Is the JK Dobbins backfield takeover finally here? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Both fantasy analysts and Ravens fans alike have been asking the same question all season long: when is Baltimore going to start using its second-round running back more often?
The Ravens enjoyed record-shattering success on the ground in 2019, and they added to their rushing attack with their second pick in the 2020 NFL Draft when they selected Ohio State star running back JK Dobbins.
Spending high draft capital on running backs has become something of a taboo in recent years as the position has become devalued in the modern NFL. So an organization with as strong a reputation as the Ravens taking Dobbins raised eyebrows. If a smart team is taking a running back high, he must be really good and the team must plan on feeding him.
That hasn't been the case in Baltimore, much to the chagrin of anyone with a stake in the young rookie. And it hasn't been for lack of performance. On the contrary, Dobbins has been Baltimore's most efficient runner by most metrics in 2020, outside of quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Dobbins entered Sunday's game sixth in the NFL in rushing yards per carry among running backs at 5.4 while Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram were down at 4.5 and 4.2, respectively. That efficiency is reflected in more advanced analytics as well. By DVOA, Dobbins is the fourth-best running back in the NFL on a per-rush basis (minimum 50 carries), while Edwards is 17th and Ingram is tied for 31st.
Where that efficiency has yet to be reflected is in opportunity. Dobbins has just 57 rush attempts this season well behind Edwards' 82 and just two ahead of Ingram's 55, even though the latter has missed nearly three full games due to injury.
That may be starting to change, though. In the last three games, beginning with the first full game Ingram missed and including the two games since he returned, Dobbins has led the Ravens in snaps each time.
And on Sunday, Dobbins had his most dominant performance yet in terms of touches. He touched the ball 17 total times against the Titans, including two catches, while Edwards and Ingram combined for just five total rushes and zero targets.
Dobbins didn't enjoy as much success as he did in his first breakout game, a 113-yard performance against Pittsburgh's league-best rush defense. He totaled a respectable, though not eye-popping, 85 yards on Sunday. But the touches he received were the clearest sign yet of his growing role in the Ravens' running back rotation. He even managed to find the end zone for the first time since Week 1.
The Ravens like rotating their backs during the course of a game so it's not reasonable to expect anybody, including Dobbins, to assume a workhorse role. But whether you use the eye test or more modern metrics, Dobbins has clearly established himself as the team's best running back in 2020. The more touches he gets, the better the offense looks.
And with undefeated Pittsburgh on the horizon for Thanksgiving night, the Ravens will need the offense to look better than it has all season. This was the breakout Dobbins game we've all been waiting for. Now it's time for the Ravens to commit to him as their featured back the rest of the way out.