2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: J.K Dobbins, Ohio State
While Jonathan Taylor is going to be the consensus top running back for film grinders and numbers based analysts alike, J.K Dobbins is pretty clearly an NFL-caliber running back. He is consistently being mocked in the top 50 picks of the 2020 NFL draft and I actually think that is pretty fair. Dobbins was so dominant at Ohio State that there is not much doubt that he can immediately start for an NFL team and be used on all three downs. Dobbins’ college performance is actually one of the biggest indicators that what we think of as a dominant running back is different than it was even five years ago when Leonard Fourentte was a first-round draft selection.
The J.K Dobbins Scouting Profile
As a prospect, it is hard to find warts with Dobbins and he checks off most of the boxes that we expect elite running backs to check off. He was a top fifty prospect in the entire country when coming out of high school and received official offers to Alabama, Florida and USC. You might be thinking “Why does what Dobbins did as a high school player matter now?” The primary reason why it matters is that the more pedigree a player has, the more likely it is that they will be drafted and the more likely it is that they will be given playing time. Dobbins checks what is, to me, the most important box with college players: he played (and played well) as a true freshman against real college competition.
Dobbins started out his true freshman season as the primary backup to Mike Weber (of the Cowboys’ practice squad) but basically stole it from him right away. In Dobbins’ first career game against Indiana, Dobbins got 29 carries and rushed for 181 yards while catching two passes. In a massive matchup the next week against Oklahoma, Dobbins recorded 20 touches to Weber’s five. All things told, in that 2017 season for Dobbins, he had 194 carries and 22 receptions to the older Weber’s 101 carries and 10 catches. J.T Barrett was also the quarterback at this time which meant that he stole another 165 carries. As an 18 year old, Dobbins lead the Big 10 in yards per carry, was second in rushing yards and fourth amongst Big 10 running backs in receptions.
If you wanted to point to a sore spot in Dobbins’ college career, it would be his sophomore season. His yards per carry fell to 4.6 while his backfield mate Mike Weber averaged 5.5 and also rushed 172 times to Dobbins’ 230. He was still fine-to-good as a pass-catcher and that really keeps me from being too concerned. He wasn’t benched at any point and didn’t suffer some sort of career-altering injury (that we know of) so we can just view it as an average workhorse season.
His final season at Ohio State, however, was a Mona Lisa of a season. Dobbins and Justin Fields took over the Big 10 and dominated everyone they played. Dobbins finished tied for the conference lead in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns with uber-prospect Jonathan Taylor which was good for third in the entire nation and was tied for third in all of college football for total touchdowns as well. He bounced his yards per carry back up to 6.7 while rushing for over 100 yards in all but four games including over 225 total yards in the college football playoff against Clemson and 33 carries for 172 yards in the Big 10 conference championship game against Wisconsin.
J.K Dobbins ended his career at Ohio State as their second-leading rusher of all time, with more than Eddie George or even Ezekiel Elliot. He caught at least 22 passes every year he was in college, will be 21 when he first steps foot on an NFL field, has perfect NFL size at 5’11, 216 pounds and reportedly is expected to run a 40-yard dash in faster than 4.4 seconds. Given all of those facts, I think that the market (and NFL teams) are right to be bullish on him.
Projecting J.K Dobbins Into The NFL
The JK Dobbins comps are all quite good. Players with a similar projected size/speed profile who were in his bucket of production in the Big 10 are Tevin Coleman and Jeremy Langford. While Langford got sent to the wood chipper pretty early in his NFL, we shouldn’t forget that he had a fairly good season with the Bears as a rookie and was never really used in a pass-catching role. The higher that Dobbins’ gets drafted, the better his similarity scores are going to be and the faster he tests at the combine, the better the comps get.
The Draft Network sums up Dobbins’ game from a film perspective: “J.K. Dobbins is a future feature back. Dobbins’ vision will allow him to thrive in a gap heavy rushing system, he’s masterful in his press of the LOS and short-area agility to cut and work to daylight based on defensive flow. Dobbins brings three-down value as a feature back and his natural hands make him a threat for a top RB role in the years to come. Dobbins consistently wins his footraces to the end zone and teams needing life on the ground shouldn’t hesitate to prioritize him.” This matches up with what I saw as well with the caveat that your eyes are not always the most reliable evaluator. Simply put, J.K Dobbins looks the part on the field.
Dobbins is what you want from a running back prospect. He played early in his college career, he played at a major school in a major conference, he was involved in the passing game, he projects to test above average at his position at the combine and he is likely to be drafted well inside the top 100 picks in the NFL draft. If he does, in fact, test well in Indianapolis and is drafted with a top 50 NFL draft pick, there is no doubt in my mind that he is a top-five dynasty fantasy football rookie pick and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him have a better NFL career than Uber-prospect Jonathan Taylor.