J’Kaylin “JK” Dobbins doesn’t get the notoriety from Ravens backfield teammate Lamar Jackson, but the rookie running back from Baltimore has begun to show the talent that made him a top second-round pick. potential.
Thanks in part to injuries, Dobbins has played a crucial role in the Ravens’ turnaround. After seeing single-digit carries in the first six games of his career, Dobbins closed the season with an average of 5.97 yards per carry with 651 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in Baltimore’s last nine games. His rookie season culminated with a 160-yard performance and two touchdowns against the Bengals in Week 17 and he appears poised for a playoff break.
On paper, it should come as no surprise that Dobbins can play in the NFL. He set several records at Ohio State, a school steeped in running history, and even before that, he was an athletic tryout star in his days playing high school football in Texas.
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Setting records in the state of Ohio
It’s difficult to summarize Dobbins’ career with the Buckeyes in just one or two numbers, so let’s go with a list, through the official Ohio state statistics.
- finished his freshman season with 1,403 yards, an Ohio State first-year record
- is the first Ohio State player to exceed 1,000 rushing yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior
- became the first player in school history to exceed 2,000 rushing yards in one season, finishing with 2,003 in 2019
- ranks as Ohio State’s second-leading running back of all time (4,459) behind only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin (5,589)
- he averaged 106.2 yards per game during his career and totaled 5,104 all-purpose yards, with both figures ranking second in school history
That shows you how dominant Dobbins was at Ohio State. Even at a historic school that has produced a string of talented running backs, Dobbins was as good as he gets.
And to top it all, Dobbins was at his best in the last four games of his college career against four top-tier opponents (Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Clemson). He rushed for 157, 211, 172 and 174 yards in those four games, respectively, totaling eight rushing touchdowns. It wasn’t at Dobbins that Clemson still advanced beyond Ohio State in 2019.
Blowing minds with Combine-type abilities
Even before arriving in Columbus, Dobbins displayed abnormal athleticism. He competed in Nike’s The Opening event in 2016 and recorded the highest SPARQ score, which essentially represents the overall athleticism of soccer. In that case, before Dobbins was in college, he ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash and jumped 43.1 inches vertically. Due to an ankle injury, we couldn’t see Dobbins outperforming the NFL Combine before the 2020 draft.
Dobbins’ coach at La Grane (Texas) High School once told Cleveland.com that Dobbins could have played Division I soccer at age 15.
“The truth is, as a sophomore at 15, I could have played 80 percent of Division I programs,” said Matt Kates. Cleveland.com. “At 15 years old. There’s no question. That’s the crazy thing. Definitely.”
Dobbins completed the bench press in the 2020 Combine, with 23 reps at 225 pounds, tied for fifth among running backs with eventual Packers pick AJ Dillon.
Lining up with Lamar Jackson’s winning window
As long as the Ravens have Jackson and a solid defense, they will have no choice but to see themselves as Super Bowl contenders. And in a high-run offense where much of Jackson’s career comes from options with a running back, the running back spot will be crucial for Baltimore to lift the Lombardi Trophy.
At Dobbins, the Ravens found a rising running back to pair with Jackson for the foreseeable future. Mark Ingram is on the wrong side of 30 and has battled injuries, while Gus Edwards fits more in a backup role. Dobbins is the real big advantage piece for Baltimore’s backfield.
With a rookie contract, Dobbins won’t cap the Ravens’ salary cap when they inevitably extend Jackson for big bucks. That will give Baltimore at least a couple of years with a cheap, top-notch running back to tag along with its superstar quarterback. With a team that loves to hit the rock, that’s the best recipe for winning a Super Bowl.
History of Ohio State RBs in the NFL
Since 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 backs produced by the Buckeyes.
- Eddie George: Offensive Rookie of the Year 1996; seven-time 1,000-yard runner for Oilers / Titans
- Ezekiel Elliott: Through 2019, a three-time Pro-Bowler with three seasons of 1,000+ rushing yards for the Cowboys
- Tom Matte: Professional bowler on two occasions; 45 rushing touchdowns for the Ravens
- Robert Smith: Professional bowler on two occasions; 1,000-yard runner four times for the Vikings
- John Brockington: 1971 Offensive Rookie of the Year; ran for more than 1,000 yards the first three seasons with the Packers
- Pete Johnson: Ran for double-digit touchdowns in a season four times as a fullback for the Bengals / Dolphins / Chargers
- Archie Griffin: He never reached the two heisman heights in the pros; 688 rushing yards, his career-high, in 1979 for the Bengals
- Carlos Hyde: Had the first 1,000-yard rushing season for Texans in 2019
- Beanie Wells: He rushed for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011 for the Cardinals
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.