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J.K. Dobbins: Just Know It’s Value

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J.K. Dobbins was selected with the 55th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

J.K. Dobbins in Columbus

The former Ohio State Buckeye put up ludicrous numbers while he was in Columbus. As a freshman, he ran for 1,400 yards on fewer than 200 carries, averaging 7.2 yards per carry. He had a “down” sophomore season, running for “just” 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns on 230 carries. In his junior year, Dobbins lit up the Big Ten, racking up an Ohio State record 2,003 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns with a 6.7 average (both tying Jonathan Taylor for most in the conference). He was sixth in the 2019 Heisman race.

For his career, Dobbins compiled 4,459 rushing yards and 38 rushing touchdowns. Only two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin has more yards for the Buckeyes.

Dobbins had a knack for the big moments. He had 19 career 100-yard games with four coming in high-profile neutral site games. In 2017, Dobbins victimized Wisconsin for 174 yards in the Big Ten championship game. In 2018, Dobbins romped for 121 yards against TCU in AT&T Stadium. At the end of the 2019 season, he went on a streak of dominance that few backs can match. He started with 157 yards and two touchdowns on a ninth-ranked Penn State. Heading to Ann Arbor, Dobbins levied 260 total yards and four touchdowns against the Wolverines. In the Big Ten title game, Dobbins once again decimated Wisconsin with 172 yards and a touchdown. He went for 163 and a pair of touchdowns in the regular-season matchup against the Badgers,. In the national semi-final against Clemson, Dobbins posted 174 rushing yards as the Buckeyes came up just short.

In six games against ranked opponents, Dobbins had six 150-yard games.

J.K. Dobbins in Baltimore

Dobbins was acquired with the pick that the Ravens received in exchange for Hayden Hurst. He was the fifth running back taken in the draft after Clyde Edwards-Helaire, D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, and Cam Akers.

When he was drafted, two immediate camps formed. One camp was asking why the Ravens invested a high pick in a running back when they have talented ones on the roster. The other camp lauded the Ravens for the value of the pick as some analysts as Dobbins as the best or second-best back in the draft. Either way, Baltimore is getting a running back with pop and the allure of a three-down bellcow sort of back. He may not be Ezekiel Elliott, but the tape does not think he is far off.

The Skills

As that Michigan player can testify, Dobbins is hard to bring down in the open field. At 5-foot-9 and 209 pounds, he has the power to run through weak tackles while also having the elusiveness to sidestep tacklers.

Dobbins brings a new weapon to the Ravens rushing attack: long speed. While Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards are bruisers, they generally do not outrun defensive backs for 60 or 70-yard touchdowns. he may not have the track speed of Jonathan Taylor, but he can move. He forces defenders to take the perfect angle or else he is dancing in the endzone. While Lamar Jackson will almost certainly be the fastest ball-carrier for the Ravens, he should have a handful of “oh, he’s fast” runs in 2020 and beyond. Dobbins will wear down defenses, but with other backs in the Baltimore backfield, Dobbins will be tasked to break the big run more often than Ingram and Edwards.

The elephant in the room is Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott and Dobbins have many of the same capabilities as a dominant runner for the Buckeyes. Elliott is slightly better in every regard, but he is no slouch. As with Elliott, Dobbins terrorized the best teams on Ohio State’s schedule with regularity. They can cut and make defenses pay for anything less than the best. Both are wildly efficient backs.

Dobbins brings some upside in the passing game. He is no Clyde Edwards-Helaire in that regard, but he should be a solid option at times. Ravens backs only had 51 targets and 41 catches in 2019, but Ingram did have five receiving touchdowns. Justice Hill will likely have more looks as a pass catcher, but defenses will have to respect Dobbins’ pass-catching enough.

Verdict

Dobbins is a talented back as a runner, receiver, and pass protector. In Baltimore, he should be wildly efficient in the scheme with the speed to turn solid runs into back-breakers. It may take a while to eat into Edwards and Ingram’s carries, but he will be scary in December and January. For a team that abandoned the run in the playoffs, Dobbins could flip the script.

Fantasy value

He is worth a stash in keeper leagues. His production in 2020 will be inconsistent with Jackson, Ingram, and Edwards getting their carries. However, late in the season and in 2021, he could be a fantasy workhorse. The five-carries-for-23-yards will turn into 17-carries-for-104-yards-and-two-touchdowns at some point. It is an exciting time in Baltimore.


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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.