This is the fifth of my series that takes a deeper dive into the fantasy ramifications of some of the top positional battles in the NFL. This week, we are looking at the Baltimore Ravens fantasy running back battle between rookie J.K. Dobbins and perennial stud Mark Ingram. Two will enter, but only one will leave victorious! FIGHT![sv slug=”mocksim”]
Ravens Fantasy Running Back Battle: J.K. Dobbins vs. Mark Ingram
2019: Ingram dominates a run-heavy offense
Going into 2019, the Ravens were expected to be a run-heavy offense, but lead rusher Mark Ingram was going as the 40th player off the board (RB21) according to 2019 ADP. Most fantasy owners weren’t really sure what kind of workload he would get as the new player on that offense with Lamar Jackson under center, who also liked to run the ball himself.
In the end, fantasy owners that drafted Ingram were rewarded with a stellar 2019 output from him. Ingram wound up finishing as the RB9 with 216.5 PPR points from 202 rushing attempts for 1,018 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns to go with another 26 catches for 247 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns as a pass-catcher. Ingram paid off big time for owners who drafted him in the fourth round of fantasy drafts last season. His role on that offense was definitely not something to be taken lightly.
Even with his RB1 finish, Ingram could have finished even higher. Jackson finished with 176 rushes for a team-high 1,206 yards and 7 touchdowns, while 2018 breakout candidate Gus Edwards ran 133 times for 711 yards and 2 touchdowns of his own. While Ingram ended up as the RB1 for the team, the Ravens clearly spread the ball around on the ground, making Ingram owners wonder if the 30-year-old RB would be the back of the future in Baltimore heading into the NFL draft.
A new challenger has entered the arena: J.K. Dobbins
Heading into Day 2 of the draft, the only running back off the board was Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs at pick 32. So teams like the Ravens that were potentially looking to add a young running back had plenty of options to choose from.
When head coach Jim Harbaugh and the Ravens drafted Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins with the 55th pick overall in the second round, most analysts felt like Ingram’s days were numbered. PFN’s Tony Pauline had Dobbins as his RB3 in the class and felt like the Ravens got a steal when they took him, calling Dobbins “one of the most complete backs in this draft and a stand out carrying the ball, catching it out of the backfield, as well as blocking. He lacks top-end speed but is terrific in all facets of the position.”
Pauline was not alone. PFN Dynasty analyst Corey Ashburn considered Dobbins the overall RB1 in the class, even better than CEH or Jonathan Taylor in terms of fantasy potential:
JK Dobbins is widely considered to be somewhere between the rookie RB 3-5. @AshburnPFN explains why Dobbins is his rookie RB1!
Shoot us your thoughts on the matter.
— PFN Dynasty (@PFNDynasty) June 5, 2020
Pauline ended up giving the Ravens an A grade overall, even though he did mention a concern with Dobbins’ ability to see the field in year one:
“One of my biggest concerns is how often Dobbins will see the field during his rookie year behind Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill. He is a very talented player, but Ingram and Edwards played very well last season, while Hill remains a young player with a ton of upside.”
The general thought was that Dobbins was a terrific addition to the Ravens, but his ability to shine as a rookie was up for debate. Could he supplant Ingram as the team’s workhorse back in 2020 and be the Ravens fantasy running back to own? Or will he be forced to watch from the sidelines as Ingram keeps his RB1 position on the team?
Dobbins vs. Ingram in 2020
As of now, Ingram has an ADP of RB26, and Dobbins is RB34. It feels like the dynasty community is splitting between Ingram and Dobbins’ truthers, which makes total sense given the talent and draft capital that Dobbins brings to the team.
It’s very possible that both will end up in the RB2 discussion by the end of the season. Cole Thompson wrote that “pairing the Ohio State’s dynamic running style with Mark Ingram’s power play should give Baltimore an unstoppable punch at the line of scrimmage.” Clearly, he thinks both players will contribute in 2020, even though Ingram came out and said “I feel like I can play this game at the highest level for at least another four or five years. I honestly do.”
When looking at this from a general NFL mindset the waters are definitely muddy. From a dynasty standpoint, Ingram looks like a clear “win-now” Ravens fantasy running back to own while Dobbins has more long term value. In terms of 2020, I would agree that Ingram is the back to own, based mainly on his cheaper cost in startup drafts, but Dobbins is no slouch.
If you drafted Dobbins with an early rookie pick you’re not giving him up until you get the perfect offer, but Ingram is a great target for me in leagues where I have a contending team for 2020. This is by far the hardest battle in terms of 2020 backs, but give me Ingram now and Dobbins later.
Winner: Ingram if you need to win now, Dobbins if you can wait a year or more
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Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.