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Who won Raiders running back battle between Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake

Despite back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will now share the backfield with Kenyan Drake.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When the Las Vegas Raiders invested a first-round pick in Josh Jacobs two years ago, they appeared committed to him as the centerpiece of head coach Jon Gruden’s running game. After a solid rookie season and a follow-up campaign with double-digit touchdowns, little seemed to have changed.

But the Raiders, for one reason or another, felt it pertinent to invest significant salary-cap space into fellow running back Kenyan Drake earlier this offseason. Drake’s arrival complicates Jacobs’ role within the offense and creates some significant questions about how Gruden will manage the two backs.

Verdict

Friday lunch time update: The Raiders have signed Peyton Barber off Washington’s practice squad, per Ben Standig. While Barber won’t be getting any kind of starter reps, he would likely take some snaps from Jacobs and Drake, diluting an already shaky situation.

Friday AM update: The Raiders were one of several teams to put in a waiver claim on running back Royce Freeman, per Field Yates. Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake are the top two on this depth chart, but the Raiders appear to be on the hunt for more running back depth.

The preseason finale spoke for itself. The Raiders didn’t want to expose their key starters to injury, and Drake appears to have already locked up a significant role, whether by virtue of his work in practice or his contract (two years, $11 million). Jacobs will remain the starter, but Drake will get more work than the typical No. 2 back.

Fantasy football implications

Even during his 15-game 2020 campaign, Jacobs didn’t get as many snaps as one might expect for a lead back. The Raiders played the former first-round pick on just 57% of their offensive snaps, a relatively modest amount (though higher than the 45% of snaps he played during his 13-game rookie campaign). Clearly, Las Vegas doesn’t want to put a ton on Jacobs’ plate, and Drake’s arrival only reinforces that notion.

Jacob improved his fantasy production in 2020, though that mostly came from the five additional touchdowns he scored relative to the year prior. Drake, who scored 18 times over the past two years, looks primed to take a bite out of that. That won’t prevent Jacobs from having some value in fantasy, but it will keep his ceiling limited.