PRO 2020 Rookie Spotlight: JK Dobbins, RB Ohio State

JK Dobbins, RB Ohio State
Height: 5’9 1/2″
Weight: 209
Hand: 9 1/2″
Arm: 29 3/4″
NFL Comparison: Emmitt Smith, Ezekiel Elliott, Devonta Freeman

– thick, compact body with true breakaway ability
– verified elite athlete despite no combine/pro day metrics
– elite vision and instincts at all levels of the field
– natural hands-catcher – determined runner who always falls forward
– elusive via explosive athleticism and great first-gear acceleration
– uber-productive at high-profile Ohio State
– broke out with 1400 rushing yards as a true freshman among good RB room
– durable, did not miss games despite heavy volume

– can get caught from behind on long runs
– had a down year in 2018
– don’t have any combine or pro day measurables
– on the slightly light side for a prototypical workhorse archetype
– despite great hands, was not used as often as other in receiving game

2019 Team Market Share Numbers

47% rushing attempts
8% receptions
30% total offensive yards
26% offensive TDs

Scouting Evaluation: While JK Dobbins was unable to test at the NFL combine and was prevented, like most everyone else during the start of the 2020 pandemic, from taking part in a pro day, we know he’s a unicorn of an athletic specimen for two main reasons: 1) you can clearly see it on film; and 2) he was the Nike Football Rating Champion during testing at the 2016 opening as a commitment to Ohio State, barely edging out his future Buckeye teammate, Jeffrey Okudah. He ran a 4.45 40-yard dash as a high school senior and a 4.09 shuttle to go with a 43-plus-inch vertical.

What we do have to evaluate Dobbins on is one of the strongest film and production-based performances of all prospects in the 2020 class. He’s put together extremely well, and despite only weighing in at 209 pounds at the combine, it’s widely reported (and confirmed by Dobbins in Indy) that he played at much closer to 215 during the 2019 season and will have no trouble getting back to that weight in short order. Given this requisite size/speed combo, the evaluation on Dobbins is simple: A big, fast back with true breakaway ability, elite vision at every level of the field that aids in natural elusiveness through agility, quicks and pure, old-fashioned power and leg drive. It was reported that Dobbins squatted 700 pounds last summer within the Buckeye summer training regimen. He gets up to speed so quickly and unlike guys such as Cam Akers, he has a natural ability to mitigate contact at the second and third levels of the defense. When he goes down, he always falls forward. He can get caught from behind at times, but that could just be because he’s often getting chased down from behind. Per PFF, his 31 carries of 15-plus yards in 2020 led all FBS running backs while his 1208 yards after contact was good for 4th in the nation playing against good Big 10 opponents.

While he wasn’t used in the receiving game as often as some others within the context of his offense during the 2019 season, it’s very clear that he’s comfortable catching the football and has natural hands.

Fantasy Outlook: Another simple answer — it’s bright. He should be at least a Top 3 pick in your dynasty rookie draft and an early-mid-round selection in 2020 redraft leagues depending on landing spot. Dobbins is every bit as capable of being a near-consensus rookie RB1 pick based on his NFL home as players like Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift are.

From the Ohio State Athletic Department

• In 2019, Dobbins became the first running back in school history to top the 2,000-yard mark, finishing with 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns for the 13-1 Buckeyes
• Finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting
• Had 10 100-yard rushing performances during his junior season, including a career-high 211 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-27 win at No. 10 Michigan
• Ranked third nationally in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns
• Had seven rushes of 40 yards or more, including a 68-yard TD run in the first quarter of the CFP Semifinal vs. Clemson
• Averaged 174.6 yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns against six defenses that were ranked among the Top 13 rush defenses in the nation coming into the game with five of them Top 10
• Is the first Ohio State player ever to rush for 1,000 or more yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior
• Finished his career as the school’s second-leading rusher all-time with 4,459 yards, with the great Archie Griffin and his 5,589 yards the only player to run for more
• Averaged 106.2 yards per game over his career and he totaled 5,104 all-purpose yards, with both figures ranking second in school history
• His 6.2 yards per carry for his career was also second-best among Buckeyes and his 43 touchdowns scored are tied for fifth with another Ohio State legend from Texas: J.T. Barrett
• Never missed a game in his three-year career and he started 40 of the 42 games in which he played
• Rushed for 100-or-more yards 19 times (Ohio State was 18-1 in those games) and he caught 71 passes for 645 yards and five touchdowns
• Eclipsed 100 rushing yards in just six games and became only the fourth freshman in Ohio State history to eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark in a season
• Finished his inaugural season with 1,403 yards, a Ohio State freshman record.

Honors & Awards
2019: Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award winner
First Team All-Big Ten (media and coaches)
First Team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America
Doak Walker Award finalist
2018: Second Team All-Big Ten (coaches)
2017: ESPN Freshman All-American
Second Team All-Big Ten (coaches and media)

Quotable from the Combine 

Q: Did any former Buckeyes give you advice for the combine?
A: Yeah, quite a few tried to let me know what it was going to be like here. I think their advice was pretty correct.

Q: There’s a lot of RB talent here at the combine. Who do you admire?
A: Yeah, I admire all of them. They’re all great backs – DeAndre Swift, Cam Akers, Clyde, Jonathan. They’re all great backs.

Q: How did playing for Urban Meyer help you?
A: You definitely have to have discipline playing for Urban Meyer and you know you have to be a great person as well. It definitely developed my character as a person and so that definitely helped, playing for Urban.

Q: Where are you training?
A: With Pete Bommarito in Aventura, Florida.

Q: You know that RBs have been devalued in the draft. How important is it for you to be a first-round pick?
A: It’s definitely important. If I was to go in the first round, I think it will show that the value of running backs isn’t really down. We do a lot of things on the field and we help our teams win. You can see it with the Titans and Chefs. The Chiefs closed out the Super Bowl with running plays.

Q: How much did your injury against Clemson affect you?
A: It definitely affected me a lot. It was a significant injury. It was a very high ankle sprain. It was definitely tough to even go back and battle through it. It hurt a lot, definitely. But I just wanted to win the game for my team and tried to get to the national championship.

Q: Are you back to 100%? Are you feeling good now?
A: Yeah, I feel pretty good.

Q: Are you expecting to do everything here at the combine?
A: We’ll see.

Q: Do you feel you’re the best running back in the draft?
A: Yes, I do.

Q: Why?
A: I think I have tremendous vision. I can do it all. I can be explosive. I can grind it out. And I’m also a leader. I think I make everyone around me play better.

Q: What do you think you can show here?
A: How athletic I am. I’m a pretty athletic guy and pretty fast. A lot of people try to say that I can’t catch because I took my eyes off the screen pass in the playoff game, but I had more than 70 catches so I think I can catch pretty good.

Q: You said we’ll see about going through the on-field testing. Is that something you’re still working through?
A: I’m still working through it. If I’m not 100%, I don’t want to go out there and not show my full potential.

Q: Are you 100%?
A: Not yet.

Q: How long did it take you to get over the Clemson loss?
A: It still hurts a little bit. It’s definitely tough. I love my teammates. I love that team. It was an amazing team. The chemistry on that team was amazing. It was just like a family. It definitely hurt to lose that.

Q: Do you have a sense of having to prove yourself all over again?
A: Oh definitely, I always feel I have something to prove. Even when I ran for 2,000 yards, I feel like I could have proved a little more.

Q: What if you’d had say 60 carries instead of resting in second half of blowouts?
A: I don’t know. I think it would have been pretty crazy, though.

Q: What’s your best asset as a running back?
A: Definitely my vision. I think I have vision that’s out of this world. It’s definitely a God-given talent. I think that’s the best thing about my game.

Q: You had some of best games in big games. Why?
A: I always work for the spotlight moments. (But) it’s about what I do outside of the lights. When the lights aren’t on me, there are things that I do to try to be ready for when that time comes. Prime time isn’t always really prime time to me. It’s like a normal day at the office because I work so hard for it. So whenever it comes to those games, I’m very prepared for it.

Q: What do you think your legacy is at OSU?
A: My legacy at Ohio State, I haven’t really had time to just sit down and think about it because soon after the game when I was declaring, I wanted to go start training. So I haven’t had the time to sit down and think about it, but you know, a lot of guys will mention like how I ran for more (career) yards than Ezekiel Elliott and Eddie George, and Archie Griffin in one season. It’s pretty surreal. It’s definitely amazing thing. I’m very, very blessed. I just haven’t had time to sit down and think about it.

Q: Well, how much have you actually been able to train?
A: Yeah. So I’ve been able to try it for a few weeks now. Definitely I wish I could have more weeks. But we’ll see. If I’m at my full potential. I’ll go definitely go. I love competing. That’s what I love to do. That’s why I’m here. If I don’t do it here, I’ll definitely do it at Ohio State’s pro day.

Q: Who did you watch growing up?
A: A guy that I watched growing up was Adrian Peterson and he’s a Texas guy. I’m not as big as him. So, but I still try to emulate his running style. He’s a very tough runners and can be explosive as well. He can shake somebody so I definitely like him. The guy I feel I try to emulate the most is Christian McCaffrey because he’s built like me, maybe a little taller. But he’s definitely a tough runner and he can do anything. So I like his game a lot.

Q: Describe your rivalry with Jonathan Taylor.
A: I don’t see it as a rivalry because he plays on a different team than me. He’s not on defense so I’m not necessarily going against him, but if there’s a rivalry I think I won the better of that because we beat them every time we played them.

Q: Was there a moment or a time where you really saw your vision as a RB go to the next level or is it something that you’ve always had?
A: I think it’s always something that I had. As a little kid in pee-wee football, we’d run a play and a play would be going this way and I’d see a hole all the way back here and guys were like, ‘How did you see that?’ So I always feel like I’ve always had it but then as I got to college and I started learning the blocking schemes and what the defense was going to do, it just elevated it even more.

Q: (unintelligible question)
A: I think the most important way to slow down the game is to learn what everyone on the field is doing. So learning that definitely slows it down and that makes your vision that much better.

Q: How frustrating is it to not be able to do everything you want right now?
A: It’s definitely frustrating, but God has a plan for me and I’ll execute it.

Q: What can you show a team even if you can’t do everything you want?
A: There’s definitely a lotI can show a team. About adversity… When things don’t go my way, I’m not going to sit here and pout about it. So I’m going to keep working hard. You know if a team drafts me, they’re going to get a hard worker who’s going to help his team win.

Q: Was it hard to leave Ohio State with the way the season ended?
A: Oh yeah, definitely. It was just hard to leave my brothers at Ohio State. I love them a lot. So it was definitely a tough decision and Columbus as a city is amazing to us guys.

Q: What made you decide that ultimately this was the right decision for you to go to the NFL now?
A: Like he said, the legacy that I left. I just felt like it was time for me to try to take it to the next level. So that that was one of the reasons why I left – not the main reason.

Q: About going to the Dolphins potentially?
A: I know that they kind of want a running back. I don’t know the coaches thing but from what I’ve seen, the running game was kind of down this year for that team so I definitely think they would benefit off of getting a running back but that’s not my decision. That’s the coach’s decision and the GM’s decision.

Q: What happens against Clemson if you don’t get hurt?
A: We definitely win that game.

Q: How much do you still think about it?
A: I think about it. I thought we were the better team. We just didn’t execute like we should have.

Q: How much has Ohio State separated itself from Michigan?
A: We separated from Michigan by a longshot because we bring in a lot of talent and our strength and conditioning coach, Mickey Marotti, definitely gets us right. A lot of credit to him.

Q: OSU QBs and RBs seem to have separated themselves in particular from Michigan’s?
A: I don’t know what’s going on at Michigan because I wasn’t there. But honestly, I think our coaches develop that position very well. Coach Alford and Coach Day and all those guys, they get the quarterbacks and running backs right. A lot of that has to do with the O-line we have because those develop too and are ready to go when it’s their time.

(said he’s at 209 pounds instead of about 2013-15 because he’s training)

Q: Your thoughts on possibly being drafted by Chiefs at No. 32?
A: I think it would definitely be fun to play in that offense. Definitely. The quarterback’s from Texas like me so I think they’ll be amazing to have two Texas guys in the backfield. I think it would be a blessing to play for them. I think I can do a lot of great things there.

Q: OSU fans are concerned about RBs there who have to follow you. What would you want to say about the players?
A: Yeah, we have some talented guys coming up, and they’re going to work hard and coach Alford is going to develop them so I have no doubt. They won’t lose a step.

Q: About Master Teague.
A: I definitely think he’s a guy that can handle the pressure. That last game against Clemson he got thrust into the fire, you know, so he didn’t know what was going to happen. So he’s kind of wide-eyed, I believe. But I think now, coach Alford and coach Day are going to develop him and have him ready to go.

Q: Master took some criticism after that game. Did you talk to him at all afterwards?
A: No, I haven’t been able to talk to him because I kind of just tried to get to my training. Whenever I go back up there, I’ll definitely talk to him and let him know what to do.

Q: What about Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers?
A: They’ll be great running backs.

Q: When you think back on your journey from Texas to Ohio State and getting to this point, Just what does it mean for you to be here now and at this chance to be here and make all this money and (couldn’t hear the rest of the question?
A: Yeah, definitely. I come from humble beginnings. With my father not being here, losing him at 15, it was definitely tough for me. Just being here is a blessing. If I get to compete, I’m going to try to put on a big show for you guys. A lot of people will know I belong here.

Q: How much do you think that upbringing that you had helped you getting to this point.
A: It helped me a lot. I had to mature earlier than people usually have to. I did mature at a very early age. It definitely helped me a lot for everything that happened to me.

Q: About the Titans
A: Derrick Henry is an amazing back. If you look at what he does, at the end of the season, it’s like no one can touch. He’ still is strong as ever. He’s a very physical runner and you definitely have to bring a lunch pail to tackle that guy. He’s tough as well. I definitely admire his game.

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