After an unfortunate ACL tear in 2021, J.K. Dobbins wasn’t fully healthy in 2022. Still, he had an impressive season and looks primed for a potentially league-winning breakout in 2023.
Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes
- J.K. Dobbins was an elite NFL prospect who hit some very special thresholds, including a 2,000-yard season.
- He is a season removed from his serious knee injury and subsequent recovery and still finished incredibly strong in 2022.
- His cost is still incredibly reasonable, and the new offense under Todd Monken is likely to result in a lot of touchdowns.
I’ve written about Dobbins in the past but let me remind you that he was an excellent prospect.
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.
|Kevin Smith||2007||JR||Central Florida||14||450||2567||5.7||29||24||242|
|Rashaad Penny||2017||SR||San Diego St.||13||289||2248||7.8||23||19||135|
|Donnel Pumphrey||2016||SR||San Diego St.||14||349||2133||6.1||17||27||231|
|Chuba Hubbard||2019||SO||Oklahoma St.||13||328||2094||6.4||21||23||198|
|Larry Johnson||2002||SR||Penn State||13||271||2087||7.7||20||41||349|
|J.K. Dobbins||2019||JR||Ohio State||14||301||2003||6.7||21||23||247|
This is obviously a list of extremely talented college players. His junior college season was quite similar to Jonathan Taylor’s.
Let’s also note that Dobbins was productive as a receiver. Not only in his junior season, Dobbins 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 explosive athleticism.
Draft position correlated with PPR scoring and the Ravens traded up to select Dobbins 55th overall behind only D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor, and Cam Akers.
Due to his devastating knee injury, Dobbins hasn’t received the credit he deserves for his impressive NFL production.
As a rookie, Dobbins rushed for 6 yards per carry, leading all running backs in yards per carry. Nick Chubb finished as a distant second at 5.6 yards per carry.
After missing the entire 2021 season due to his ACL tear, Dobbins returned to average 5.7 yards per carry – despite starting the season late and missing time for a second knee operation. After he returned from the second operation, Dobbins ran 57 times for 397 yards (6.96 yards per carry) in four regular season games.
Below is a list of all running backs since 2000 in their first two seasons combined to rush at least 200 times for at least 7 touchdowns and at least 5 yards per carry.
You don’t need me to tell you that this is a great list to be on and Dobbins leads all rushers with 5.9 yards per carry.
Yards before contact remains an undervalued metric and Dobbins is one of the best in the league at generating yards before contact. Per RotoViz’s Advanced Stats Explorer, Dobbins was one of only four players to finish with at least 2.5 yards before contact and at least 2.5 yards after contact. Below are the other top yards before contact rushers.
|Kenneth Walker III||SEA||15||228||2.1||2.5||4.6|
Dobbins is a superstar when healthy. As humans, unfortunately, we remember the sting of having Dobbins on our fantasy teams through injury, and his draft position is affected by an emotional recency bias, which leads to a discount in price. However, there’s no doubt that despite the injury, he’s been an extremely effective NFL player.
Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said the following about Dobbins during an offseason presser:
“J.K. finished strong… really, really impressed with his passion, his work ethic, the way he battled back from a very, very serious knee injury, it was very impressive to me to see how he really kind of matured over the course of the season,” DeCosta said. “He came back from that second procedure, surgery that he had and he started to really look like the old J.K. which is extremely exciting for the organization. We fully expect J.K. to have a great year this year.”
ACL injuries are career-threatening for older backs. When the injury took place, Dobbins was just 23 so he has a better chance of recovering. Running backs are generally less efficient and score fewer fantasy points per game in their first season back from the ACL injury but recover in the following year. A couple of years removed from the injury, the arrow is pointing up for Dobbins.
Dobbins is currently being selected as RB18 in early Underdog drafts – after running back Miles Sanders goes off the board. While the addition of Todd Monken should help the Ravens, the Panthers remain a mystery with Bryce Young.
Although I’d like to have hope for Young, he will start his career with Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, and Jonathan Mingo. Needless to say, the Panthers could struggle to score a lot of points. Sanders benefitted from the Eagles’ brilliance last season and scored 11 rushing touchdowns. Ironically, Sanders caught a lot of flak for scoring zero times in 2022. After averaging just 3.9 yards per target over the last two seasons, Chuba Hubbard looks like the better option for the Panthers’ receiving work. Sanders looks like the prototypical dead-zone running back.
On the Ravens’ offense, Dobbins looks like the better bet for touchdowns. With Todd Monken’s impact is expected to lead to more passing, Dobbins has receiving potential as well. Under Monken, Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh caught 43 passes for 505 yards in 13 games. In the Ravens’ one playoff game last season, Dobbins was targeted 5 times, catching 4 for 43 and a touchdown.
Dobbins is extremely talented – he was prior to entering the NFL and has proven himself as an electric NFL player. In his second year following the ACL injury, studies indicate that he’s likely to return to his pre-injury self. Dobbins is a value pick with immense upside where he’s being selected.