Should you draft Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, or Zamir White in fantasy football leagues?

How should fantasy football managers handle the Raiders' backfield this season? Are any of Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, or Zamir White worth drafting?

Every year, there are a handful of players it’s really difficult to get a read on. This year, Josh Jacobs is one of those players. With a lot of uncertainty surrounding Jacobs, his future with the Las Vegas Raiders, and his role, fantasy football managers are left wondering whether they should draft him in 2022 fantasy leagues. Or should fantasy managers target Kenyan Drake or Zamir White instead?

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Should you draft Josh Jacobs in 2022 fantasy football leagues?

The answer to every “should you draft this player” question is relative. Every single top 100 is worth drafting at some point. To use an intentionally absurd example, if Jacobs is available in the 10th round, you’re drafting him.

In order to figure out whether fantasy managers should draft Jacobs this season, we first need to determine if Jacobs is a player worth targeting.

Josh Jacobs’ usage

Last season, Jacobs saw a 68% opportunity share in the Raiders’ backfield, averaging 18.8 opportunities (targets + carries) per game. That marked a noticeable drop from his 21.2 opportunities per game in 2020.

The good news for Jacobs was that he saw an increase in passing-game work last season. Jacobs’ target share jumped from 9.8% in 2020 to 12.4% in 2021, and he had the 11th-highest target share amongst running backs.

Jacobs has averaged between 14.7 and 15.4 PPR fantasy points per game in each of his three NFL seasons, finishing somewhere between RB12 and RB15 each year. If Jacobs sees similar usage this season, he will almost certainly be a value at his ADP.

The Raiders are a much different team than last season

This is the $64,000 question. On the surface, there’s not much of a reason for the Raiders to reduce Jacobs’ workload. However, the Raiders underwent several impactful changes since last season.

It’s a toss-up between two moves for the most impactful. First, the Raiders hired Josh McDaniels as their head coach. Next, they traded for Davante Adams. Both of these moves impact Jacobs.

McDaniels will bring over a new offensive philosophy that he learned from his time in New England. In New England, the Patriots often used multiple backs and never had the same lead back for more than a couple of seasons.

Adams’ presence suggests a move to a more pass-heavy system. Derek Carr threw the ball 626 times in a year where his top receivers were Hunter Renfrow and Zay Jones. With Adams leading a trio of him, Renfrow, and Darren Waller as Carr’s top pass catchers, it wouldn’t make sense to return to a run-heavy offense.

But here is where things get very murky. A reduction in Jacobs’ carries isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Targets are worth roughly three times more than carries in fantasy football. If Jacobs is losing a couple of carries a game, but gaining even just one target per game, it’s at worst a net neutral. The problem is a couple of other offseason moves suggest that may not be the case.

Is 2022 Jacobs’ final year with the Raiders?

Jacobs is on the final year of his rookie deal. The Raiders already declined his fifth-year option, and we know second-contract running backs are historically a bad bet. Perhaps this is the Raiders’ plan with Jacobs. They could still theoretically sign him to an extension, but declining his fifth-year option sends a clear message that they don’t mind losing him.

The Raiders signed two running backs that also play special teams in Ameer Abdullah and Brandon Bolden. As if that wasn’t enough, they also drafted Zamir White in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Oh, and Kenyan Drake is still there.

If 2022 is Jacobs’ last year with the Raiders, things could go one of two ways. Las Vegas could opt to run Jacobs into the ground in his final year with the team, not caring about his longevity since he won’t be there. They could also decide to transition him away from being the focal point of the running game, getting their rookie more involved, particularly as the year progresses.

As much as I’d love to sit here and tell you which direction they’ll go in, I just don’t know. But neither does anyone else. That’s precisely why Jacobs’ ADP is about 6-8 spots lower than where he’s finished over his first three seasons.

Is Jacobs worth drafting at his ADP?

It’s currently early August, and typically, ADP data gets stronger as we get deeper into the month. As things presently stand, Jacobs’ ADP is around RB20. If you want to draft him, you’ll need to grab him late-third/early-fourth round.

Jacobs presents substantially more risk this season than he has in years past. If Jacobs’ usage is the same as we’re accustomed to seeing, he will perform better than his ADP. However, Jacobs will never be a league winner. He just doesn’t have that sort of upside. We’ve seen his ceiling and in a best-case scenario, he’s a low RB1.

In the area Jacobs is going, I much prefer the wide receivers there. Guys like Diontae Johnson, Michael Pittman Jr., DK Metcalf, DJ Moore, and Terry McLaurin all offer more of a ceiling than Jacobs.

Similarly, at running back, I’d rather take a shot on the unknown ceilings of Breece Hall and Travis Etienne than the known capped ceiling of Jacobs. I’d even rather wait a round and grab AJ Dillon.

Ultimately, Jacobs is unlikely to torpedo your championship hopes. Given his cost and past performance, even if his role is reduced, Jacobs should still produce enough to be a worthwhile RB2 in fantasy. My concern is he’s a floor pick who isn’t as safe as he’s been in previous seasons.

I tend to prioritize upside when drafting my fantasy teams, so Jacobs is someone I’m probably avoiding unless he falls considerably farther than he should in 2022 fantasy football leagues.

What about Zamir White and Kenyan Drake?

Things get a little tricky here because I’m not really interested in White or Drake either. White’s highest college target share in a season was 3%. He’s a two-down grinder, and I don’t expect him out there on passing downs. His only real path to fantasy value is a Jacobs injury. Absent that scenario, White is going to hinder Jacobs’ fantasy value more so than have his own.

As for Drake, I’m slightly interested. With the Raiders drafting White and Drake coming off a broken ankle, Drake seems to have been completely dismissed by fantasy managers.

Drake largely goes undrafted, but he’s still just 28 years old. Last season, he averaged 8.5 ppg. While that’s nothing spectacular, it’s still RB4 numbers. Fantasy rosters contain at least four running backs, and Drake will probably be relevant in fantasy football leagues.

I’m not one to buy too much into training camp noise, but there have been several reports of Drake having a significant role in the passing game. It wouldn’t shock me if Drake saw 4-6 carries per game and 3-5 targets. As a result, at cost, I prefer Drake the most out of the Raiders’ top three backs.

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here.

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