The NFL Draft is less than a week away, as the anticipation from fans reaches a fever pitch. This will be a unique virtual NFL Draft, because of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. The Baltimore Ravens have nine picks this year, which they could use on a running back.
Running back is a sneaky need for the Ravens. Mark Ingram rushed for over 1000 yards last season but will be 31 in December with a contract the Ravens can get out of next year with a $5 million cap saving. Behind him, Gus Edwards has become a good rotational piece in his two years in Baltimore but has never had over 140 carries in a year. Could he handle the full-time workload? Justice Hill flashed in his rookie season, but it’s too early to predict what the fourth-round pick will turn in to.
With a good running back class filled with late-round options, let’s examine some names the Ravens could target.
Second Round Running Back Target: J.K. Dobbins – Ohio State
The Baltimore Ravens have bigger needs to address in the first round, and the depth at running back this year will push their value down. Teams are unlikely to select many in the first round, knowing they can find starting level talent in the mid-rounds. Baltimore could use a second-round pick to solidify their future at the position, by selecting J.K. Dobbins from Ohio State.
Dobbins recovered from a below-par 2018 season with a career year in 2019. 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns are monster stats. In the NFL he projects as a very good rotational piece. He has third-down talent, along with a physical running style. Dobbins didn’t run the 40 at the combine but was clocked at 4.44 out of high school. He can make tacklers miss, but it’s not his best skillset. The Ravens could mold him into a dynamic physical runner in their power-heavy running offense.
Third Round Running Back Target: Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Vanderbilt
Ke’Shawn Vaughn is the physical type of back that not all teams will want, but could flourish in Baltimore. Vaughn carried the load for two years at Vanderbilt, twice going for 1000+ yard seasons. His size at 5ft 10 and 214 pounds are ideal to handle the NFL and will make him a player ideally suited to wearing teams down.
A weakness is speed at 4.51, but in the Ravens’ system, he would project more as a physical downhill runner. His agility and ability to make cuts is also underwhelming, but that’s not what he would be expected to do in Baltimore. He would match up well in the Mark Ingram role, who would be an excellent two-down back with a punishing running style the Ravens love.
Fourth Round Target: A.J. Dillon – Boston College
The Ravens may need to trade up in the fourth round if they want A.J. Dillon, a player who seems ideally suited to Baltimore. Dillon was a workhorse at Boston College, carrying the ball 300+ times twice in three years. His size is his biggest asset, at 6ft 0 and a massive 247 pounds. To put that in perspective, Steelers legend “The bus” Jerome Bettis was 252 pounds.
Dillon is best when following his lead blocker, with the ability to make a one-cut move. He also excels at gaining yards after contact. After almost 850 carries in college he would likely work best in a committee approach. The Tennessee Titans bullied the Ravens in the play-offs with bruiser Derrick Henry, now Baltimore could get it’s cut-price version with Dillon.
Fifth Round Target: Joshua Kelley – UCLA
Joshua Kelley would be a great value late-round pick for the Baltimore Ravens. Kelley could immediately carve out a role in the running back rotation, as he develops into a more polished player. His running style is predicated on between the gaps running, something suiting the Ravens.
His 4.49 speed is above average, and he appears to relish contact. For Baltimore, he could be a good short-yardage back who adds third-down receiving back skills to his resume. The Ravens love taking late-round picks and developing them into starters, and Kelley will intrigue Baltimore with his traits.
That wraps up my look at some good running back options for the Baltimore Ravens.
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