Is J.K. Dobbins A League Winning Running Back in 2022?

by Chase Vernon · Best Ball Plays & Strategy

One of the most efficient rookie rushing seasons is only one year removed and it’s as if no one remembers. There is only one running back to average 6.0 yards per carry while amassing 800 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. So, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce J.K. Dobbins as a fantasy player you must have for 2022 because he could be a league winning running back.

J.K. Dobbins Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

In 2020 Dobbins gave us a historic season. However, a lack of pass-catching, high ADP, and the eventual ACL tear in 2021 overshadowed it. Although I was notably higher on players like D’Andre Swift for 2021, evaluation of cost comes into play as Dobbins is getting selected as the No. 21 running back off the board in Underdog best ball drafts. 

As interest has waned, so has discussion, which typically leads to certain players falling off. Although there are mounting reasons to discount Dobbins, there are also arguments as to why he’s a league-winning running back.

The Ravens Offense

Once again, the Ravens told us who they want to be throughout the 2022 offseason. The most glaring move was acquiring an extra first-round pick by moving star receiver Marquise Brown to Arizona. Then with nine of their 11 2022 selections, they took offensive line, defense, and tight end. The other two players drafted by the Ravens will likely end up on special teams. Even in free agency, they invested in the trenches and secondary while letting receivers walk.

The identity of the Ravens is clear. They want to run the ball and play tough-nosed defense. However, they couldn’t do so efficiently with injuries to their running backs in 2021. The result was uninspiring as everyone outside of tight end Mark Andrews was hurt or floundered down the stretch. Would it have been a similar outcome if Dobbins hadn’t gotten hurt? 

I’m not stating Dobbins is a more valuable piece to the Ravens than Lamar Jackson. However, when the Ravens have a 1,000-yard rusher, they have never had a losing season. As a result, under head coach Jim Harbaugh, rushing fantasy assets have repeatedly exceeded expectations because the system relies so heavily on them. The intentions to shift the offense back to a run-based attack are apparent. 

J.K. Dobbins Efficiency

As mentioned, Dobbins had a ridiculous rookie season. In addition to yards per carry and counting stats, Dobbins was hyper-efficient in the red zone. He scored on eight of nine carries inside the five-yard line. His 5.4 (No.1) True Yards per Carry, 30.9-percent (No.5) Juke Rate, and 11 (No.4) breakaway runs were also in elite company.

J.K. Dobbins Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

The combination of an 8.2-percent Breakaway Run Rate, with 43.2-percent of his yards acquired from such runs, will likely go down as one of the top 10 highest of all time for backs with at least 120 carries.

The Ravens Schedule

The schedule for 2022 is downright dirty for Dobbins in best ball. During the 17 fantasy-relevant weeks, the Ravens have three games against teams who finished inside the top ten in rushing yards per game. The first team is the Bengals whose run defense was inflated by blowouts. They allowed 125.8 (No.23) rushing yards per game to teams who beat them or were within five points. 

The other two are the Buccaneers and Saints who remain difficult matchups in the middle of the season. However, this shouldn’t have an outlasting effect on the outcome. Only the Browns are in the top 12 for rushing defenses after the bye. The remaining seven games are set up for Dobbins to get hot and take you to the fantasy championship.

Details on the Championship Run

Week 11 Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have been stout against the pass and lousy on offense. As a result, teams have easily been able to rack up yards and touchdowns on the ground against them in 2021. Although Stephon Gilmore moved on to the Colts, Jaycee Horn will shine in his return from injury. More of 2021 will continue. Even if Christian McCaffrey is healthy, it should call for an increased tempo from the Ravens, and they utilize the run game to continue scoring. 

Week 12 @ Jacksonville Jaguars

I shouldn’t need to elaborate, but although the Jaguars might slightly improve, they were No. 22 in rushing yards allowed and No. 29 in rushing touchdowns. Dobbins could easily get to 20 points in Week 12. 

Week 13 Denver Broncos

The Broncos went from stout up front to glass following the Von Miller trade. After Week 8, they allowed 120.6 (No.25) rushing yards per game compared to just 100.9 from Weeks 1-8. 

The Broncos are funneling teams to run the ball while their secondary continuously improves. Meanwhile, their fresh, dynamic offense led by Russell Wilson will force the Ravens to continue scoring. As a result, Dobbins should have no problem putting up points as the primary option for the Ravens offense in Week 13.

Week 14 @ Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have a chance to be a dumpster fire. What was once a top defense fell apart in 2021. The run defense was the worst in the league even allowing Ravens running back Latavius Murray to rush for 150 yards. Dobbins will have a field day against a disheartened Steelers team.

Week 15 @ Cleveland Browns

The Browns are the only red flag on the entire late-season slate for Dobbins. The Browns play at a slow pace and have a decent run defense. However, in the two matchups Dobbins has faced the Browns, he has scored three times. Regardless, the hope is Deshaun Watson doesn’t see a season-long suspension, and it becomes a high-scoring game as the fantasy playoffs begin.

Week 16 Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons are a bad team who just lost their leading tackler to free agency. They tried to patch some holes in the draft, but the Falcons run defense could somehow be worse in 2022. After ranking No. 27 in yards and touchdowns allowed on the ground in 2021, the Falcons being worse is tough to imagine. However, with a young shallow roster, it’s more than possible. Just hope Dobbins gets in all his fantasy points before the fourth quarter.

Week 17 Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers at home with playoffs on the line? Enough said.

Conclusion on J.K. Dobbins Value

It’s tough to imagine a running back who doesn’t catch passes being a top 10 option, but is it actually? Joe Mixon, Antonio Gibson, Derrick Henry, and James Conner are just a handful of names who cracked the top 10 without seeing more than 50 receptions over the past two seasons. 

In 2021, the corpse of Devonta Freeman saw 42 targets while just playing 44.3-percent of the snaps for the Ravens. In 2020. The year prior, Dobbins, as a rookie, saw 24 targets on 46.9-percent snap share.

Will Dobbins see an absurd amount of targets? No. However, the offense’s efficiency, combined with his ability to accrue yards and touchdowns should lead him to finish far higher than his RB21 ADP suggests. With the perfect storm of the system, schedule, and healthy start to 2022, Dobbins ceiling is a top 10 running back with league-winning potential.