2020 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: J.K. Dobbins (Fantasy Football)
Last week, I released my first rookie scouting profile on another high profile running back in this talented 2020 class, D’Andre Swift. This week, let’s turn our attention to another stud at the RB position, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins.
A 4-star All-American recruit coming out of high school in Texas, Dobbins was an athletic specimen, ranking 5th in EPSN300’s top RB recruits. Before landing in Columbus at the Ohio State University, Dobbins was recruited by all of the top programs in the nation. How impressive was Dobbins as a high school prospect? He was considered a 99th percentile athlete when tested at the 2016 Nike Workout for high school players. It’s no surprise he was heavily recruited out of high school.
— The Opening (@TheOpening) July 8, 2016
How did his career progress at Ohio State? What do I see on film? And, how will Dobbins’ game translate to the NFL for fantasy football? Let’s dive in!
Editor’s Note: For more on the 2020 rookie class, check out all of our 2020 NFL Draft content and stay tuned to the Fantasy Footballers podcast for April’s Rookie Preview show where the Ballers breakdown each position heading into the draft.
College Production Profile[lptw_table id=”162910″ style=”default”]
During his time at Ohio State, Dobbins firmly entrenched himself in the record books for the Buckeyes. He’s now second all-time in career rushing attempts and rushing yards (behind only Archie Griffin), and he’s sixth in all-time rushing TD. Dobbins also set the single season rushing record for the Buckeyes, topping Eddie George’s 1,927 rushing yards from 1995 with an impressive 2,003 rushing yards just last year.
Dobbins quickly became a name to know in college football as a freshman in 2017 as he led the Buckeyes in rushing in his freshman season. In doing so, he became just the third RB in Ohio State history to rush for more than 1,000 yards as a true freshman.
While the numbers did take a dip in 2018 as a sophomore, it’s extremely important to point out just how good Dobbins was in his first two collegiate seasons. Dobbins’ 2,456 rushing yards over the course of his first two seasons were the most ever by an Ohio State back, besting Archie Griffin’s previous record of 2,444 yards.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the third season for Dobbins in Columbus was…impressive. The guy exploded for 2,250 scrimmage yards and 23 total TD, 21 of which came on the ground. Take a look at how Dobbins’ numbers stack up against the other FBS running backs in the country.
- Rushing Yards: T-3rd
- Rushing TD: T-2nd
- Rush Attempts: 5th
Overall, J.K. Dobbins tore up the Big Ten in his three seasons as a Buckeye. His numbers are on par with fellow Big Ten RB, Jonathan Taylor. Dobbins’ college production profile is elite.
NFL Scouting Combine Measurements[lptw_table id=”162911″ style=”default”]
I almost didn’t even include a table for J.K. Dobbins’ Combine measurements, mostly because they didn’t exist! Dobbins chose to weigh in, push 225 lbs. off his chest 23 times, then exited stage left. He didn’t participate in a single athletic testing measurement. For fantasy football and NFL production, the bench press literally tells us nothing about a running back’s ability to translate to the next level, so unlike other RB prospects, we can’t use his NFL Combine testing to help us evaluate the Ohio State product.
Dobbins referenced an ankle injury when deciding not to participate in any of the RB on field drills or the speed and agility testing. Worth noting, his minor ankle injury occurred on Dec 28, 2019 in the College Football Playoff in a loss to Clemson.
As an analyst, it was disappointing not to see Dobbins participate in Indianapolis, as he likely would have crushed the Combine. As referenced previously, Dobbins was rated as a 99th percentile athlete coming out of high school and ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and registered a 43.1 inch vertical at his Nike camp.
What’s On Tape
When I evaluate a running back prospect on film, I do my best to try to evaluate the player independently of the guys around him. For example, it doesn’t help us if a player plays behind an elite offensive line and doesn’t get touched for six yards. For a running back, it’s important to evaluate footwork, vision, pass protection, pass-catching ability, agility, and quickness, among other attributes.
Games viewed: Army (2017), Maryland (2018), TCU (2018), Penn State (2019), Northwestern (2019), Clemson (2019)
1. Dobbins is a powerful back, who runs with purpose to break tackles.
When Dobbins is one on one with a linebacker or safety (or heaven forbid a corner), it’s advantage Dobbins the vast majority of the time. Dobbins’ contact balance is very good and right up there with the likes of Jonathan Taylor in this year’s class. He’s tough to bring down, and it shows on tape as he consistently churns out extra yards after contact because of his power. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Dobbins ranked 4th in the country in yards after contact. He certainly isn’t afraid of contact.
2. If you’re looking for a back who can hit a home run, it’s J.K. Dobbins.
Speaking of our friends over at PFF, Dobbins recorded the most runs of 15+ yards in the country. He can pick up the three or four yards needed to move the chains, but he’s also got some “pop” to his game and is underrated in this category. As mentioned previously, Dobbins as a track record of being an athletic monster and his speed shows up on tape when he’s in the second level. In the clip below, Clemson’s impressive linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons in pursuit of Dobbins and while Dobbins does have a good five or so yard head start on him, he doesn’t catch him. Why do I point this out? Simmons ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
3. One cut is all J.K. Dobbins needs.
We’ve already touched on how good Dobbins is when he’s faced with contact, but he’s not just a “bruising” back. He’s got some wiggle to his game, allowing him to change direction quickly. This shows up most on tape when Dobbins is running an outsize zone run, plants his foot in the ground and makes the linebacker look silly. He doesn’t have elite quickness, but it’s plenty good enough for the next level.
1. Dobbins ran through very generous holes at Ohio State.
Let’s be real. Ohio State’s spread you out offense is friendly, very friendly to the running back in this system. Ohio State’s line ranked 8th in the NCAA in Line Yards, a metric created by Football Outsiders to measure how much of the rush yards were created simply by the offensive line rather than the running back. There will be much tougher sledding in the NFL with the overall level of play being elevated at the next level.
2. Patience is a virtue.
As just mentioned, Dobbins ran through some generous rushing lanes at Ohio State, playing behind a really good offensive line. However, when he didn’t have a wide open lane to run through, Dobbins at times lacked the vision he needed to pick up extra yards. At times, he relies too much on his aggressive running style and isn’t patient enough for his blocks to develop. It was almost like Dobbins was too excited to get to the second level, outrunning his blockers on multiple occasions. No doubt, linebackers at the next level are more athletic and are smarter football players than those in college. J.K. will need to improve his patience and vision in the NFL in order to maximize the use of his offensive linemen in the run game.
2020 Fantasy Outlook
J.K. Dobbins profiles very well as a future star for fantasy football, and he could be fantasy relevant as early as 2020. He’s got the combination of an elite college production profile and a (projected) athletic profile to help him succeed in the NFL.
Early NFL mock drafts have Dobbins being taken in the second round, which is enough draft capital to suggest he’ll have a shot to be a team’s starter as early as year one. He is likely to be selected after Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift in the NFL Draft, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be just as fantasy relevant.
At worst, Dobbins profiles as an early down back in a committee who could push for pass catching work (caught 71 balls in college). Best case scenario, Dobbins is selected to a team in round two without a proven asset in front of him on the depth chart. One example that comes to mind is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If he lands in a situation like this, he could have bell cow upside, and he would firmly be entrenched as a top 20 RB for fantasy football.