The Baltimore Ravens drafted J.K. Dobbins in the second round back in April not because they needed a running back—they already had at least three, plus a running quarterback. They did so because they believed they were getting a first-round talent who would be able to help lead their offense for many years to come.
But he’s also not a player who is just going to wait his turn. According to beat reports, Dobbins has shown up well in training camp for the team this year, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Even head coach John Harbaugh said that “he’s definitely going to have probably a significant role”, though he added that “it comes down to how it goes”.
How it went last season was Baltimore setting an NFL record for the most rushing yards ever recorded by a team in a single season. That included a 1000-yard season from Mark Ingram in a very efficient effort, making the Pro Bowl for his efforts. Gus Edwards also had over 700 yards, and then-rookie Justice Hill chipped in another 200-plus on 58 attempts.
Oh, and Lamar Jackson busted the quarterback rushing record with over 1200 yards. That’s two runners with over 1000 yards on the season, and three with over 700 yards. I’m guessing it’s pretty rare for one team to have three players rush for at least 700 yards in the same year. And now you drop a running back like Dobbins into the mix.
“He’s looked really good in practice”, Harbaugh said. “He works really hard. He’s just the most coachable guy. He has a lot of talent, and he’s very coachable. So, he wants to be good, he wants to play. He’s confident. Confidence plus coachability plus talent; it’s a pretty good combination”.
Although he continued to play well last season, the reality is that Ingram is now on the wrong side of 30, and he’s not going to last forever. Dobbins is the player that they see as the future of the running back position for the team—which is of course the case, otherwise it would have made little sense to draft him.
From within the team, they have the impression of the young man as a guy who loves football. His position coach talked about how he has been consistently impressed with his mindset that he brings to practice, his competitiveness, his work ethic. He is constantly hearing that Dobbins is putting extra work in, whether it be in the weight room or elsewhere.
Whether or not he actually turns out to be the player they think he is, that remains to be seen. But it won’t hurt to work with a mobile quarterback, which always opens up the running game.