Raiders running backs should be on all fantasy managers’ minds when they’re on the clock during their upcoming drafts. Josh Jacobs is off to an excellent two-year start to his career, finishing as the RB21 as a rookie and as the RB8 in 2020 in PPR scoring formats. With 1st round draft capital attached to Jacobs, he should be primed for a massive third-year jump.
Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock seem to see the situation differently. They signed ex-Arizona Cardinal Kenyan Drake to a two year, $14.5 million contract this offseason (with $11 million guaranteed).
Drake’s last three PPR fantasy finishes are impressive:
- 2018: RB14 (Miami Dolphins)
- 2019: RB17 (Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals, traded mid-season)
- 2020: RB16 (Arizona Cardinals)
Raiders running backs seem destined for a split backfield in 2021. Drake has been productive for two different organizations, was guaranteed a significant amount of money, is a capable receiving back and has only missed three games in the last three seasons.
Josh Jacobs: The Upside
All of that may seem to spell disaster for Jacobs, who was once a blue-chip fantasy asset. But I’m here to tell you that you should not stay away from Raiders running backs simply because of a likely carry split.
According to Underdog Fantasy at the time of this writing, Jacobs has a 54.8 ADP. Jacobs is appropriately priced as a 5th round pick considering the caliber of competition he’s now facing. But he still possesses elite upside. At this time last year, Jacobs was being selected in the late-first to second round of 12-team redraft leagues and he paid off at that cost.
As a 5th round pick, Jacobs is a screaming buy if you leave the first four rounds with something like RB-TE-WR-WR. The range of outcomes for Jacobs is appealing. Considering the context of Jacob’s young career, I would not be surprised at all if he holds off Drake and delivers high-end RB2 production. The negatives are baked into Jacobs’ ADP and his upside is being ignored at a 5th round price.
Kenyan Drake: The Value
Drake, on the other hand, is an outrageous value between the Raiders running backs at his 128.5 ADP. No running back coming off three straight RB17 or better finishes with a fresh multi-year contract should ever be flirting with the double-digit rounds in fantasy drafts. I really don’t care who else is on the depth chart.
Drake has RB1 upside in the event of a Jacobs injury of any length. There is a void in the Raiders’ passing attack outside of superstar tight end Darren Waller. Jacobs has notably failed to excel in the passing game thus far in his career from a fantasy perspective. Although Drake’s receiving production dipped in 2020, he posted 50+ catches in both 2018 and 2019. Drake should be a Zero-RB darling and has league-winning upside as an RB4-5.
Why Not Both?
You may be wondering why I’m touting both Raiders running backs at their respective costs. Yes, one will likely have to fail in order for the other to break your league, whether that be due to injury or something else. The Raiders’ running backs are exactly why you should be thinking in terms of ranges of outcomes. Fantasy football is highly unpredictable and that’s okay. Let’s embrace that.
In order to win fantasy championships, you need to finish above the 90th percentile in your league. Finding fantasy football values is crucial to hitting that mark. Jacobs and Drake are depressing each other’s ADP, and yet they both possess upside that far exceeds their cost. If one of these Raiders running backs emerge and lead this backfield, they will be smashing values during the season.
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