Bold predictions for Ravens rookies expected to start or contribute: J.K. Dobbins
The Baltimore Ravens are expecting major contributions from several members of their 10-man rookie class. At least seven of them are currently competing for starting spots or will have significant roles in their inaugural seasons. Despite not having any semblance of a real offseason due to COVID-19, many of them have stood out and impressed coaches and teammates alike in training camp.
While it is a tall task to ask or expect first-year players to hit the ground running and become immediate difference-maker let alone stars from the jump in a normal year, here is the second edition of the bold production predictions series for some of the rookies that are expected to be starters or at least key contributors in year one.
J.K. Dobbins eclipses 1,000 yards from scrimmage
Heading into the 2020 NFL draft the former Ohio State Buckeye was touted as the best running back in the entire class by some pundits and draft analysts. Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta shared that he and his staff had a late first-round grade on Dobbins and couldn’t believe he was still on the board when they were on the clock at 55th overall in the middle of the second round.
Fast forward four months since the draft and he has been hands down the most impressive rookie and players overall in training camp. Head Coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week that the rookie will likely have a “significant role” in the Ravens’ offense this year. He’s been garnering rave reviews from his performance in practice, meetings, and in the weight room.
While I don’t believe that Dobbins will have quite the beastly season as a rusher as Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner who predicted that he will be one of three rookies to run for over 1,000 yards, I do, however, think it is completely within reason and just as bold to predict that he will eclipse 1,000 yards in total scrimmage yards as a rookie despite Baltimore’s crowded backfield.
The Ravens are loaded on the offensive side of the ball with their deepest position being at running back. In addition to Dobbins, they have three-time Pro Bowler Mark Ingram who rushed for 1,000 yards last season and is slated to open the season as the starter, Gus Edward who is a bruising power runner who has run for over 700 yards in each of his first two seasons and 2019 fourth-round pick Justice Hill who is talented and chomping at the bit for more playing time.
There is also the game-breaking running ability that dynamic dual-threat quarterback and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson who led the team and finished sixth on the league in rushing brings to the offense.
While the team has made it known that they will make a concerted effort to run Jackson less going forward with all the talent they have at running back, they have also maintained that he will still be heavily involved in the ground attack based on what the defense presents or what individual game plans call for.
Dobbins hit the ground running and was the definition of a workhorse in college at Ohio where he eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in all three of his seasons for the Buckeyes including a 2,000-yard campaign as a junior in 2019. I honestly believe that it will be hard for any Ravens running back to reach or even come close to notching 1,000 yards rushing alone this year.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman will distribute carries among all the backs because he loves to incorporate all of his playmakers in the game plan. Ingram and Dobbins will likely be the top two on the depth chart and receive the lion share of the snaps and touches but in order to record 1,000 or more yards from scrimmage, it will have to come via a combination of rushing and receiving yards.
Both players are hardnosed runners with great feet and vision and are capable of doing a lot of damage on the ground, but they’re underrated talents in the passing game as receivers out of the backfield. Ingram quietly tacked on 247 yards and five touchdowns receiving to his scrimmage total last season and Dobbins has looked like vintage Ray Rice running routes and catching passes in camp.
I’m not just saying that because he’s sporting the No.27 on his jersey. According to tweets and written reports from members of the media that have attended practice as well as highlights disseminated from the team’s official website, he’s been just as dynamic and elusive in space as the former three-time Pro Bowler.
The similarities between Dobbins and Rice don’t stop there. They were both drafted in the second round with the 55th overall pick and they both came into a backfield with an established veteran coming off a Pro Bowl season where they rushed for over 1,000 yards and added another 200 plus receiving. Willis McGahee rushed for 1207 yards and added another 231 receiving in 2007 the year before Rice was drafted out of Rutgers.
As a rookie, Rice showed flashes and came on as the season went on, but he didn’t even top 500 yards rushing and totaled just 727 total yards from scrimmage with zero touchdowns. I think that Dobbins will be much more involved in the Ravens offense from start to finish. I believe that he’ll have a rookie season similar to that of Carolina Panthers’ All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey in 2017 but not quite as prolific as a receiver. He rushed for just 435 yards and two touchdowns but hauled in a rookie running back record 80 passes for 651 yards and five touchdowns, bring his scrimmage total to 1,086 for the season playing behind then alongside Pro Bowl veteran Johnathan Stewart.
Total production prediction: 151 rushes for 675 yards, five touchdowns (long of 65), 5.9 ypc, 50 targets, 43 catches for 350 yards, and four touchdowns (long of 30) bringing his yards and scrimmage total to 194 touches for 1025 yards and nine touchdowns.