2020 PRESEASON PRO
Corey Parson | Dr. Roto | Ben Heisler | Matt Bayley | Kimra Schleicher | Darren Summer | Ian Ritchie | Shawn Childs | Mark Deming | John Rozek | Ben Heisler | Frankie Taddeo| Roy Larking | Scott Atkins | Bill Enright
The 2020 NFL Draft class was absolutely loaded with talented running backs. From Clyde Edwards-Helaire to D’Andre Swift to Jonathan Taylor and Cam Akers (to name a few), fantasy fans could be picking these dudes in the first two rounds of drafts starting as soon as 2021. But the best runner in the bunch, at least in the long term, could end up being the fifth running back selected in the draft: Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins.
Dobbins was widely considered one of the top runners in the class after posting 2,003 rushing yards, 21 touchdown runs and a 6.3 yards-per-carry average in his final year with the Buckeyes. He also ranked third among FBS runners in yards after contact (1,066) and 12th in broken tackles (69). He also hauled in 23 passes on 27 catchable targets for 247 yards and two TDs.
The versatile runner landed in a great spot for his future fantasy success as the run-heavy Ravens took him in the second round with the No. 55 overall pick. The first narrative for 2020 was that Dobbins would have a tough time making an impact as a rookie. After all, incumbent starter Mark Ingram is coming off an impressive statistical campaign with over 1,200 scrimmage yards and 15 combined touchdowns. Ingram is also one of the top veteran team leaders in the Baltimore locker room, and chances are he won’t relinquish the top spot on the depth chart soon.
Some might see the negatives, but I’m looking at the positives, and those positives have made Dobbins one of my favorite stash-and-cash players for the 2020 season.
The Ravens love to run the football. In 2019, Baltimore ran the rock 57.5 percent of the time (over six percent more than the next team). Ingram led the team with 202 carries, but two others (Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards) also contributed at least 133 carries apiece. Digging a little deeper, the combo of Edwards and Justice Hill combined for 191 carries and over 200 combined touches.
While I realize that a lot of those touches came later in games due to the Ravens' dominance, I’d also keep in mind that offensive coordinator Greg Roman has never finished worse than eighth in rushing yards per game average in his time as an NFL coach. What’s more, Roman’s teams have finished in the top four in six of his seven seasons in the league, including three top overall ranks (including last year).
Dobbins has already been turning heads in Ravens training camp, too. Reports have suggested he’s shown off the burst and athleticism that made him such a stud at Ohio State, and his impressive leaping touchdown grab in the back corner of the end zone in a recent practice was highlight-reel material. This dude is the real deal, fantasy friends.
The biggest obstacle for Dobbins, of course, is Ingram. He’s not going to hand over the top spot in the backfield, and his 5.0 yards-per-carry average a season ago showed that he’s not on the downside of his career. Still, Ingram is entering his age-31 campaign (he turns 31 in December). So let’s look at how backs have fared since 2010 in their age 30 and 31 seasons. Over the last ten seasons, only five runners have scored 200-plus points at the age of 30, and seven have hit the 175-point mark. One of those backs was Ingram in 2019 when he finished with 242.5 fantasy points.
If we consider this Ingram’s age 31 season, well, the historical numbers are even worse. LaDainian Tomlinson (2010) is the lone back to score over 200 fantasy points at 31 since 2010, and only one other (Matt Forte – 2016) has hit the 175-point mark. Aside from L.T. and Forte, no other runner in his age-31 season since 2010 would have ranked higher than 27th at the position based on last season’s final rankings.
Dobbins is the future of the Baltimore backfield, but I can see a scenario in which he becomes the present. It might not be right away with a healthy Ingram ahead of him to open the season, but I wouldn't be surprised if Dobbins took on a bigger role as the year wore on and became a league winner in fantasy circles.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for the latest fantasy football news and analysis!
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