The 2022 Hall of Fame Game surprised many onlookers due to how much we saw of Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. While five rush attempts and two targets may not seem like much, for a veteran in a preseason game, it’s a heavy workload.
Seeing Jacobs play multiple drives prompted speculation that the Raiders may be looking to pump up his value in the preseason in order to trade him. If that’s the case, how would a trade potentially impact Jacobs’ fantasy football value in 2022?
Is Josh Jacobs a trade candidate this preseason?
There are certainly cases to be made both ways when it comes to Jacobs being a potential trade candidate. After the game, Raiders’ head coach Josh McDaniels appeared to downplay the significance of Jacobs’ preseason appearance.
“I always think it’s good for backs to carry the ball in the preseason,” McDaniels said. “There’s a lot of things that happen when you’re getting tackled and hit that you can’t simulate in practice. I think all of our guys had the ball tonight; all of our guys either caught it or were handed the ball and had to get tackled. We can’t really simulate that or rep that in practice.”
However, McDaniels was also part of the staff that traded Sony Michel out of New England in very similar contract circumstances last year. Michel was traded to the Los Angeles Rams as he entered the final year of his rookie deal, having had his fifth-year option declined. Similarly, Jacobs is now entering the final year of his rookie deal after having his fifth-year option declined.
Michel was traded on Aug. 25, 2021, between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season. During preseason, he had a total of 13 rushing attempts for 50 yards with four receptions for 37 yards. Were the Patriots and McDaniels simply getting Michel some touches to prepare him for the season, or were they trying to elevate his value some as they searched for a trade?
There are certainly some similarities between the two situations, and ruling out a trade completely would be naive. The biggest difference is that New England perhaps knew they weren’t contending for a Super Bowl last year and could afford to trade away an RB.
In contrast, Las Vegas has made moves to put itself on the fringe of being Super Bowl contenders. Would they be willing to trade away their top running back to another contending team? The answer to that question lies in the minds of McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler.
What is the fantasy football impact of Josh Jacobs being traded?
There is a wide range of potential fantasy outcomes when it comes to any possible trade for Jacobs. His role in Las Vegas is assumed to be the lead back in what has been discussed previously as a committee situation.
We’ve seen McDaniels’ offense in New England mix and match their backs based on the game situation, so we can likely expect something similar in Las Vegas. Therefore, his current value is somewhat uncertain, with his ADP resting in the mid-to-late fourth round.
Right now, there are no obvious situations where Jacobs’ fantasy value would rise exponentially. At this point, all 32 teams have what appears to be a settled backfield situation. The only destination where you could make a case Jacobs would be the unquestioned lead back is in Houston, where Marlon Mack and rookie Dameon Pierce currently top the depth chart.
There are other places where Jacobs could go and compete to earn the starting role — Seattle and Atlanta are prime examples. However, neither of those teams likely view themselves as Super Bowl challengers at this stage of the season. Therefore, they would seem unlikely to make a push to add a veteran back in the final year of his rookie contract.
Any other landing spot right now would realistically see Jacobs retain the same level of fantasy value or see that value drop. Teams such as the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or Buffalo Bills may feel they could add a veteran back at a relatively cheap price to provide depth. At best, Jacobs would likely be in a committee situation in those destinations, and he could simply be a backup in case of injury.
This story is set to rumble on
However, the Raiders could be playing the long game. We’ve already seen injuries and injury scares during training camp, and there’s still more than a month to go until the start of the 2022 NFL season. If we see a running back or two go down with injuries on a contending team, then the trade market for Jacobs could certainly heat up.
In that situation, Jacobs could yet end up as a lead back on a good team. If that happens, it would not be unrealistic to expect that a player with a dual skill set sees a significant increase in fantasy value.
Jacobs has never finished lower than RB16 for fantasy while having between 262 and 306 touches during his career. Until a trade takes place, he remains a solid RB2, which is accurately reflected in his current ADP.
The most likely trade scenario at this point would be following an injury to a starter. If that were to happen, Jacobs has the potential to finish as a top-12 back. On 306 touches in 2020, Jacobs finished eighth at the position and 19th overall in terms of fantasy points.
Yes, it was surprising to see Jacobs play and take this many touches in the Hall of Fame Game, but no, it should not immediately mean you downgrade him in your fantasy rankings.
Last year, Najee Harris had seven carries in the Hall of Fame Game, and 13 carries in total during the preseason. The only time eyebrows should be significantly raised is if we still see Jacobs on the field come Week 3 of the 2022 NFL preseason when starters are usually rested ahead of Week 1.