Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins was a popular fantasy football breakout candidate entering the 2021 season following a strong close to his rookie year. Unfortunately, his potential breakout was derailed before it began due to an ACL tear on the only preseason series he played. Dobbins looks to be fully recovered for the start of the 2022 season, so what is his outlook and ADP heading into fantasy football drafts?
Update: The Ravens are expected to sign Kenyan Drake on Tuesday, Aug. 30, after he was released by the Raiders.
J.K. Dobbins’ fantasy outlook for 2022
In Week 8 of the 2020 season, Dobbins finally crested a 50% snap share. It’s fair to say that’s when his takeover of the Ravens’ backfield began.
Over the final six weeks of 2020, Dobbins scored at least 13 PPR fantasy points and a touchdown in every game. While this TD rate was unsustainable, the more important takeaway for fantasy managers was Dobbins becoming the clear lead back.
Entering 2021, fantasy analysts were projecting a giant leap forward for a player that averaged six yards per carry as a rookie. Sadly, we never got to see it because Dobbins tore his ACL in the preseason.
The Ravens’ backfield was a complete mess in 2021. After Dobbins went down, so did Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. The Ravens tried to make Ty’Son Williams happen, but, well, let’s say he was a UDFA for a reason. After that experiment failed, the Ravens rotated a bunch of washed veterans in their makeshift backfield.
How the Ravens’ depth chart impacts J.K. Dobbins’ fantasy projection for the season
Heading into the 2022 season, the Ravens appear committed to Dobbins and Edwards as their 1A and 1B. Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray were on one-year deals last season, and neither is expected to be re-signed.
While the Ravens were in the mix to sign Melvin Gordon, they ultimately chose not to sign anyone. In the NFL draft, their only selection was receiving back Tyler Badie late in Day 3. Thus, the team has sent a clear message that they believe in Dobbins and Edwards. While they did sign Mike Davis in May, the 29-year-old journeyman is just roster depth; he’s not a threat in the slightest.
We can pretty much throw out everything the Ravens did in 2021. That was not the typical Ravens offense. They ran the ball just 45.8% of the time, easily their lowest rate of the Lamar Jackson era. For context, their rushing rates in 2019 and 2020 were 57.5% and 57.8%, respectively.
The primary reason behind the Ravens’ pass-heavy approach in 2021 was the collapse of their defense. All of the defensive injuries resulted in the Ravens playing catch-up more than they’re accustomed to. Jackson attempted 127 passes while trailing in 2021. That number was just 92 in 2020 and 98 in 2019.
Injury rates tend to regress. Fantasy managers should expect the Ravens to be much healthier this season. As a result, I expect them to return to a 55-57% run rate. That’s good news for Dobbins as he will need volume in order to be a fantasy RB2.
Can Dobbins be a fantasy RB1 in 2022?
On the negative side of things, I don’t see an RB1 season in Dobbins’ realistic range of outcomes. That’s due to his lack of receiving work. While Mark Ingram was able to post an RB1 season in 2019, he did so on the back of high touchdown efficiency, scoring 15 times on 231 opportunities (carries + targets). Moreover, Ingram scored an absurd five receiving touchdowns on just 29 targets.
Neither Dobbins nor Edwards has ever been featured as receivers. They can both catch, especially Dobbins, who posted a 7.6% college target share. Still, throwing to running backs is just not something Jackson does. Even in a season where he threw more than he ever had, Jackson still targeted running backs at just a 14% clip, the second-lowest rate in the league. Dobbins and Edwards have a combined zero receiving touchdowns. As a rookie, Dobbins commanded a mere 6.6% target share.
There is at least the potential for the Ravens to utilize their RBs more as receivers after trading away Marquise Brown, leaving them with very little behind Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews. If Dobbins can find his way to a 10% target share, he’ll end up being a great value in 2022 fantasy football drafts.
There’s also the matter of Edwards likely missing a chunk of the season due to his slow recovery from his ACL tear. That raises Dobbins’ ceiling, but the Ravens are still going to utilize other backs. There is the possibility for Davis to be the primary back early in the season in case Dobbins is not 100% and needs to get up to speed. Dobbins would eventually take over and Davis would then play the role Edwards was supposed to until Edwards returns.
The most likely outcome is nearly all of Dobbins’ fantasy output comes from rushing, which he will share with Davis and, eventually, Edwards. Dobbins is the better player and will be the better fantasy asset, but his ceiling is capped at the high-RB2 level.
Dobbins’ ADP for 2022
Dobbins’ ADP was pretty low all summer out of fears he wouldn’t be healthy. With Dobbins trending towards being active for Week 1 and capable of handling a full workload relatively early in the season, he’s back into the late-fourth/early-fifth round.
Dobbins is our consensus-ranked RB23 in our 2022 fantasy football rankings. We are mostly in line with ADP on him.
Dobbins is the type of running back I’m drafting when it makes sense. So, what exactly does that mean? If no WR jumps out at me and Dobbins is the top RB on my board, I’ll take him. If he falls to the sixth round, I’ll take him. I’m just not reaching for Dobbins or aggressively targeting him anywhere.