J.K. Dobbins is a player who, to this point has largely disappointed fantasy gamers. Dobbins was mostly unavailable last year coming off a torn ACL and LCL suffered on August 28th, 2021. He revealed in a September interview that he also suffered damage to the meniscus and hamstring, complicating his timeline. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal and is due to be a UFA next year.
Entering his age 24 season, he will have a chance to hit free agency as a 25-year-old running back looking for his second contract. Dobbins was able to average 5.7 yards per carry in eight games in 2022, despite the difficult recovery. The question remains, is Dobbins in line for a major breakout in 2023? Below, we will take a look at his advanced metrics that support a potential top-10 RB season in 2023.
The Tough Road to Recovery
The Ravens held him out until Week 3, though he probably needed to be held out longer as he struggled even with being eased back into action. Per Jim Harbaugh, he underwent an arthroscopic procedure on the knee after Week 6 to increase his range of motion and remove built-up scar tissue. The results of that surgery looked great in his final four games, setting up a potential breakout year for the fourth year RB backed by his advanced metrics in 2022 and 2020.
Dobbins tested off the charts with a 99th-percentile 40-yard dash (running a 4.32 at the combine) and owns a 96th-percentile Speed Score via Player Profiler. He runs hard and has the top-end speed and efficiency metrics to get into the open field. Even coming off the major knee injury, and only playing in eight games last year, Dobbins ranked No. 4 in True Yards Per Carry.
Not only was he consistent, but he also ranked No. 31 in total Evaded Tackles in those eight games. Adding in his No. 5 ranked Juke Rate makes his metrics more sustainable. This is especially impressive considering half of his eight games were played before the second knee procedure. He ranked as the No. 20 best ball carrier in Breakaway Runs and his Breakaway Run Rate ranked No. 3 in the league.
These metrics are also very similar to his 2020 numbers, further showing the type of high-end RB he is capable of being. He finished 2020 No. 1 in True Yards per Carry, No. 5 in Juke Rate, and No. 4 in Breakaway Runs. Give Dobbins a full season last year, and a healthy knee and those metrics would have led to a major breakout. Add in the fact he has a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken from Georgia who certainly knows how to use running backs, and Dobbins has the recipe for a breakout season. If he can get back to or exceed the 18 catches he had his rookie year, this will also enhance his ability to get into the top 10 RB.
The Ravens are looking for him to come into this season healthy, and he will demand the ball. He was quoted before the Ravens’ playoff game against the Bengals as saying, “Even when Lamar’s playing, I want it on my back, I want to carry the load. My teammates look at me and be like, ‘Alright, he’s ready. Let’s ride him.’ That’s how I always think since I was in Pee Wee football and I’m never going to change.” This is the kind of dog mentality you want in a running back.
The questions regarding the quarterback right now push down his value in Dynasty. With the expectation the Ravens match an offer sheet for Lamar Jackson and address the WR position in the draft next month, this will open more opportunities. Having more downfield threats will open additional running lanes for Dobbins to have the year many expected him to have already had by now.
The Ravens should be more conservative with Lamar Jackson on a more expensive contract. This will lead to more short-yardage work at the goal line for Dobbins to have the touchdowns necessary to get him into the top 10 RBs. His mileage is lower than other running backs his age. Add in fresh legs and the 2023 season is going to be Dobbins’s year.