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Why the Ravens drafted J.K. Dobbins

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Dobbins is the perfect option back

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens selected Ohio State running back J’Kaylin “J.K.” Dobbins with the 55th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Dobbins’ 4,459 rushing yards ranked second all-time in Ohio State’s illustrious history of running backs that includes Ezekiel Elliott, Eddie George and Archie Griffin. Dobbins also broke George’s single season rushing record with a 64-yard touchdown against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

Dobbins fits the theme of the Ravens draft class:

  1. Dobbins played at a power-five school (only James Proche came from a conference outside of the power-five)
  2. Dobbins was a four-star recruit or better in high school. Dobbins was the 46th player nationally, sixth in Texas, second at his position coming out of La Grange Texas. Queen, Madubuike, Duvernay, Bredeson, Proche were also four star recruits. He received the highest SPARQ score at The Opening in 2016.

Dobbins posted a 4.44s 40-yard dash, 4.09s short shuttle and a 43.1-inch vertical jump as a high school senior at the event. There are also many reports that Dobbins squatted over 700 pounds.

3. Dobbins was a team captain. As were Duvernay, Stone, Proche, Bredeson, Washington and Harrison, Madubuike was the two time Aggie team MVP. Queen and Phillips were the only picks who weren’t a team captain, while Bredeson, Washington and Proche were two year captains.

Beyond the themes, Dobbins is a perfect scheme fit for Greg Roman’s offense.

The Ravens had more RPO rushing attempts than any team in football last season (230). Dobbins saw more of his carries come from the RPO (57%, 171 carries) than any other draft eligible back. Dobbins is more than familiar with the intricacies of the mesh point and excelled on option plays with his explosive burst, vision and open field jump cuts.

Dobbins is also a factor in the passing game. PFF logged 10% of Dobbins snaps in the slot or out wide. He showed savvy route running ability and did a good job finding space and working back to the ball for his often-scrambling QB Justin Fields.

Dobbins routinely was an impact player in the passing game, who had a knack for finding holes in the defense, then zooming to the first down marker.

PFF’s Mike Renner, the king of hating running backs before day three, summed Dobbins up in one sentence, “Dobbins’ running style and vision are elite when projecting to the NFL. His speed and receiving ability are icing on the cake.”

PFF also scored Dobbins with a 92.1 elusive rating, well above the class average. Dobbins forced 73 missed tackles in 2019, 12th-most of all graded college running backs. The Texas native is a three-down back, factoring into pass pro and the passing game, otherwise he wouldn’t have been a second round selection.

In 2019, Dobbins allowed only four pressures in 140 pass pro reps according to ESPN.

While one critique of Dobbins as a prospect is that OSU’s offense often gave the dynamic back tons of room to work with and a head of steam before being forced to cut or make someone miss. Well, good thing he landed next to Lamar Jackson, who will be the main focus of defenders on any given play, and often opens up holes for his backs.

As a pass-catcher, Dobbins caught over 20 passes in each of his three years at Ohio State, averaging over 10 yards per catch in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He thrived in an offense that exclusively operated from shotgun, where the Ravens take 97% of non-goal to go snaps.

Dobbins also adds breakaway explosion as a runner who is also tough between the tackles. Dobbins led all draft eligible runners with 31 carries of 15 or more yards in 2019. His seven yards of over 40 yards were tops in the power five.

Dobbins also averaged over four yards after contact per rush. He’s a rare back that has both breakaway speed and a bowling ball like frame to rumble through contact. Dobbins potentially consolidates Gus Edwards and Justice Hill into one player.

The pride of La Grange, Texas is comfortable stiff arming defenders or stringing together cuts while operating at top speed, which allows him to beat defenders he can’t run away from.

Dobbins improved vastly in pass pro from the time he was a freshman, where OSU would often defer to fellow NFL back Mike Weber. Those days are long gone, as Dobbins proved more than trustworthy, finding the correct pass rusher to pick up, although you would like to see him truly destroy his assignment.

The one question for Dobbins (I’m really reaching here) is whether he can be as consistently effective in power gap schemes. The Ravens run a healthy mix of zone and gap scheme. Dobbins was nearly as strong in gap concepts, but just didn’t have as much work there.

Working behind Mark Ingram and with a relatively similar build/style, Dobbins should have an awesome mentor to pick up any nuance’s involved.

While many were opposed to taking a running back this early in the draft, the Ravens “strengthened a strength.” If Dobbins proves to be a dynamic, three-down back who isn’t limited in any way, Ravens fans will quickly forget feeling any doubt over the pick. Dobbins has the ability to anchor the Ravens rushing attack no later than 2021, and the potential to become a top-shelf fantasy back throughout his rookie contract.

Another aspect that could factor into the Dobbins selection is Mark Ingram’s calf strain. Calf strains aren’t to be taken lightly, ask Kevin Durant. On the wrong side of 30, Ingram’s current state could be a little worse than the team has revealed. The selection of Dobbins insures that the Ravens will have a three-down back on the roster, no matter what happens.

Rookie Prediction: Dobbins touches the ball 160 times (140 carries and 20 receptions) averaging just shy of five yards per carry. He finds the end zone seven times, and accounts for over 900 yards from scrimmage. In year two, Dobbins becomes the Ravens featured back and is recognized as one of the top backs in the NFL.