A top 2020 NFL running back prospect, J.K. Dobbins is sure to be coveted in dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts. How does his profile measure up when considering RotoViz’s extensive work on indicators of future fantasy success? Let’s explore.
As a Recruit
Dobbins was one of the top running back prospects in the class of 2017. Per 247 Composite rankings, he was the No. 46 overall player and the number two rated all-purpose running back in the class. He was graded as a four-star player and received scholarship offers from many of the top college programs in addition to Ohio State, including Alabama, Penn State, USC, and Florida.
He made an impact from the moment he set foot in Columbus. Just check out this unrestrained praise from running backs coach Tony Alford following 2017 preseason workouts:
This guy loves football. And he’s smart. I would say from my 22 years of coaching – and this is not to take anything away from anybody else – but in my 22 years, this guy has picked it up faster than anybody I’ve ever been around as far as true freshmen. Faster than anyone I’ve seen. He understands the offense and he has picked up the nuances of it very, very quickly.
Dobbins is listed at 5 feet 10 inches and 217 pounds on his official player page for Ohio State. Since he was such an elite high school prospect, we have some really early athletic measurements on him, including his Nike+ Camp Ratings.
— The Opening (@TheOpening) July 8, 2016
At age 17 Dobbins measured as a 99th percentile athlete across the board. Since then, he’s added 16 pounds to his frame and increased his sprinter’s speed — he was clocked at 4.32 seconds in the forty-yard dash in 2017 at an Ohio State team workout. Fun fact — if Dobbins does jump 43.1 inches in the vert at the NFL combine, he’ll join underwear-olympics legend Christine Michael as the only other running back to crest that threshold.
It’s not a stretch to project Dobbins to land in node 15 of Kevin Cole’s running back athleticism tree. This would place Dobbins in a cohort that produced at least one RB1 season within three years of entering the league.
- He’s going to crush 4.5 seconds in the forty
- He’s 70 inches tall
- We don’t have a broad jump on file for him yet, but given his insane vertical jump and his speed, I think it’s reasonable to project a broad jump over 124 inches
Anyway, we can revisit this after the combine and move him over to node 29 if necessary. I don’t know what Dobbins will do in each event in Indianapolis, but I think it’s a safe bet to project his overall outputs are going to be among the most impressive we’ve seen for a running back in recent years.
As an 18-year-old true freshman, Dobbins stole the backfield from Mike Weber en route to posting over 1,500 yards from scrimmage on 216 touches. He never looked back, increasing his touches and touchdowns each season.
Dobbins leaves the Buckeyes in second-place on their all-time rushing list, behind college football legend Archie Griffin (the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner), and in front of NFL Hall of Fame running back Eddie George and current superstar Ezekiel Elliott.
Dobbins also ranks second in school history in receptions by a running back (71), and had at least 22 catches in each of his three seasons.
When running Dobbins through Anthony Amico’s breakout age regression tree model, he lands in node 13, which places him in a cohort that produced an RB1 season 86% of the time within three NFL seasons.
NFL Draft Outlook and Comparable Prospects
Using the data from Grinding the Mocks, Dobbins is being projected as a the third RB off the board and a mid-second-round selection (48.6) in the NFL draft. Here are his closest comps from the Box Score Scout using his projected draft position:
If he can replicate his 4.32 speed at the combine and weighs in at his listed weight, he’d be the fourth-heaviest back in this cohort yet have the best forty time. Diving in a little deeper to some of his closest comps, using sub-4.4 speed to build an even tighter cohort:
- Jamaal Charles was one of the most efficient fantasy running backs ever, but Dobbins has a much more impressive production profile and will be at least 15 pounds heavier
- We never really got to see David Wilson, but his profile led to first-round draft pedigree — Dobbins had better career numbers and outweighs him by at least 10 pounds
- Darren McFadden was a top-5 NFL Draft pick and represents the closest match on speed and weight
Where to Draft Him
The upside comps of Charles and Elliott are encouraging for a player you won’t have to trade up to the 1.01 to select. Dobbins measures favorably as a future RB1 in two separate prospect regression models and we haven’t even solved for draft capital yet. No one is a sure thing, but Dobbins looks like a safe prospect who’s an easy selection near the top of rookie drafts. When it all shakes out and we know landing spots and draft capital, Dobbins could even warrant consideration at the 1.01.
For now, he’ll typically go as the RB3 or RB4 in early rookie drafts. This means the sweet spot for taking him in a traditional 1-QB PPR league should be the 1.03-1.06 range, depending on how aggressive your competitors are in drafting wide receivers.