After what many would call a sophomore slump, Ohio State running back JK Dobbins has enjoyed a return to the spotlight in his junior year. In the midst of the most productive season of his career, he has re-emerged as one of the top backs in the 2020 NFL Draft. But just how much has Dobbins seen his draft stock rise since the start of this season? To get a better idea, we have to go back to his early collegiate days.
After bursting on the scene as a freshman, Dobbins’ stock took a dip after his underwhelming sophomore season. However, this season, Dobbins has risen up boards and will look to finish off his strongest season to date. He has flashed a well-rounded skill-set and looks as dynamic as ever. I dove into Dobbins film over the summer and was left rather uninspired. He didn’t flash enough for me to view him as anything higher than a late Day 2 pick.
That has since changed.
As a freshman, Dobbins burst onto the scene for over 1400 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging a whopping 7.2 yards per carry. For reference, in that same year, in that same conference, Saquon Barkley only averaged 5.9 yards per carry. That isn’t me saying Dobbins is better than Barkley; it’s simply brought up to display how impressive Dobbins was as a freshman. After his freshman season, Dobbins stock as a draft prospect was blazing. Many thought he could be the guy to watch in 2020 as RB1.
In his sophomore year, Dobbins struggled. After logging six 100-yard games as a freshman, Dobbins had only half that in 2018. He looked slower, sloppier. I watched six games from his 2018 season and felt as if he lacked the dynamic ability that separates the elite running backs from the backs destined for committee work. He didn’t do anything that led me to believe he could be a featured back in an NFL offense. Dobbins stock was dropping rapidly, and it started to seem like he was more of a rotational guy, rather than the feature of an offense.
While his production as a rusher dipped in his sophomore campaign, he improved as a pass-catcher, something I value very highly in running backs. Running back as a position is easily replaceable and not very valuable, meaning backs who can be a weapon as both a pass catcher and lead runner are inherently more important. That’s why guys like McCaffrey and Barkley are the top guys at the position. Dobbins has the talent and skill-set to be a strong weapon in a passing attack.
After only rushing for 100 yards three times last year, Dobbins has matched his freshman year total with six 100-yard games this season. It’s very likely Dobbins plays four, maybe even five more games. He’s already got a career-high 13 rushing touchdowns, adding two more as a receiver, while also being one pace to set career highs in both rushing and receiving yards.
The most impressive thing, though? He’s doing it nearly as efficiently as he did as a freshman. He’s averaging seven yards a carry, nearly matching his freshman pace, but with higher usage. His yards per carry is also 65% higher than it was last season. Dobbins is enjoying an electric bounce-back season and Ohio State’s undefeated record is the biggest beneficiary. Dobbins’ stock is once again rising, and if he can string together strong games to end the season, it will be the cherry on top.
Dobbins’ Draft Stock
After dubbing Dobbins an uninspiring prospect who lacked the dynamic ability to be a featured back in the NFL, he came back and bit me in the behind. He is enjoying his most productive campaign to date and has shown off a level of athletic ability I did not previously believe he had. He has strong vision and runs hard, while also providing excellent hands as a pass-catcher. He still lacks top-tier athletic ability and will be closer to an Aaron Jones than a Saquon Barkley, but that’s alright.
Dobbins’ stock has steadily climbed back up this season. He will be a guy that a smart offensive mind can use in a number of different ways, and while he just fails to reach my top three, he is firmly entrenched in my RB4 spot, worthy of an early-to-mid second-round grade.