J’Kaylin “JK” Dobbins doesn’t get the notoriety of his Ravens backfield mate, quarterback Lamar Jackson, but the Baltimore rookie runner has started to show the talent that made him a high-upside second-round pick.
Thanks in part to injuries, Dobbins has played a crucial role in the Ravens’ turnaround. After seeing single-digit carries in his first six career games, Dobbins closed the season averaging 5.97 yards per carry with 651 yards rushing and seven touchdowns in Baltimore’s final nine games. His rookie season culminated in a 160-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Bengals in Week 17 and he seems primed for a playoff breakout.
On paper, it shouldn’t be surprising that Dobbins can play in the NFL. He set a number of records at Ohio State, a school filled with running back history, and even before that, he was an athletic testing star in his days playing high school football in Texas.
Setting records at Ohio State
It’s hard to sum up Dobbins’ career with the Buckeyes in just one or two numbers, so let’s go with a list, via official Ohio State statistics.
- finished his freshman season with 1,403 yards, an Ohio State freshman record
- is the first Ohio State player to ecplise 1,000 rushing yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior
- became the first player in school history to top 2,000 rushing yards in a season, finishing with 2,003 in 2019
- ranks as Ohio State’s second all-time leading rusher (4,459) behind only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin (5,589)
- averaged 106.2 yards per game over his career and he totaled 5,104 all-purpose yards, with both figures ranking second in school history
That pretty much shows you how dominant Dobbins was at Ohio State. Even at a historic school that’s churned out a number of talented running backs, Dobbins was about as good as it gets.
And to cap it all off, Dobbins was at his best in the last four games of his college career against four top-notch opponents (Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Clemson). He ran for 157, 211, 172 and 174 yards in those four games, respectively, totaling eight rushing touchdowns. It wasn’t on Dobbins that Clemson still advanced past Ohio State in 2019.
Blowing minds with Combine-type skills
Even before arriving in Columbus, Dobbins displayed freakish athleticism. He competed at Nike’s The Opening event in 2016 and recorded the highest SPARQ score, which essentially accounts for overall football athleticism. In that event, before Dobbins was even in college, he ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash and vertical leaped 43.1 inches. Because of an ankle injury, we didn’t get to see Dobbins top those at the NFL Combine before the 2020 draft.
Dobbins’ coach at La Grane (Texas) High School once told Cleveland.com that Dobbins could’ve played Division I football at 15.
“The truth is, as a sophomore at 15 years old, he could have played for 80 percent of Division I programs,” Matt Kates told Cleveland.com. “At 15 years old. There’s no doubt. That’s what’s crazy. No doubt.”
Dobbins did complete the bench press at the 2020 Combine, putting up 23 reps of 225 pounds, tied for fifth among running backs with eventual Packers selection AJ Dillon.
Aligning with Lamar Jackson’s winning window
As long as the Ravens have Jackson and a solid defense, they’ll have no choice but to view themselves as Super Bowl contenders. And in a run-heavy offense in which much of Jackson’s own running comes off options with a running back, the RB spot will be crucial for Baltimore to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
In Dobbins, the Ravens found an on-the-rise rusher to pair with Jackson for the forseeable future. Mark Ingram is on the wrong side of 30 and has battled injuries, while Gus Edwards fits in more of a backup role. Dobbins is the true high-upside piece for Baltimore’s backfield.
On a rookie contract, Dobbins won’t tie down the Ravens’ salary cap when they inevitably extend Jackson for huge money. That’ll give Baltimore at least a couple years with a top-notch, cheap running back to go with its superstar quarterback. With a team that loves to pound the rock, that’s the best recipe to win a Super Bowl.
History of Ohio State RBs in NFL
Because we’re touting Dobbins as the next big thing to come out of Ohio State, it makes sense to look at some of the other solid running backs produced by the Buckeyes.
- Eddie George: 1996 Offensive Rookie of the Year; seven-time 1,000-yard rusher for Oilers/Titans
- Ezekiel Elliott: Through 2019, a three-time Pro-Bowler with three 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons for Cowboys
- Tom Matte: Two-time Pro Bowler; 45 career rushing touchdowns for Ravens
- Robert Smith: Two-time Pro Bowler; four-time 1,000-yard rusher for Vikings
- John Brockington: 1971 Offensive Rookie of the Year; rushed for 1,000-plus yards first three seasons with Packers
- Pete Johnson: Ran for double-digit touchdowns in a season four times as a Bengals/Dolphins/Chargers fullback
- Archie Griffin: Never reached his two-time Heisman heights in the pros; career-high 688 rushing yards in 1979 for Bengals
- Carlos Hyde: Had first 1,000-yard rushing season for Texans in 2019
- Beanie Wells: Ran for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011 for Cardinals