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ADP Showdown - Derrick Henry vs Josh Jacobs

Roll Tide. Both of these former Alabama running backs know this chant well. But which one of them do we want to roll with in 2019? Both players are on teams likely to struggle on offense. Both have quarterbacks who struggle with consistency, but both also have coaches who want to run the ball. A lot.

Jon Gruden wants to play 1970s football. This means a return to the ground and pound. This could work as long as the Raiders are competitive in games, or in other words, until the second quarter. As for Mike Vrabel and the Titans, they have come out and said they are going to run Derrick Henry until he pukes. While a running back being compared to Donovan McNabb may not be a good thing, the workload this implies is great for fantasy.

So, let's now look at the two players involved and make a case for each of the ex-Crimson Tide running backs now in the NFL.

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Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

RB19, Pick 4.01

The man in Tennessee. He still cannot catch the ball to save his life, but if he gets the type of work the coaching staff wants and he can stay healthy through it, we have us a top-10 back. The fact he is in a walking boot at this time kind of dampers the enthusiasm for the moment, but as long as he returns healthy this is not an issue.

A bowling ball of a man at 6’3" and 247 pounds, he will not only take a pounding but also give one to defenders who try to tackle him. As a part-time player in his first two seasons, he averaged just under 4.4 yards per carry. In 2018, in more of a starter's role with 215 carries, he averaged 4.9 yards showing he is even better with more work. This is due to the fact his size allows him to wear down opposing defenses and helps him to flourish late in games rather than wilt away like some smaller backs tend to do. With 12 touchdowns on those 215 carries, there is the potential of Henry getting 300 or more carries in 2019.

His only drawback is his pass-catching ability. He would be jealous to be able to catch to the level of Jordan Howard or Sony Michel. This is to say, to have any slight ability at all. He did have 15 receptions in 16 games last season but, with the addition of A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries along with the return of Delanie Walker, he may not see many targets this year.

Even with those additions to the passing game Tennessee wants to be a run-first team. Corey Davis has been a pretty substantial bust thus far in his career, as has Marcus Mariota. Both of these players need to step up to the plate this season if the Titans want to be competitive. Davis had his first four career touchdowns last season. If he can build on this the offense could be better. The key to this could lie in the health of Mariota. If he remains upright and healthy the passing game could get better. But to have this happen, even more will rely on Henry taking control of the backfield which in turn further helps his value. So, it is a win-win situation for his owners.

He does take a bit of a dip in PPR leagues due to that lack of pass-catching ability, but in standard leagues, he gets just as big a boost. He is going to be a workhorse first and second down running back. He could and should lead the NFL in rush attempts this season, and if he comes anywhere close to his 4.9 yards per carry average of last season, he will also be a contender to lead the league in rushing. He is well worth an early fourth-round pick in fantasy drafts and if you have a late third-round pick? He would also be in consideration there. Just to make sure you get him.


Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders

RB20, Pick 4.02

He doesn’t have the experience. This is a common phrase heard about Josh Jacobs coming into this season. Well, you know what? No one who enters the NFL has experience. This is why they are called rookies and not college veterans.

One thing he does have in his favor is his going up against the defenses in not only the SEC but also at Alabama in practice. I mean, how many players from SEC defenses have been drafted in recent years. 50 or 60? He has experience. Even if it is not the experience you might want to look at. So, relax.

One thing he does have which no one can deny is a coach who wants to use him. Jon Gruden was all in on getting Josh Jacobs in the draft. They were afraid someone was going to trade up for him which is why they took him at pick 24 instead of waiting until pick 27.

With Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams in the fold, Jacobs also has a much better pass game surrounding him than that of Henry in Tennessee. You can quibble over whether Derek Carr or Mariota is the better quarterback, but there is absolutely no doubt the duo of Brown and Williams is far better than Davis and A.J. Brown. This will allow the run game in Oakland to get going much easier than in Tennessee as there is a true threat in the passing game. A passing game which also will include Jacobs out of the backfield to go along with Jalen Richard.

Richard will have a role for sure. He averaged almost six receptions a game in 2018, but this was with the walking corpse of Doug Martin and unretired Marshawn Lynch on the field with him. Martin is back due to the season-ending injury to Isaiah Crowell, but as of now, Lynch is in the wind. This leaves Richard as the third-down back in the offense when Jacobs is off the field or as a secondary back to Jacobs in passing situations. Having to deal with only one back in Richard compared to multiple backs is a clear win for Jacobs in his rookie season.

Had he gone to a team like the Eagles or 49ers where the team has a litany of backs, both rushing and receiving backs, he could have struggled. But entering as the clear number one with no one to compete with for carries he is also likely to break out this season.

Going at the same price as Henry, the floor for Jacobs is comparable while his ceiling maybe even higher. With the pass-catching ability he possesses allowing him to remain relevant whether the Raiders are winning or losing, Josh Jacobs may be the guy to take here if you can only have one. But if you have that 10th or 11th pick in the draft and you can get both? Well. Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Derrick Henry, and Josh Jacobs is a great start to a team.

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