Baltimore Ravens: What will J.K. Dobbins’ role in 2020 be?

J.K. Dobbins #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
J.K. Dobbins #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Ravens didn’t necessarily need help at running back, but Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins was far too good to pass up. What will his rookie role be in 2020.

It wasn’t hard to find now-Baltimore Ravens rookie running back J.K. Dobbins listed on many a mock NFL Draft’s first-round list of players selected. According to numerous draft analysts, the former Ohio State standout, who recorded over 2,000 yards rushing in 2019, was frequently mentioned as the top tailback in this year’s draft class, competing with players like Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor as the top tailback to be selected.

While many a team nowadays is hesitant to use a Round 1 selection on a running back, getting a player like Dobbins in the second round was simply too good to pass up.

And Baltimore wisely pounced on him with the 55th overall pick last April.

J.K Dobbins Rushing & Receiving Table
*2017Ohio StateBig TenFRRB1419414037.27221356.1121615387.18
*2018Ohio StateBig TenSORB1423010534.6102626310.1225613165.112
*2019Ohio StateBig TenJRRB1430120036.7212324710.7232422506.923
CareerOhio State72544596.238716459.1579651046.443

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 7/23/2020.

But one could safely make the argument the Ravens didn’t need Dobbins. He was a luxury pick, another body to bolster what’s already the best ground attack in the NFL heading into 2020. It’s highly unlikely Dobbins will come close to unseating the team’s top tailback, Mark Ingram, who managed 5.0 yards per carry en route to a 1,018 rush-yard, 15-touchdown performance for his third Pro Bowl selection.

Baltimore’s additional running backs, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, are also flashy enough to suggest Dobbins was a luxury pick, too.

Despite all this, Dobbins will have a clear-cut role in 2020 aside from just being the future on the ground in Baltimore.

Here’s how he gets to that point.

Projecting J.K. Dobbins’ immediate role for Ravens

One of the key focal points here is Ingram will turn 31 years old towards the tail end of the season, and it’s premature to think offensive coordinator Greg Roman will want to ride the veteran heavy over the entirety of the regular season.

Especially if Baltimore has visions of being fresh and healthy for another postseason push.

Ingram’s 202 carries during the regular season are likely to take a substantial hit. And while the initial formula would have been for either Edwards or Hill to see an uptick in usage, one can assume Dobbins winds up eating into a significant chunk of those second-tier carries.

Dobbins will have every chance to climb the depth chart in training camp. His primary competition, of course, will be the two tailbacks supporting Ingram on the depth chart. Assuming Dobbins wins out over at least one of them, likely Hill, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the rookie featured much more on third-down situations.

This, namely because of Dobbins’ established rapport as a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield — an element Ingram also flashed last season.

That might be one specific area where Dobbins directly cuts into Ingram’s touches this year, which provides the opportunity Baltimore needs to keep Ingram fresh and healthy.

At the same time, Roman’s innovative rushing offense won’t hesitate to go with the hot hand, meaning Dobbins has to be viewed as a dark-horse candidate to seize the starting role from the older, established Ingram by season’s end.

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And once that happens, it’s going to be Dobbins’ show for the long run.