Raven's Nest

Kansas City at Baltimore

 

Is J.K. Dobbins the Running Back of the Future?
By Ray Kuhn

We live in a society of instant gratification. The Baltimore Ravens drafted J.K. Dobbins in the second round of this past April’s draft, and the expectations were immediately off the charts. I mean why wouldn’t they be after he was a three-year starter at Ohio State?

Dobbins certainly finished his college career on a high note with 2,003 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns last season, so why wouldn’t we expect that to continue? That gave Dobbins 38 rushing touchdowns in three seasons with Ohio State plus another five receiving touchdowns as he was used in a limited role there. But that is all in the past and we live in the present. When it comes to evaluating NFL draft picks though, we have to live both in the present (I mean after all we are in the business of winning games) and the future as there is an adjustment period from college to the pros. Judging Dobbins after just three weeks would be irresponsible. But we just can’t help ourselves, so here we are.  

Through the first three weeks of the season Dobbins has just 15 touches so it’s safe to say that Baltimore is easing him into action. The problem though, is that Baltimore came out of the gates strong with Dobbins as he carried the ball seven times against the Texans in his debut while gaining 22 yards but more importantly, scoring two touchdowns. Since then, Dobbins has just three carries for 54 yards in his last two games although he did catch five passes for 51 yards. When given a chance the production has been there for Dobbins but the obvious thought is that he just needs more touches to show what he can do.  

Upon closer inspection, things might not be as bad as they seem though for Dobbins. To say that the Ravens struggled on offense last week against Kansas City would be an understatement as they really couldn’t get anything going and they were trailing from start. That essentially removed the run game from the equation, hence Dobbins’ one carry for six yards, but the rookie’s four receptions for 38 yards actually made him Baltimore’s leading receiver. His role as a pass catcher is a positive development, as while he did average 24 receptions a year in college, it wasn’t a huge part of his game.  

The other issue we must contend with for Dobbins is the depth chart. It is no secret that Lamar Jackson is a running quarterback, and for as talented as he is, he does take carries away from his running backs. Then we have Mark Ingram, but does he really impact Dobbins? I mean after all Baltimore knew what they had in the veteran when they drafted Dobbins.     

From a game script perspective, we know that things haven’t exactly worked out for Baltimore running backs so far this season, and Ingram is no different. Through the first three weeks of the season Ingram has carried the ball just 26 times for 114 yards and a touchdown which isn’t going to move the needle. I wouldn’t declare that Ingram is done or irrelevant, but the future is clearly with Dobbins as he is the more explosive and athletic running back. The fact that Dobbins picked up two short yardage touchdowns in Week 1 is also a good sign for how Baltimore is planning on using the rookie once things get going this season. We just need to be patient, as for the long term, Ingram isn’t going to be a concern.

The key now, is to be ready for when Dobbins has that breakout game. It is going to come at some point this season, and then there is no looking back as he will be popular both with Ravens’ fans and also with daily fantasy players as Dobbins has the potential to be an exciting player to watch for a long time. Just be a little patient before judging the draft pick and it’s success.