The Pittsburgh Steelers’ brain trust, to a man, made it very clear throughout the offseason that the level of performance the team got out of its running game in 2019 was not acceptable, and that it must do better moving forward. They ranked 29th or 30th in rushing yards, touchdowns, and yards per carry, despite ranking only 20th in attempts.
They had the opportunity to draft J.K. Dobbins with their first draft pick in the second round, 49th-overall, but instead they chose a wide receiver. Or more specifically, when Kevin Colbert was asked, he said that they chose Chase Claypool, not the position.
That left Dobbins on the table for the Baltimore Ravens a short time later. Baltimore just broke an NFL record for rushing yards in a single season and had two Pro Bowl running backs if you throw in Lamar Jackson, who led the team in rushing yards and set a quarterback single-season rushing yardage record.
Nevertheless, despite having Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, and 2019 rookie Justice Hill, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said that “it would have been irresponsible for us not to take him” at 55. The team had him graded as a first-round talent.
ICYMI: @Ravens GM Eric DeCosta raves to @AdamSchein about new RB J.K. Dobbins & says “it would have been irresponsible” for the team to not draft him when he fell to 55th overall pic.twitter.com/6ffeb2oy0Q
— Mad Dog Sports Radio (@MadDogRadio) April 29, 2020
Over three years at Ohio State, Dobbins produced 4459 rushing yards on 725 carries, averaging 6.2 yards per attempt and scoring 38 touchdowns. He rushed for 2003 yards with 21 touchdowns during the 2019 season, averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
In addition, the new Ravens running back hauled in 71 passes collegiately over that three-year span for 645 yards and five more touchdowns. He averaged 9.1 yards per reception, including over 10 yards per catch in each of his final two seasons. In all, he had over 5000 yards from scrimmage with 43 touchdowns.
I must say that I am curious about where the Steelers had Dobbins on their draft board, both in terms of talent grade and relative to their draft ‘wants’. The team did come away with a running back in the draft, taking Anthony McFarland out of Maryland in the fourth round.
As a redshirt freshman in 2018, McFarland rushed for 1034 yards on just 131 attempts, averaging 7.9 yards per carry, with four touchdowns. Last season, he was bogged down by an ankle injury and rushed for just 614 yards on 114 attempts, but did score eight touchdowns. Collegiately, he only caught 24 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown. He declared for the 2020 NFL Draft with two years of eligibility remaining after his redshirt sophomore season.