As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level.
Who is the better prospect from the Alabama backfield between Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris?
The University of Alabama features arguably the deepest and most talented roster year in and year out as Head Coach Nick Saban and his staff do an incredible job of recruiting each year. They are a college football powerhouse and crank out top NFL prospects year in and year out on both sides of the ball.
The top running back prospect in this year’s draft wasn’t even the starter or leading rusher on the team last season. Junior Josh Jacobs is widely viewed as the consensus top running back in this year’s draft despite finishing third on the team in rushing yards in 2018 with 657 and second in rushing attempts with 120.
Senior Damien Harris was the team’s leading rusher the past two season and finished with a team-high 891 yards in 2018. He also had a solid outing at the combine last month where he ran a faster 40-time (4.57) than Jacobs ran at the team’s official Pro day earlier today when he clocked in an unofficial time in the 4.6 range and outleaped him by nearly a foot in the broad jump (121 to 112 inches).
So, if Harris who was the starter over the last few seasons and was the more productive back on the stat sheet, why is he not being regarded as the top running back prospect over his teammate?
Draft pundits justify their beliefs by using the eyeball test over what the stat sheets reflect. On film, they see that Jacobs is the more explosive athlete with a diverse skill set and not as much tread on his tires that top backs usually have coming out of college.
He is drawing comparisons to 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year Alvin Kamara who the New Orleans got a mid-round gem in the third round of that year’s draft. After a limited workload during his career at the University of Tennessee, he has been one of the best multidimensional backs in the NFL with his impact as a rusher, receiver, and returner on special teams.
Experts see a lot of the same ability and potential in Jacobs which is why he is being so highly touted above the rest. He led all Alabama running backs in receiving yards and touchdowns last season in with 257 yards and three scores. While he didn’t lead the team in rushing yards, he did have a nose for the endzone and led the team in rushing touchdowns with 11 and total scores with 15. He, like Kamara also was a factor in the return game as he led the Crimson tide in kick return yards with 428, one touchdown and a healthy 30.57-yard average.
This is another case similar to the debate is currently circulating around Ole Miss receivers AJ Brown and D.K. Metcalf where teams and pundits are valuing potential over production. While it paid major dividends for the Saints with Kamara so far, they didn’t have to use a first round pick on him like the team that selects Jacobs will have to spend in order to try to get the same projected production.