The Pittsburgh Steelers could have landed running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. All they had to do was write his name on their draft card—or whatever the virtual equivalent was—when their turn came up, but they failed to do so, and now their running game is in dire position, with James Conner set to leave in free agency on top of that.
Rather than going to Pittsburgh, he found his way to the Baltimore Ravens, who were quick to pounce on him, joining the top-ranked running game in the NFL and emerging as their lead back. He finished his rookie season with 805 rushing yards on just 134 attempts (a full six yards per carry) with nine rushing touchdowns. He added another 85 yards on 19 carries and a score during the postseason.
Of course, what the Steelers did get with their second-round pick was wide receiver Chase Claypool, who himself was no slouch. He caught 62 passes for 873 yards and nine touchdowns, with two rushing touchdowns added. He also scored two more touchdowns in their lone postseason game.
In other words, both players are set up to be big contributors to their respective teams, with Claypool perhaps emerging as their lead receiver, Dobbins as the Ravens’ lead back—while the Steelers need a running back and the Ravens need a wide receiver.
As for Dobbins, though, with Mark Ingram gone and perhaps the team wanting to take some of the running game load off of Lamar Jackson’s shoulders, the second-year back is ready to take it all upon himself.
“The team is looking at me. The coaches are looking at me. I love that. Put it on me and let’s go”, he told the team’s website recently. “That’s how I see this offseason and that’s how I’m attacking it. My teammates and coaches are putting trust in me, so I can’t let them down”.
Because of Baltimore’s workload share, Dobbins didn’t even rank within the top 32 in carries during the 2020 season, having to share carries with Ingram and Gus Edwards, as well as Justice Hill, who was drafted the year before.
The Ohio State alumnus said that the most difficult thing about his rookie year was simply being patient, always wanting to get the ball but having to wait his turn. He didn’t even crack double-digit carries once in the first six games. In fact, all season, he never had more than 15 carries in any one game. Benny Snell did that three times last year.