Dobbins SZN, J.K. (Just Kidding)

Saturday, May 15, 2021 at 2:22 pm ET

Dobbins SZN, JK (Just Kidding)


JK Dobbins is climbing draft boards all over the place. He's currently creeping inside the top-15 running backs and sometimes higher. Dynasty wise, he's already a locked and loaded top-10 running back. I'm not here to say JK Dobbins won't be a valuable 2021 fantasy football asset. He most certainly will be. What I am saying is right now his perceived value is much too high and early drafters and dynasty players should beware of the trap.

I get the appeal of JK. I do. He's on what is expected to be a good offense, running behind a great offensive line and they're one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL. So what's the problem, right?  Because all of that is true. He is widely expected to be the No. 1 running back on a good offense who runs the ball at a clip higher than any other team in the league. This is a fantasy football gold mine. And yet, it isn't.

In 2020 the Ravens worked in three running backs throughout half of the season. Mark Ingram got first dibs and JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards shared what was left. As the season moved along, Ingram began to get phased out to the point where he wasn't even dressing. Dobbins and Edwards began to carry the load. Context is everything in fantasy football. For the sake of the Ravens' running backs, there were essentially two seasons to look at. There was the Mark Ingram season and the non-Mark Ingram season.

From week eight on, it was the Dobbins/Edwards show. During that time, Dobbins came in as the RB9 in 0.5 PPR scoring. He averaged 13.2 PPG, which was tied for RB15 among running backs who played at least four games during that stretch. We're back to what's the problem, correct?

During those nine games, Dobbins scored seven touchdowns. During those same nine games he only touched the ball 15 or more times on three different occasions. Now remember, Ingram was not involved in any of these games. The biggest problem with JK Dobbins just so happens to be the most important parameter for success, volume.

During Lamar Jackson's two full seasons as the starter he has averaged 167 carries per season and seven touchdowns. He's rushed for over 1,000 yards in both seasons. That's a lot of ground work not going to JK Dobbins. Gus Edwards has averaged another 139 carries himself. And Gus Edwards is not going away, folks. The Ravens put a second round tender on him as a restricted free agent. This guy is going to be involved. And we saw that during the nine games where it was just really Dobbins and Edwards in the backfield.

Over the past two seasons the Ravens have given their running backs, on average, 378 carries. And ironically in both seasons, the running backs have received 51 targets and averaged 40 catches. The 2019 season might be best viewed as it relates to 2021. That's because there was only Ingram, Edwards and Justice Hill. In 2020 there was those same three and Dobbins.

In those nine games, JK Dobbins received 109 carries and Gus Edwards received 87 (there was one game where Dobbins and Jackson missed due to COVID; that game, for this purpose that game has not been factored in). During those same nine games, Lamar had 109 carries. What this amounts to is Lamar and Dobbins averaging 12 carries per game and Edwards at about 10. It's not an entirely small sample size, but we are looking at a 55/45 split between Dobbins and Edwards.

If we go back to that 378 carries the Ravens have averaged over the past two years and give Justice Hill 45 of them (this roughly amounts to 2-3 carries per game; he was at 58 carries in 2019), this would leave 333 to be split up between Dobbins and Edwards. If we use that same 55/45 split, Dobbins would have 183 carries and Edwards would have 150. If we use a 60/40 split, we'd find Dobbins with 200 carries and Edwards with 133 carries.

A 60/40 split is almost identical to what happened in 2019 between Ingram and Edwards. Personally, I think we'll see more of a 60/40 split, but even with that Dobbins is only getting 200 carries. He'd have to average a very healthy 5.0 YPC to break 1,000 yards.

The place where the problem really begins to take form is in the form of receptions. The leading receiver for a Ravens running back in the past two seasons received 29 targets and 26 catches. That was Ingram in 2019. In 2020 it was Dobbins with 24 targets and 18 catches. When you factor in the rushing numbers and receiving numbers, we can realistically assume JK Dobbins is looking at a ceiling of 225 touches. That is not RB1 material. In fact, without some very high touchdown totals, top-15 begins to look quite difficult as well.

Right now I have JK Dobbins projected for about 200 carries and 1,000 rushing yards. The touchdowns are almost impossible to predict. Lamar and Edwards are both just as capable of running in touchdowns as Dobbins is. Over the past two seasons the Ravens have averaged 23 rushing touchdowns. Each year Lamar has taken seven of those, so we're down to 16. Dobbins had nine last year and Edwards had six (Ingram had the two others). This would leave Dobbins in the 8-10 range, Edwards in the 5-7 range and Hill in the 0-2 range. If we give him nine touchdowns, he'd have 154 fantasy points.

His receptions aren't going to add that much. It's not something that is included in the Baltimore game plan because of how effective Lamar is running the football. A Ravens' running back has not had more than 30 targets in either season with Lamar under center and both years Lamar has targeted his running back's only 51 times.

We can assume Dobbins will be the most targeted running back since he was in 2020. Ingram was the same in 2019 and had 29 targets. If we give Dobbins 31 targets, he'll roughly end up with 25 catches. Running back targets can range between 7-7.5 YPR, so we can tack on another roughly 180 receiving yards and a score for Dobbins.

This brings us to his 2021 final stat line of 200 rushes, 1,000 rushing yards, and 9 rushing touchdowns. I'm also predicting 31 targets for 25 catches, 180 yards, and a receiving score. In 0.5 PPR scoring, this amounts to 174.3 points. Over the last three year average of running back scoring, this would leave Dobbins as the RB17. Over that same time frame, the RB12 has averaged 197 points, which is quite a climb up from what I currently have Dobbins projected for. It's possible he gets there, but based on the volume and the way the Ravens have used their running backs, it seems unlikely. The volume just won't be there.

So what does all of this mean? JK Dobbins is a fine RB2, but if you're drafting him as your RB1 you're likely going to be disappointed. The team rushing volume and the overall effectiveness of their ground game gives JK Dobbins a very safe floor that you can feel confident in. The upside of a top-10 finish doesn't seem to be in the cards for him unless he sees a massive uptick in volume or an extremely high touchdowns success rate. 

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