft an offensive lineman or cornerback in Round 1.
No. 24 – Oakland Raiders: There’s no denying it. The Raiders are in play. Currently Isaiah Crowell is atop the depth chart, but he’s on just a one-year deal, and backup Jalen Richard isn’t built to be a lead back.
But just once in his 12-year career has HC Jon Gruden drafted a back in Round 1: Cadillac Williams in 2005. That didn’t work out well for Gruden. Plus, general manager Mike Mayock seems like an intelligent executive. I doubt he’d want to invest a premium pick in a devalued position. And the Raiders have lots of other needs.
But it’s hard to know what the Raiders are going to do, especially when they have no clue what they’re doing.
Of all the teams with a Round 1 pick, the Raiders seem the likeliest to draft Jacobs — and not just because they have three picks to use.
No. 25 – Philadelphia Eagles: They have shown a preference for committee and low-investment backs under HC Doug Pederson, and they just traded for Jordan Howard this offseason. As an analytics-heavy team, they seem highly unlike to draft a back in Round 1.
No. 26 – Indianapolis Colts: They have Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins, all of whom have been drafted outside of the top 100 over the past two years by GM Chris Ballard. Given the intelligent way he has rebuilt the Colts and the unwillingness he has already displayed to invest in the position, Ballard seems unlikely to take a back in Round 1.
No. 27 – Oakland Raiders: I don’t think they’re much likelier to take Jacobs at 27 than they are to take him at 24.
No. 28 – Los Angeles Chargers: They are set with 2015 first-rounder Melvin Gordon.
No. 29 – Kansas City Chiefs: They maybe have a need at the position. Right now, they have only the unestablished Damien Williams, cast-off Carlos Hyde and undrafted Darrel Williams.
But not once in his 20-year career has HC Andy Reid drafted a back in Round 1. And why would he when he’s been able to get Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy and Kareem Hunt in Rounds 2-3?
No. 30 – Green Bay Packers: They already have Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in the backfield, and organizationally the Packers for years have shown a steadfast commitment to avoiding high-investment backs. Not once in the past 25 years have they drafted a back in the top 50.
No. 31 – Los Angeles Rams: They have 2015 first-rounder Todd Gurley as well as backup Malcolm Brown, whom they just re-signed to a two-year deal.
No. 32 – New England Patriots: They drafted Sony Michel in Round 1 last year, and they also have James White and Rex Burkhead.
It’s always possible that a team not highlighted here could trade into the bottom half of Round 1 and draft Jacobs, but I can easily see how he could fall out of Day 1.
So I’ll bet under 0.5 running backs selected in Round 1. I wouldn’t, though, bet it any lower than +150.
The pick: Under 0.5 (+150)
2019 NFL Draft: Josh Jacobs Draft Position
- Over 24.5: -265
- Under 24.5: +190
I’m personally staying away from this one, but if you happen to like Jacobs and think he’ll go in Day 1, the under is attractive, because Jacobs is definitely in play for the Raiders at No. 24.
Again, I’m not betting this. I think it’s close to a coin flip as to whether Jacobs will be drafted in Round 1.
But if you think he’s a Round 1 lock, there’s value on the under. (I’ve also seen under 25.5 at +140 odds. If you want the extra pick of leeway, that’s an option.)
The pick: Pass
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