The Falcons expressed interest in former Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins at the NFL Combine, and rightfully so. Dobbins had about as impressive a career as you can have on the college gridiron and is a fine prospect heading into the NFL.
As a freshman, Dobbins was expected to simply come in and compete for the backup running back spot. After turning heads the spring before entering his first season, Dobbins surprisingly got the nod as the starter for Ohio State due to an injury to Mike Weber. Dobbins became the first freshman running back to do that since Maurice Clarett.
Frankly, Dobbins never looked back and went on to command most of the carries as he emerged as a star. He became the Big Ten Conference Championship MVP in a season where he rushed for 7.2 yards per carry (4.19 after contact) en route to posting 1,403 yards — an OSU record for a freshman — and 7 touchdowns. However, he was just scratching the surface of what he went on to accomplish for the Buckeyes.
Dobbins entered 2018 as one of the Heisman favorites, but his sophomore season would end up not as fruitful. He was still able to eclipse 1,000 yards, but rushed for just 4.6 yards per carry and did not look as explosive.
Dobbins was still on plenty of draft radars, but his stock was not what it had been. The good news was that he still had one more season to prove his worth and the backfield to himself. Many still had him labeled as a potential first-round pick or darkhorse Heisman candidate.
Dobbins went on to have a Junior season for the ages last fall, rushing for 2,003 yards and 247 receiving yards as well. His rushing totals were good enough to claim the all-time rushing record for the Buckeyes from Eddie George. He went on to score a ridiculous 23 total touchdowns.
Dobbins, paired with quarterback Justin Fields, pushed Ohio State to the College Football Playoff and nearly made it to the final game due to some controversial officiating. Ultimately, Ohio State lost 29-23 to Clemson. Shortly after, Dobbins declared for the NFL Draft.
Dobbins is an unquestioned top-five back in this year’s draft class and has all the makings of a three-down back in the NFL due to his balanced game. He is not only an exceptional runner, but he can catch passes and is a great blocker.
The Falcons could certainly use a target for short passes with the likely departure of Austin Hooper, so bringing in a back who is capable is of utmost importance. Dobbins’ downhill running style should offer the Falcons an upgrade over Devonta Freeman on day one. He may not be the fastest back, but you sure as heck do not want to tackle him.
Just because Dobbins is viewed as a “balanced” back does not mean he is not a playmaker. Last season, his 31 runs of 15+ yard were tops among all the backs in this draft class. He can get you the tough yards, but Dobbins is also a home-run hitter. His vision will suit him well in the NFL, and he has a knack for finding the right holes.
It doesn’t hurt that we have seen Dobbins excel in a rotation in college, but also with a heavy workload. He is a back that seems capable of a 90% workload of a team’s carries, and that is hard to come by in today’s NFL. He is the type of back who is simply harder to stop the deeper you get into games.
Dobbins is not the most creative runner, but is one of the most efficient, making smart cuts and using his low center of gravity and physical nature to get through contact. It also seems he usually steps up in the biggest moments to provide his best showings. He has a “clutch gene” if you will.
There is no doubt that Dobbins will be one of the best backs from this class, and perhaps the best. If the Falcons have an opportunity to take him in the second round, they could be getting a game-changing running back that could help transform their offense to day’s past and help re-establish the running game.
Considering the team had a formal meeting with him at the Combine, it seems they feel the same way. Keep an eye on Dobbins’ stock as the draft approaches. This could be a nice match for both sides.
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