After an unfortunate ACL tear last August, J.K. Dobbins looks like a prime running back target heading into the 2022 season – let’s explore why he’s such an excellent pick at his current ADP.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

TL;DR:

  • J.K. Dobbins was an excellent NFL prospect with elite athleticism and hits numerous performance and athletic thresholds that indicate an elite player.
  • His rookie season ranks at a very high level in terms of efficiency, which bodes well for his future success.
  • He will be over one year removed from his ACL tear, and his injury discount is part of what makes him an intriguing selection.

Pre-NFL Career

It appears that fantasy owners are quick to forget how good of a prospect Dobbins was. Dobbins led Ohio State in rushing from his freshman season on – culminating in an incredible junior season in which he rushed for over 2,000 yards on just 301 carries in 14 games.

To understand how rare this is, below is a list of all 2,000-yard collegiate rushers since 2000.

PlayerYearClassSchoolGAttYdsAvgTDRecYds
Melvin Gordon2014JRWisconsin1434325877.52919153
Kevin Smith2007JRCentral Florida1445025675.72924242
Rashaad Penny2017SRSan Diego St.1328922487.82319135
Derrick Henry2015JRAlabama1539522195.6281191
Jonathan Taylor2018SOWisconsin1330721947.116860
LaDainian Tomlinson2000SRTCU1136921585.8221040
Donnel Pumphrey2016SRSan Diego St.1434921336.11727231
Matt Forte2007SRTulane1236121275.92332282
Bryce Love2017JRStanford1326321188.119633
Chuba Hubbard2019SOOklahoma St.1332820946.42123198
Larry Johnson2002SRPenn State1327120877.72041349
Donald Brown2008JRConnecticut1336720835.71821125
Tevin Coleman2014JRIndiana1227020367.51525141
D'Onta Foreman2016JRTexas1132320286.315775
Christian McCaffrey2015SOStanford1433720196845645
J.J. Arrington2004SRCalifornia12289201871521121
Ray Rice2007JRRutgers1338020125.32425239
Jonathan Taylor2019JRWisconsin1432020036.32126252
J.K. Dobbins2019JROhio State1430120036.72123247

This is an excellent list to be on prior to entering the NFL. If you look at the bottom, in 2019 as juniors, Jonathan Taylor and Dobbins had similar magnificent seasons. It’s important to note that Dobbins was also productive as a receiver. Not only in his junior season, but Dobbins also caught at least 22 passes in each of his three collegiate seasons.

At his Pro Day, Dobbins ran a 4.32 at 209 lbs. Our friends at Player Profiler give Dobbins a 99th percentile SPARQ-x score, highlighting extremely impressive athleticism.

Obviously, draft position matters, and the Ravens traded up to select Dobbins 55th overall behind only D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, and Cam Akers.

An Impressive Rookie Year

As a rookie, Dobbins was extremely impressive despite competing with Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram for touches. In fact, Dobbins received just 36.9 percent of the running back rush attempts. However, his efficiency allowed him to account for 42.7 percent of the running back rush yards and 52.9 percent of the touchdowns.

Rushing for 6 yards per carry, Dobbins led all NFL running backs in yards per attempt. Nick Chubb finished as a distant second at 5.6 yards per carry.

To understand how rare a rookie season like this is, here is a list of running backs selected in the top 3 rounds, since 2000, to rush for at least 5 yards per carry and score at least six touchdowns.

PlayerY/ATDSeasonTeamGAttYdsY/ATDDraft
Alvin Kamara6.182017NOR161207286.183-67
J.K. Dobbins692020BAL15134805692-55
Maurice Jones-Drew5.7132006JAX161669415.7132-60
Adrian Peterson5.6122007MIN1423813415.6121-7
Clinton Portis5.5152002DEN1627315085.5152-51
Nick Chubb5.282018CLE161929965.282-35
Ezekiel Elliott5.1152016DAL1532216315.1151-4
Jeremy Hill5.192014CIN1622211245.192-55
Jonathan Taylor5112020IND1523211695112-41
Saquon Barkley5112018NYG1626113075111-2

You don’t need me to tell you that this is an excellent list to be on. Obviously, the low volume helps, but only Maurice Jones-Drew recorded a higher touchdown rate than Dobbins.

After a rookie season like this and second-round draft capital investment, Dobbins is likely to be leaned on as more of an offensive centerpiece.

Ravens Back To Run-Heavy Philosophy

Trading Marquise Brown and bolstering their offensive line, one can conclude the Ravens intend to return to their previously run-heavy philosophy.

Last offseason, the Ravens frequently expressed a desire to involve Dobbins in the passing game more frequently. In June, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said involving running backs in the passing game has been “one of the main points of emphasis” in the offseason. In July, the Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec said Ravens coaches believe J.K. Dobbins is “capable of more and would like to get him more involved in the passing game.” 

Clearly, the Ravens weren’t able to fulfill these intentions last season without Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill. However, the departure of Brown will help the Ravens’ offense become more concentrated for Mark Andrews, Rashod Bateman, and Dobbins.

In addition, there is major touchdown upside for the Ravens’ offense. In 2020, with Dobbins as a rookie, the Ravens finished 7th in scoring with 468 points. In 2019, the Ravens finished 1st in scoring with 531 points.

Injury Concerns & Cost

After tearing his ACL, there are concerns about Dobbins being healthy. Zrebiec believes the Ravens will “manage” early-season workloads for J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards.

The timing of Dobbins’ injury does help – he will be over 12 months removed from the injury before any regular-season games take place. The injury concerns are also part of what is driving down his price. If he wasn’t coming off an injury, he would not have an ADP of 5.08 (RB21). During last year’s Apex Expert Writers draft, a perenially WR-heavy draft, he was selected 3.12 (RB15).

In Summary

In fantasy leagues, you must take risks to win – remember, only 1 out of 12 teams wins each league. Selecting Dobbins at a discount due to injury-recency bias is the type of risk you want to take. His profile, college production, and rookie season indicate that he is a special player. If this video is any evidence, Dobbins looks healthy to me.