An Offensive ROY Pick Not Named Kyler Murray

A rookie running back should also enter Week 1 with a major role and has a higher upside

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It’s easy to think of Kyler Murray when it comes to projecting the potential NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The quarterback was drafted first overall and has an immediate role as a starter on the Arizona Cardinals. DraftKings has him as the favorite to win the award (+175). However, let’s discuss the potential of a higher-upside stud stealing the show over the dynamic Arizona quarterback.

The Top Running Back

Josh Jacobs was the only running back to be selected in the first round of the 2019 Draft. He was taken 24th overall by the Oakland Raiders and is expected to take control of the backfield. There isn’t much competition for Jacobs when it comes to being the workhorse of the team. DraftKings has him at +1000 to take home the award, the highest odds behind Murray.

Doug Martin was recently cut by the Raiders, proving their confidence in Jacobs. Martin had decent numbers last season, but teams hardly feared him. 

Jalen Richard is still listed as a third-down back for the black and silver and DeAndre Washington is still around. These guys are clear depth players and neither was very impressive last season. These two shouldn’t pose a threat to Jacobs and his red zone potential. Richard will be involved in the pass game, as he nabbed 68 catches in 2018. Still, Jacobs should gobble up the majority of touchdowns.

That leaves just a couple of honorable mentions. Marshawn Lynch was one of the Raiders best performers at the position and he has chosen to move on from football. The team added Isaiah Crowell to their roster in the offseason, but the veteran back tore his Achilles and will miss the entire season. All signs are pointing to Jacobs being the top running back with a massive role in Jon Gruden’s offense.   

College Attributes

Jacobs had a solid career at Alabama, averaging 5.9 yards per carry over three seasons and scoring 14 total touchdowns as a junior before entering the draft. The 5’10, 220-pounder is going to be a hassle for defenders to take down due to his dynamic running style and ability to evade tackles. 

Here are some examples of his game-breaking ability from his time at Alabama:

The Raiders rookie let it be known recently that he has spent time with Julio Jones, a fellow Alabama alumni. It appears that Jones has really made an impression on Jacobs, and that only bodes well for Jacobs’ projection as a pass-catcher. 

Other ROY Threats

The list of potential rookies to take home the hardware are minimal. 

Dwayne Haskins of the Washington Redskins was given the third-best odds (+2000). Haskins has a great opportunity in front of him. Alex Smith is out of the picture, and that leaves Case Keenum and Colt McCoy for Haskins to get through. Keenum was recently named the Week 1 starter. It is unknown as to how many games Haskins could play this season, but the doubt is enough to feel uneasy. Dan Marino is the only quarterback to win the award with less than 12 starts. Haskins will have a solid run game behind Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice, but their receivers might be the worst group in the NFL. Josh Doctson, Cam Sims, Brian Quick, Robert Davis, and an often-injured Jordan Reed won’t help his cause much.

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Miles Sanders (+1400) is a talented running back out of Penn State that the Philadelphia Eagles pounced on in the second round. The Eagles acquired Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears this offseason, giving the rookie a run for his starting job. Even if Sanders takes the starting job, coach Doug Pederson has seemed reluctant to feature just one running back in his offense. Last season, he used a combination of rushers, including Jay Ajayi, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles. With the uncertainty of Pederson’s willingness to feature Sanders, it makes him a poor choice. 

N’Keal Harry of the New England Patriots (+2800) and D.K. Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks (+3000) raise some interest with their roles on their teams. Harry could turn into one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets with Rob Gronkowski gone. However, Julian Edelman and James White are still around, and even Josh Gordon feels ready to return to the squad. Metcalf has a clear path to targets with Doug Baldwin out of the picture, but he’s incredibly raw and is behind David Moore, Tyler Lockett, and Jaron Brown for snaps.

Voters Appreciate Running Backs

When it comes to past winners of the award, voters typically favor running backs. Dak Prescott is the only quarterback to win the award in the past six seasons. In fact, quarterbacks have taken home the award only nine times out of 52 seasons with the award established. Wide receivers match the quarterback marks with nine rookie of the year achievements as well. Tight ends have received no love in the past, having never won the award.

Running backs dominate the award over history, with the position accounting for 34 of the awards.That position has taken home the award the past two seasons and in four of the last six. Jacobs is in a favorable situation with an offensive-minded head coach, a clear path to workhorse touches, and a skill set that could set him apart from the rest.

At +1000, he might even be a safer choice than Murray is at +175. 

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