The 40th ranked player on Daniel Jeremiah’s most recent Top-50 list, Ohio State Buckeyes running back J.K. Dobbins seems like a sure-fire second-round pick for one NFL team in need of a talent boost in their running back room. Could it be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Bruce Arians and the Bucs already have Ronald Jones who the team drafted just three years ago in the second-round out of USC. The talented and athletic running back is coming off his best season by far, after his rookie year was a massive disappointment.
The arrival of Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich breathed new life into Jones’ young career, as did the extensive work he put in during the off-season. Entering 2020, Jones is now the top guy in the room for the Bucs, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be alone on the peak.
Most speculate Tampa Bay’s general manager Jason Licht will select a running back on either day two or three of the 2020 NFL Draft. Some have even projected he might take two.
Nonetheless Dobbins’ name has come up in a lot of those conversations, so to wrap-up our prospect profile series, we’re taking a better look at the Ohio State prospect and what he might bring to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
J.K. Dobbins’ Collegiate Career
Considering there may not be a single running back taken in the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft, this might be the most talented group of ball carriers we’ve seen enter the league in some time.
Also, considering the lineage of talented running backs to come out of Columbus, Dobbins is the only one to ever record a 2000-yard rushing season and became the first back in school history to run for 1,000-yards in his first three seasons. No, that isn’t a typo. Go ahead. Check. I’ll wait.
That’s right. Not Archie Griffin, not Eddie George, and not even Ezekiel Elliott. The only running back to ever collect 2,000-yards on the ground in a single season is J.K. Dobbins. He also left the Buckeyes second all-time in rushing yards behind just two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin.
Dobbins, projected as a day two draft pick in this year’s class, surpassed Elliott who was selected in the early parts of the first-round by the Dallas Cowboys. Elliott had two 2,000-yard seasons at Ohio State when combining rushing and receiving yards, and Dobbins finished his final season with more than 2,200.
From a production standpoint, Dobbins might legitimately be the best back to come out of the Buckeyes’ program this century. We know the yards already, but he also finished with just one touchdown less than Elliott did in his collegiate career.
You could possibly even argue Dobbins was the more consistent player, having notched years of 8, 12, and 23 scores in his three seasons. Elliott on the other hand, scored just three touchdowns as a freshman and rode a massive boost in his sophomore year (18) to catch up and ultimately stay one ahead of Dobbins.
So, production isn’t the issue with Dobbins. In fact, neither are a lot of things. From Daniel Jeremiah’s synopsis of the running back, he writes,
“Dobbins is a compact running back with tremendous power, balance and instincts. He is at his best on inside runs. He doesn’t hesitate, accelerating into contact and breaking a ton of tackles. He has a nifty inside spin move and can make second- and third-level defenders miss in space. He has enough speed to get to the perimeter, but he always looks to turn upfield as soon as possible. In the passing attack, he is effective in the screen game, but he has more work to do as a route runner. He had two tough drops vs. Clemson in the College Football Playoff, but he was reliable in every other game I studied. He is very aware in pass protection — he can drop his weight and anchor linebackers. Overall, Dobbins’ game should translate very well to the next level. He’ll be a dependable starter immediately.”
Sounds like a day one potential if you ask me. If his production is there, and his traits are what DJ says they are, then why is Dobbins the third or even fourth-best back in this class?
Despite what Jeremiah has to say about Dobbins, not everybody agrees. His own co-worker within NFL Media Lance Zierlein, says Dobbins,
“Needs to give more help to his linemen when rushers begin leaking.”
This, according to the draft profile Zierlein wrote for NFL.com. Of course, this isn’t a direct contradiction to what Jeremiah wrote. Perhaps Dobbins is very aware as a pass blocker and capable against linebackers. Perhaps he’s also not as willing to step in as he could be.
Is that enough to drop Dobbins from the day one conversation though? No, but there are more detractions to his overall game which might steer people away from him compared to the likes of Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU) and D’Andre Swift (Georgia).
Dobbins isn’t going to beat many NFL linebackers to the edge. His speed just isn’t something the team who drafts him can leverage as a strength against opposing defenders. He’s an inside guy who can use a lane or a broken tackle to turn a three-yard gain into ten.
He’s more nimble than I think people give him credit for, but he’s not a shifty guy the way Jones already is for the Buccaneers.
Shifting to another group of evaluators, The Draft Network’s Jordan Reid (not the Washington Redskins tight end) wrote,
“Up and down moments of being in attack mode, Dobbins has plenty of killer instinct, but he can get relaxed at times when there’s no immediate solution. His feet will go dead or he’s satisfied with initial results on some plays instead of constantly trying to win. This can often be seen as a pass protector to. Being the aggressor instead of engulfing contact is an area that should be improved with proper coaching.”
Taking plays off is never a good thing, especially when you play a position with very limited job security. It seems there are five or so starting caliber running backs entering the league each year. So, if your team can’t count on you to fight on every snap, they can easily find someone who will.
Why The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need J.K. Dobbins
One man’s ‘lack of effort’ on every snap is another man’s ‘smart play style’. One man’s ‘lack of effort in pass blocking’ is another man’s ‘lack of pass blocking emphasis’. Dobbins is one of those guys whose flaws are going to measured differently depending on who the evaluator is.
If Bucs evaluators see the potential and upside, then Dobbins is a guy who can anchor the running game as an inside runner who punishes defenders that choose to step into the gaps.
However, he doesn’t rely on his inside running so much he’s not a threat to be a receiver on every snap. This means defenses can’t simply key in on what the offense will do just because of who lines up in the backfield.
In this way he compliments Jones with both backs capable of catching and running the ball when they’re on the field.
For Dobbins to work in Tampa, it would need to be a true committee effort. Dobbins to deliver the body blows, and Jones to hit the haymakers.
Should It Happen?
Absolutely. If this were any other draft class, Dobbins would be the top guy on everyone’s board. Because of this ultra talented group, his stock sits somewhere in the middle of the first group of backs. The value on drafting a guy like this as the third or even fourth back off the board is tremendous.
Personally, I believe Dobbins brings more to what the Bucs need in a running back addition, but any of the top four or five running backs would be considered a massive win for this unit at this point.
Jones has grown tremendously and still shows a ton of upside, but he isn’t there yet. In a league moving more and more away from signing their own backs to second contracts, drafting a guy like Dobbins now gives the Bucs at least three more years of having a confident option to play in the backfield.
Check out this episode of the Locked On Bucs Podcast!
How do you feel about J.K. Dobbins for the Bucs in the 2020 NFL Draft?
This poll is closed
Draft him no matter what
Trade back candidate
I wouldn’t mind it
There are better options